- William Weber
A term in use since the 16th century to denote a speech or a narrative account. In a musical context, the term denotes the performance or interpretation of a specific work. Since the mid-19th century, it has come to mean a concert given by one performer or a small group. For some early concerts described as recitals, it is not clear which of the two meanings was intended.
The use of ‘recital’ to describe a solo concert marked a major departure from the conventions of concert-giving. Since the early 18th century, most concerts put on by a musician in his or her own name – usually called a ‘benefit concert’, in German-speaking areas Akademie – involved a variety of performers, both vocal and instrumental (see Concert). The chief aim of such an event was not necessarily for the sponsor to display musical prowess and artistry, which was best done privately, but rather to demonstrate publicly the prominence of one's musical colleagues and patrons, and thereby to gain well-paid teaching engagements. The programme tended to be long and focussed on selections from operas and fantasies on the best-known and newest operatic melodies. Such concerts continued to be common throughout the 19th century....