A website dedicated to the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festivals with details of works performed, singers, instrumentalists, conductors and more.
'I am here in this immense industrial city, where they make excellent knives, scissors, springs, files and goodness knows what else - and besides these, music too! And how well! It's terrifying how much the people here manage to achieve.'
Antonin Dvorak wrote this when he was in Birmingham in 1891 to conduct the first performance of his Requiem which had been commissioned for the Birmingham Festival that year.
The Birmingham Triennial Musical Festivals were held from 1784 to 1912. It is probably not surprising most people are unaware that for many years the great singers of the day came to Birmingham to sing at the festivals. Whilst many cities held Triennial Festivals it is safe to say that those held in Birmingham were the most prestigious.
The festivals were primarily for charitable purposes to raise funds for the General Hospital. Originally held in St Philip's Church (later to become the Cathedral) or the Theatre Royal on New Street these venues became too small for the festival. Birmingham Town Hall was opened in 1834 and from that year on the festivals were held there until the last festival in 1912.
I have set up this website to publish some information about the festivals. In particular I have attempted to catalogue the singers and instrumentalists who performed at the festivals and the main works performed. It has not been designed to duplicate information about the festivals which has been published in several excellent books. I have, however, written some brief details about the major composers who came to Birmingham to conduct first performances of their own works. Please see the Sources/Credits section for a bibliography. I have listed several books which are essential reading for anyone with an interest in the festivals.
The "Festivals" tab will give a drop down menu showing each of the festival conductors. Details of festivals conducted by them can be found by clicking on the relevant conductors name. In view of time constraints only major works performed have been listed. There are also lists of first performances, works performed during the Hans Richter years and information about income and profits.
I hope that you find the site of interest and if you have any comments or additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.
St Philip's Church, Birmingham
Birmingham Town Hall
Theatre Royal, New Street in 1790