Not to build on a virtuoso basis
It is a point worth remembering that the Proms were originally launched as a private venture. For the first thirty-two years of their run there was no public endowment of any kind. This was a stalwart achievement. Yet there was no lack of enterprise. Before the year 1900 well over a hundred works had received their first London performance at the Proms. The total, incidentally, now stands at between eight hundred and nine hundred, of which approximately one-third have been by British composers.- from W.W. Thompson's introduction to the 1944 book Sir Henry Wood, Fifty Years of the Proms, cover seen above. Below is E.X. Kapp's 1914 portrait of Sir Henry. Tonight (July 17) is the opening night of the 2009 season of the now renamed BBC Proms.
Beyond all doubt, the long run of the concerts is largely due to those who in the early days (aided and abetted by Sir Henry) possessed the foresight and the good sense not to build on a 'virtuoso' basis in respect of either artists or composers. The first consideration was, in the beginning as it is now, to present all that is great in the world of orchestral music, whether new or old, classical or modern; and a particular style of concert was thus established from the start. Artist and composer alike have benefitted incalculably as a result.
Quote is from Sir Henry Wood, Fifty Years of the Proms published in 1944 by the then British Broadcasting Corporation. A copy of the book is in my library. W.W. Thompson was BBC Concerts Manager and Assistant Manager to the first manager of the Proms, Robert Newman. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk