Prague Concert Life 1850-1881: an annotated database is a unique online research resource channeling first-hand accounts of Prague music and culture over the years 1850-1881 into a remarkably wide-ranging and comprehensive scholarly survey.
Through fully searchable records of both public and private, social and cultural events involving music performance – from inns and cafés to concert halls, salons, theatres and pleasure gardens – excepting only productions of opera, the resource explores the city’s entire musical landscape.
Institutions and venues, societies and individuals, places and protagonists: all are documented. All areas of Prague life touched by music making are detailed. Relationships between music-making and practical, social, cultural and aesthetic developments within the city are charted and explored.
Event records are compiled exclusively from relevant Prague newspapers and journals of the period. Reports and reviews, feuilletons, news articles, announcements and advertisements spanning minute memorandi of dates to the most loquacious of personal critical commentaries, all such references to music making are researched, gathered, analysed and translated.
These sources are drawn together, corellated, reproduced and explicated in English translation. Many source materials are being analysed and treated for the first time, offering fresh new insights and perspectives into the Prague musical environment, its institutions and individuals.
Combining methodical research, systematic analysis and powerful data processing techniques, Prague Concerts is unique in scale and content. It provides an unparalleled scholarly reference to the city’s musical activity on a day-by-day basis; a multi-disciplinary research took with which to survey the entire panorama of the city’s musical life, culture and society.
The years currently spanned by the database are:
January 1850 – February 1852
January 1854 – February 1855
January 1857 – December 1858
January 1859 – December 1862 (limited source coverage)
January 1863 – December 1863
Search and navigation tools
Features of interest to social and literary historians
My PhD thesis – Karl Stapleton: Czech Music Culture in Prague, 1858-1865 provided the seed of inspiration for this resource; two unwieldy volumes charting a mere five years of Prague musical life through just a handful of Czech sources.
At a time of growing interest in the potential and possibilities of scholarly electronic resources, the encouragement of Professor John Tyrrell led to the idea of those volumes being transformed into an altogether more useful, detailed and comprehensive database survey online.
The outcome was the pioneering Prague Concert Life 1850-1881: an annotated database. Administered by the Cardiff School of Music and funded by The Leverhulme Trust as a three-year pilot project 2005-2008, the resource was first designed and developed by the University’s Computing Division, INSRV. Source materials were collected by researchers working in both the United Kingdom and in the Czech Republic.
The project was directed at Cardiff by Professor Tyrrell, the collation and analysis of the source materials, the writing and editing of all of the database records being undertaken by myself.
For nearly a decade the resource was hosted on the servers of Cardiff University, but in 2017 the University was unable to continue providing a home. By this time the technology driving the resource was long in need of updating. This has been undertaken during the last year, and would have not been possible without the kindness of Professor Tyrrell, who generously sponsored its comprehensive redevelopment.
Prague Concert Life 1850-1881: an annotated database is now hosted and maintained by myself as a unsalaried personal endeavour and as such receives no organised external funding.
Principal periodical sources the resource aims to cover (all Prague publications unless otherwise stated):
Acknowledgment and Personnel
I'd been briefed by my supervisor. Doctor Tyrrell, it was said, took no prisoners. He would certainly test me on my Czech – then ropey at best – and would be very keen to see whether I was worth my salt in what I knew of my area. He swept aside nonsense and made no bones about saying precisely what he thought.
So it was with a good deal of trepidation that some thirty years ago a timid and nervous postgraduate set off to visit him at Nottingham University. There I encountered John for the first time; his welcome and warmth, kindness and understanding, his speaking to me as a fellow with a common interest even though his knowledge was an ocean to my own muddy puddle. Looking over the pages of an old Czech journal together and his pointing out this and that, asking what I thought, his chuckling over what we found. One of those moments in life that make a lasting impression.
Several years later John and I came together to ponder as to what might come of my doctoral thesis cataloguing a brief span of nineteenth-century Prague Concerts. His idea was an internet-based resource available to researchers, scholars and enthusiasts alike, to anyone interested in life, society, music and culture in the Czech capital. So the Prague Concert Life Database was born, and John enthusiastically took on the role of director, convincing his Cardiff University colleagues of the worthiness of the undertaking and masterminding a successful application for support to The Leverhulme Trust. John oversaw my efforts to undertake the mountains of research and to manage our team of researchers, to design and develop the resource with the computing department. He taught me how to be diplomatic and to never give up, to hold fast and to persevere in always searching for the right answers.
This last year we set about redeveloping Prague Concert Life, bringing it up-to-date and setting the foundations for its continuation and future growth. Despite the woeful situation in this country for the funding and financial support for such resources, John’s enthusiasm for the project remained as keen as it was at the very beginning. He gave of his own means to make redevelopment possible. Throughout the year he was immersed in his own monumental works, his Czech translation and revision of his phenomenal Janáček: Years of a life and his edition of From the House of the Dead. He was fighting illness. Yet always he was there to help and to encourage, and to give of his time and thoughts, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Sadly he didn't come to see the new resource with its source images and new facilities – but I'm sure he would have been delighted. Without him, there is no question that Prague Concerts would not be here today; it is to Johna and to his memory that the resource is dedicated.
Researcher and editor: Dr Karl Stapleton
Web hosting: Dr Karl Stapleton. Krystal Hosting
Redevelopment 2018- : Derek Almond
Original development 2005-2008:
Project Director: Professor John Tyrrell
Principal researcher, editor: Dr Karl Stapleon
Original Lead Technical Developer (INSRV, Cardiff University): Mike Jones
Research Assistants: Gabriela Coufalová (Palacký University Olomouc); Jakub Michl (Charles University Prague); Alena Jakubcová, (Charles University Prague); Miloš Štědroň jnr, (Prague Conservatory)
Language consultants: Robin Thompson (Edinburgh), Jan Špaček (Masaryk University Brno); Anke Caton (Cardiff University)
Original pilot project resource developed with funding from The Leverhulme Trust
Redevelopment (2017-2018): Nick Chambers, nickchambers.co.uk