Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel Albert (Prince Albert)
Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel Albert was Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, second son of Ernest Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was born at Rosenau, Coburg, August 26, 1819, married Feb. 10, 1840, and died Dec. 14, 1861. Music formed a systematic part of the Prince’s education (see his own ‘Programme of Studies’ at thirteen years of age in The Early Years, etc., p. 107). At eighteen he was ‘passionately fond of it, had already shown considerable talent as a composer,’ and was looked up to by his companions for his practical knowledge of the art (ib. pp. 143, 173); and there is evidence (ib. p. 70) that when quite a child he took more than ordinary interest in it. When at Florence in 1839 ho continued his systematic pursuit of it (ib. p. 194), and had an intimate acquaintance with pieces at that date not generally known (ib. pp. 209-211). His organ-playing and singing he kept up after his arrival in England (Martin’s Life, pp. 85, 86; Mendelssohn’s letter of July 19, 1842), but his tare interest in music was shown by his public action in reference to it, and the influence which from the time of his marriage to his death he steadily exerted in favor of the recognition and adoption of the best compositions.
This was shown in many ways. First, by his immediate transformation of the Queen’s private band from a mere wind-band (see Musical Times, 1902, p. 463, for its constitution) into a full orchestra (dating from Dec. 24, 1840), and by an immense increase and improvement in its repertoire. There is now a peculiar significance in the fact that to name only a few amongst a host of great works Schubert’s great symphony in C (probably after its rejection by the Philharmonic band, when offered them by Mendelssohn in 1844), Bach’s I Matthew- Passion,’ Mendelssohn s’ Athalie’ and ‘C+dipus,’ and Wagner’s ILohengrin,’ were first performed in this country at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. Secondly, by acting in his turn as director of the Ancient Concerts, and choosing, as far as the rules of the society permitted, new music in the programmes ; by his choice of pieces for the annual ‘command nights’ at the Philharmonic, where his programmes were always of the highest class, and included first performances of Mendelssohn’s ‘ Athalic,’ Schubert’s overture to ‘ Fierabras,’ and Schumann’s ‘ Paradise and the Peri.’ Thirdly, by the support which he gave to good music when not officially connected with it: witness his keen interest in Mendelssohn’s oratorios, and his presence at Exeter Hall when ‘St. Paul’ and ‘ Elijah’ were performed by the Sacred Harmonic Society. Fourthly, by the interest he took in the Royal Library at Buckingham Palace. There can be no doubt that, in the words of a well-known musical amateur, his example and influence had much effect on the performance of choral music in England, and on the production here of much that was of the highest class of musical art.
The Prince’s delight in music was no secret to those about him. In the performances at Windsor, says Sir Theodore Martin, from whose Life (i. App. A) many of the above facts are taken, ‘he found a never-failing source of delight. As every year brought a heavier strain upon his thought and energies, his pleasure in them appeared to increase. They seemed to take him into a dream-world, in which the anxieties of life were for the moment forgotten. Prince Albert’s printed works include ‘ L’invocazione all’ Armenia,’ for solos and chorus ; a morning service in C and A ; anthem, ‘ Out of the deep’; five collections of ‘ Lieder and Roniairzen,’ 29 in all; three canzonets, etc.