Manns, August (DNB12)

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MANNS, Sir AUGUST (1826–1907), conductor of the Crystal Palace concerts, born at Stolzenburg, near Stettin, Pomerania, on 12 March 1825, was fifth child of the foreman in a glass factory. He learnt music from a musician at Torgelow, and was then apprenticed to Urban of Elbing. Having mastered the violin and several wind instruments, he entered the band of a Danzig regiment as clarinettist. In 1849 he led Gung'l's orchestra at Berlin; at Christmas he obtained his first conductor's post, at Kroll's Garten. Theoretical instruction he received from professor Geyer. After Kroll's Garten was burnt down in 1851 Manns became bandmaster in Von Roon's regiment at Koenigsberg; then at Cologne, where he also conducted the Polyhymnia Society. In 1854 he came to England as sub-conductor under Henry Schallehn at the Crystal Palace, then just opened. Manns soon disagreed with Schallehn (letter in the Musical World, 8 Nov. 1854) and took posts successively at Leamington and at Edinburgh, in the summer conducting at Amsterdam. On 14 Oct. 1855 he returned to the Crystal Palace as full conductor.

There had been only a wind band, which played in the centre transept. At once Manns began to improve both material and locality. The wind-band became a complete orchestra, which played in a suitable court, and afterwards a concert room was built and enclosed. Daily concerts were given, and on Saturdays a large body of extra strings soon came to assist in special programmes. These Saturday concerts were continued for forty years, and became a most important element in London musical life. Manns played a violin concerto of his own composition on 8 Dec. 1855, and there were some other performances of his works; but he soon relinquished all work except conducting. The music at the Crystal Palace induced leisured people to settle at Sydenham and attend daily. Already in the first season Manns introduced Schumann's symphony in D minor (15 March 1856) and Schubert's in C major (5 and 12 April), novelties to England. The concerts acquired a repute for programmes then considered 'advanced.' Brahms's name appeared in 1863. Schubert, partly owing to the enthusiasm of Sir George Grove [q. v. Suppl. I], then secretary to the Crystal Palace company, was specially cultivated. A choral society was started, to assist in the performances. The most distinguishing and useful feature of the concerts was introduced on 13 April 1861, when the programme was devoted to living English composers, who till then had practically no opportunity of hearing their works. Afterwards all new compositions were welcomed; every young musician could reckon on his attempts being given a hearing. Manns allowed no one but himself to conduct. The influence on the development of English music was of the first importance.

Outside these concerts Manns did little. He conducted promenade concerts at Drury Lane in 1859, and the Glasgow concerts in 1879 and later. On Costa's retirement the Handel triennial festivals were entrusted to Manns (1883-1900), as well as the Sheffield festivals of 1896 and 1899. He was much less successful with the chorus than the orchestra; his beat was eccentric and very puzzling to the uninitiated.

After 1890 the Crystal Palace concerts declined. Orchestral music could be heard elsewhere in London, and the old popularity of the palace had died out. The band was lessened, and the season of Saturday concerts shortened. A testimonial was subscribed for, and presented to him on 30 April 1895, by Sir George Grove, the duke of Saxe-Coburg also speaking on Manns's services to English music. Manns conducted till the season of 1900-1, concluding on 24 April, and at a choral concert on 22 June 1901, after which he retired. He was knighted on 9 Nov. 1903. His last appearance as a conductor was at the jubilee of the Crystal Palace on 11 June 1904. He died on 1 March 1907 at Norwood, and was buried at West Norwood cemetery.

He was married three times — twice in early life and thirdly in 1897 to Wilhelmina Thellusson. By the second marriage he had a daughter. His portrait in oils was painted by John Pettie, R.A., in 1892. A cartoon portrait by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair in 1895.

[Musical Herald, July 1900 and April 1907 (obit, with opinions from several leading composers, reminiscences from 1854, portrait, and list of decorations and presentations); Musical Times, February 1897 and April 1907 (obit.); Graves's Life of Sir George Grove; Saxe-Wyndham's August Manns and the Saturday Concerts, 1909; personal reminiscences.]

H. D.