This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Music at the Beer Garden

21 August 2015

The concert is just about to start, however you and your
companion are late. Suddenly you regret the extravagance
of booking center-front tickets.
The audience is silent. You look up to see that the band conductor
has turned around to stare directly at you.
He waits patiently as you take your seats.

You try to hide your embarrassment by intently studying
the music program. The conductor makes a smart about-face
toward his 120 musicians and the Monstre-Concert in „Tivoli“ begins.

This gigantic band of 120 German military musicians posed for the camera on the extended stage of the Tivoli Beer Garden in Hannover, Germany. The title Monstre-Concert was a French term used to describe performances by especially large forces of musicians and instruments, usually with hundreds of brass, percussion, and woodwinds. In the 19th century there was of course no electronic amplification, so more instruments equaled more dynamic volume. For special outdoor occasions or sometimes in very large halls, several regimental wind bands would be assembled into a single monstrous musical ensemble. This concert dates from no later than the 1903 postmark on the back of the postcard sent to Mr. Louis Persenot of Saint-Denis, Paris, France.

Tivoli was a popular name attached to public gardens that could suggest the relaxed atmosphere of the first Tivoli in Italy where the Ville d'Este was famous for its beautiful 16th century gardens. The first amusement park with this name was the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris, built in 1766. It suffered during France's very turbulent revolutionary history, but in its several forms the Tivoli Gardens were always a place for high society to enjoy simple outdoor entertainments like panoramas, magic lantern and marionette shows, and concerts of light music.

Denmark had the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, which was originally named the Tivoli & Vauxhall in 1846 after the Paris amusement park and London's Vauxhall Gardens. The developer acquired the first charter by persuading the Danish King, Christian VIII, that "when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics".

The Tivoli Beer Garten in Hannover was a much more modest establishment that began as a cafe/restaurant in 1844, but was expanded in the 1890 as the Tivoli Concert Gardens. In 1901 it was included in a series of stereoscope photos on Germany published by the H. C. White Co. The stage shell in the background appears to have some kind of musical ensemble playing. The patrons seem to be enjoying coffee or tea rather than beer.

(I am most grateful for the information on Hanoover and the Tivoli Gardens provided by, an excellent blog dedicated to the history contained in Hannover's many postcards.) 

An afternoon Concert at the Tivoli Beer Garden, Hanover, c. 1901
Source: WikiMedia

The back of the card has the title in 6 languages including Swedish and Russian, and a lengthy travelogue commentary in English.

Source: WikiMedia

An Afternoon Concert,
Tivoli Beer Garden, Hanover, Germany

This is the afternoon scene familiar to all travellers in any part of Germany. To be sure the beverage is not everywhere the same. In the Rhine country the same kind of a garden might furnish only the wines of the region, and leave the stranger who does not know the ways of the place, and ventures to ask for beer, with the uncomfortable feeling that he has betrayed his ignorance. But at least the has learned the useful lesson that the United Germany is not a complete unit after all, when it comes to these liquid aids to digestion. 

Of an afternoon, it is true, differences between the Rhineland and the rest of Germany fade away in the presence of the universal coffee habit. It is the women's hour too, and the choicest music is now to be heard. Men are not wanting in such a gathering, but they are usually to be found in the family groups. The cup of coffee, which would be taken at home in bad weather, is here enjoyed by the whole family together. 

Cakes and coffee, however, are only the excuse for a pleasure which needs none, – that of gathering in a place where friends are sure to be met, and many matters discussed which do not have much to do with the musical programme. The leading actors and singers. and other well-known people, are always to be seen here among their admirers, and are glad for the time to be simple citizens, enjoying the open air, and whatever else is to be enjoyed. Not that they escape the public eye, for they are universally known and incessantly talked about over the tables far and near. But besides these notables of the stage, or the army, or public life, there are children and babies in go-carts, to add variety to the scene.

See Baedeker's Northern Germany.
Dawson's German Life in Town and Country.

* * *

The proprietor of the Tivoli-Hannover had at least two postcards made of the Monstre-Concert on the same day. This second photo shows the 120 bandsmen at ease and four band masters standing at the front of the stage platform. This postcard was mailed on 2 December 1906 to Frau Helene Ribbach of Münder am Deister, which is near Hannover.


I suspect that the stout man wearing a bowler hat is Wilhelm Mussmann (1870-1940), the owner of the Tivoli Concert Gardens. He also owned a hotel which still operates under his name in Hannover. The four uniformed men in front all have the characteristic swallowtail epaulets of a military band musician, though only one has a baton while the others have swords. That man is likely Bruno Hilpert, the music director of the Hannover regimental bands. He also led an orchestral society and women's choral group in Hannover.  
But the man on the right is dressed in a more decorative hussar's uniform and bears an uncanny resemblance to Kaiser Wilhelm II. I can't believe it really is the Kaiser, as his left hand is exposed and Wilhelm had a withered left hand which he usually kept discretely hidden. As Wilhelm's Prussian mustache was almost a requirement for any German army officer, this man may be only a senior officer and band leader of a cavalry band that has joined this Monstre-Concert.  

Tivoli-Hannover, Spiegelterrasse
Source: WikiMedia

The Hannover Tivoli Gardens was close to the rail line and at night people could see the gardens illuminated by 40,000 gas lamps and mirrors hence the name Spiegelterrasse or Mirror Terrace.

This view of Tivoli Gardens shows the terrace and ornamental lamp posts. The postmark is 1911.

This view of the concert shell shows the arrangement of the typical cafe tables and chairs found throughout Europe. The patterned table clothes are a touch of class but Herr Mussmann must have incurred a sizable laundry expense for maintaining the cafe linen. Note the waiter in the center.

The perspective on this postcard photo is very close to where that waiter was standing and shows the terrace from the previous view as well as one of the the impressive stags which guard either side of the stage. This postcard was posted in 1908.


This colorized postcard of the Concerthaus „Tivoli“ is from 1909 and shows the terrace without patrons. Hannover had many entertainment establishments like the Tivoli which gave concerts. Several venues offered more respectable theaterical and opera performances, and there were numerous smaller theaters for the German equivalent of vaudeville shows. Most restaurants regularly  employed musicians to provide music during the dining hours, and there were bandstands in other parks and beer gardens. It would have been difficult not to hear music in Hannover.

This postcard of the „Tivoli“ Hannover Concert Etablissement ersten Ranges – Concert Establishment of the first Rank, is postmarked 1913 and has the name of a new proprietor, Rudolph Lamarche. The following Autumn in 1914, the Hannover Tivoli Gardens were converted into a military hospital.

The Tivoli resumed concerts in the 1920s and 30s but competition from cinemas and the changing taste in music left little public enthusiasm for Monstre Concerts of military bands. The gardens were closed in 1937 and today the only memory of the music and Gemütlichkeit at the Tivoli Concert Garden is a plaque in a parking garage.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 
pull up a chair, sit down, and listen to more photo stories.


La Nightingail said...

The second photograph of the Monstre Concert with the 4 bandmasters at the fore reminds me of the Univ. of California at Berkeley's marching band at the beginning of a football game when the 240 bandsmen spread out over the entire field to play. They need four conductors: the main conductor & three others located in strategic spots who follow him so all bandsmen have a conductor to follow no matter where they are standing on the field.

La Nightingail said...

Incidentally, I recently saw something on Facebook I'm sure you, as a musician, would appreciate & probably get a good chuckle out of. As a choral singer & sometime director, I certainly did! We all know this, but how often do we DO it?

Entitled "Tempo Definitions for music ensembles", it reads, in part: Largo - Watch the conductor. Adagio - Watch the conductor. Moderato - Watch the conductor. Allegretto - Watch the conductor. Allegro - Watch the conductor . . . :))

Barbara Fisher said...

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed your post I now feel rather ashamed of my own half-hearted attempt. Wonderful images and a very interesting read, thank you.

Jo Featherston said...

Very impressive, and including empty tables, as per the prompt.

Deb Gould said...

Such great photos of Trivoli (Hannover)! Reminds me of Boston Pops Concerts on the Esplanade in Boston...

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

The bands were huge and it looks like the venues were fairly small compared to say, our Hollywood Bowl which is now fitted out with a couple of giant screens so you can have an idea of what's going on. We used to go and sit in the cheap seats from where the performers looked like ants - we packed a picnic and our strongest binoculars. I would love to have heard one of those giant bands up close and personal. On another note, do musicians nowadays generally use ear plugs to protect their hearing? I recently bought some musician's ear plugs to help me with hyperacusis...okay for me, but I wondered how musicians handle the inevitable hearing problems that they must often experience partly from exposure to loud sounds coupled with aging.

Anonymous said...

Did the name Tivoli gradually transferr to indoor theatres ? We had a Tivoli theatre in Melbourne but it was for Vaudiville Theatre. Great post. Most interesting.

Mike Brubaker said...

Helen, yes, almost always for pop bands and now regularly for orchestras too. In this particular monster band the woodwind players are in the center surrounded by dozens of cornets, trumpets, and trombones ― and all pointed directly at them! I can say from painful experience that it is an unpleasant position to be in. Recently I spent 3+ uncomfortable hours in an opera pit in front of trumpets and trombones, and wore ear plugs the entire time. The ear plugs were professionally fitted and I could hardly hear myself but at least my ears survived a brutal battery.

Wendy said...

Today young concert goers expect light shows and excitement all around. I imagine those who sat by gas lights were every bit as enthralled too. I wish someone would hurry up with that Time Machine.

Joan said...

Ahh, Michael, I should never doubted you --- tho I was concerned that you might have trouble fitting a band or so in a 50's restaurant --- and you went beyond my wildest dreams with monster bands and the beautiful Tivoli Gardens in Hannover. What a gorgeous setting, and the music must have been powerful. thanks

Alex Daw said...

The photo of the ladies having coffee with the magnificent perambulator in the foreground is just enchanting. As usual Mike - a wonderful job. You've got me wondering now if I ever visited Hannover - at any rate, I should like to go there again having read this post.


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