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Mr Henry J Wood 'Queen's Hall'

Spy (Sir Leslie Ward) (1851-1922)


Signed and inscribed with title
Dated 1907 on reverse

Watercolour and bodycolour

18 x 14 ½ inches

Vanity Fair, 17 April 1907, Men of The Day no 1062, 'Queen's Hall'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 173

'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 84

Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944) was a famed musician and conductor. In 1895 he inaugurated the Queen's Hall promenade concerts remaining in charge until 1940 (later to be held at the Albert Hall).

“One reads in ‘Who's Who,’ with a certain shock, these words: ‘WOOD, Henry J., musician.’ It is the ‘musician’ that shakes one's spirit, for though there can be no doubt that Mr. Wood is really a musician, nine hundred and ninety-nine persons out of a thousand would at first blush, as it were, speak of him rather as a conductor.

In point of fact Mr. Wood appears to have conducted pretty well everything that is capable of being conducted, with the single exception of a revival meeting. He has figured as the conductor of the Rousbey Opera Company (1889), the Marie Roze Concert Tour (1890), the Carl Rosa Opera Company (1891) , the Leslie Crotty and Georgina Burns Opera Company (1892) Signor Lago's Italian Opera Season (1893), the Farewell Concert Tour of Marie Roze (1894), and so on and so forth till the breath fails one.

His connection with the Queen's Hall began in 1895, when he initiated the ever-popular Queen's Hall Promenade Concerts, which are the delight of the bourgeois amateur even unto this day.

In 1897 he started the Queen's Hall Choral Society's Concerts and the Queen's Hall Sunday Orchestral Concerts. The Sunday afternoon concerts are consequently in their ninth season. They are now under the auspices of the Sunday Concert Society, whose president is the Duke of Portland. The Queen's Hall Orchestra, on the other hand, is the affair of a limited company with Sir Edgar Speyer, Bart., for chairman, and Earl Howe and Lt.-Col. Arthur Collins, C.B., among the directors.

Personally, Mr. Wood is what one would term a fine figure of a man with a considerable dark beard. And he allows his hair to grow long - this, of course, being an artistic necessity. In spite of his hirsute adornments, however, he is a fairly obvious Englishman and reminds one more of a farmer who has neglected to go to the barber's than of a heaven-born genius.

Unlike Sousa and Mr. James Glover, Mr. Wood exhibits few, if any, conductorial eccentricities; being, indeed, an austere sort of a bâton-waver who knows his business and does not go in for fireworks. There are critics in the world who believe him to be the only properly inspired conductor now alive. His admirers agree with those critics, and his admirers number tens of thousands of persons who love music sufficiently well to be discriminate about it.

Professionally, too, Mr. Wood is both popular and esteemed. His own orchestra worships him and his fellow-musicians frankly admit that he has great gifts, and that he has probably done more for music in England, and particularly in London, than the rest of our conductors put together. His ability and good sense coupled with exceptional musicianly enthusiasm and a modesty quite unusual in so public a man have endeared him to troops of professional friends. Like Lord Roberts he does not advertise, but sticks solidly to his Wagner, his Tschaikowsky, his orchestra, and his Queen's Hall public, which, on the whole, is about as fine and appreciative a public as a conductor could desire.

Mr. Wood was born in London on March 3rd, 1870. He is understood to have given vocal entertainments in his cradle. At nine years of age he occupied the important post of deputy-organist at St. Mary's, Aldermanbury. So that he may be counted among the erstwhile infant prodigies who have lasted. He is not yet a knight, but he married a princess (Princess Olga Ourousoff of Podolia, Russia), which is the next best thing. He lives at No. 4, Elsworthy Road, N.W., and his telegraphic address, if you please, is ‘Conducteth, London.’ We wish him long life and plenty of Wagner.”

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