Felix Meritis Concert Program Database 1830-1888

Zaterdag 13 januari 2018

As a result of a one-year pilot project (2015-2016), funded by the CREATE Digital Humanities research group of the University of Amsterdam, I recently presented the FMCP Database.

The database gives music lovers, students and researchers online access to a large part of the concert programming of Felix Meritis. The data structure was designed in order to obtain an exact digital reproduction of the original source material. Five basic elements of the concert programs where used to structure the data: i.e. (1) persons (names of composers, musicians etc.), (2) the role of these persons on the particular program (composer, arranger, translator, cellist, flutist etc.), (3) gender, (4) the musical works on the program and (5) the genre of these works as it was denominated on the program. Furthermore these elements are grouped in ranked program items, so that the original order of the program is preserved and can be subject to analysis.

In order to obtain an exact digital reproduction of the original source material there has been no editorship over the historical text. Spelling errors have been consciously copied form the original and the original denomination of genres on the programs has not been replaced by recent music theoretical genre definitions. Consequently, the irregularities and uncertainties inherent to the original source still apply to the digital reproduction. For example, in the database one piece can be denominated with a different genre on different programs, or it can be know for different titles.  Furthermore, we have no absolute certainty that the musical works on the programs actually have been performed. Programs and dates change, in the past as much as they do in the present, and in different times these changes have been reported with variable accuracy. Program changes can be found in the notes, as far as they have been reported in external sources, but still it is not always possible to lay down who exactly performed what, when.


In this database hundreds of musicians have been documented of whom rarely any biographical details are known. The database reveals what instrument they played, their gender and sometimes their residency. It gives us information about a profession group that due to their concert tours and universal musical language might have been one of the most cosmopolitan professions of the nineteenth century. The lives of some, more famous, composers however are better documented in multiple resources online. To give users direct access to these resources the a large part of the composers in this database have been identified by linkage to external online databases such as the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), Wikidata, VIAF and the Dutch Biographical Portal.


In this database you find the concert programs from the regular concerts at Felix Meritis. These concerts took place on Fridays between September and April and were organized by the Music Department of Felix Meritis. Access to these concerts was restricted to members of the society, although they could introduce their wives and sons if they wished to. The number of concerts organized by Felix Meritis varied between twenty concerts a year in the heydays of the society and eight or ten concerts in the last years of its existence. Therefore concerts that were organized in the concert hall of Felix Meritis by external institutions or entrepreneurs are not included in the database, such as concerts organised by ‘de Maatschappij tot bevordering der Toonkunst’ and ‘Caecilia’. Likewise, one will not find the Sunday-afternoon chamber music concerts that Julius Röntgen programmed starting from 1878 in this dataset.


The FMCP Database includes all programs that have been preserved in print. That is, the programs of the period 1832-1888, excluding the programs of the years 1872-1880. The printed programs of those seasons have been lost. Handwritten copies of these programs have been discovered recently but those copies are often incomplete. Eventually these programs will be added to the dataset. Despite these restrictions the database covers a unique part of the Dutch musical history that has not been disclosed by musicologists until the present day.


Mascha van Nieuwkerk, ‘Van Felix Meritis naar het Concertgebouw. Continuïteit en vernieuwing in de Amsterdamse concertpraktijk. 1884-1891’ Skript Historisch Tijdschrift33 (2011) 228-241.

Mascha van Nieuwkerk, ‘Van Felix Meritis naar het Concertgebouw’ (paper given at the Research Conference of the Dutch National Association of Universities (VNSU), November 2012).

Mascha van Nieuwkerk, ‘The Felix Meritis Concert program Database. Work-in-progress in research and data curation’ (paper given at the CREATE ACHI Conference, October 2016).