The first Irish symphonies?

Frontepsiece of Paul Alday's Symphony no. 1

Frontespiece of Paul Alday’s Symphony no. 1

Paul Alday (1764 – 1835) was a composer and accomplished violinist. A Frenchman by birth, he studied with Viotti in Paris and began to appear as a visiting soloist in Ireland from 1804 and probably settled in Dublin from 1809 (when he took over Francis Rhames’ music shop in Dame Street) until his death in 1835.

Alday was active in the Anacreontic Society as leader (1819 – 1828) and Secretary (1824 – 1830). His two symphonies, which he published in 1819, are dedicated to the Anacreontic Society, an amateur orchestral group, which performed them in the 1820s. On their publication, they were greeted with a fulsome and detailed review in the Dublin Magazine in 1820, and it was claimed that these were the first symphonies to have been composed in Ireland. Writing of the second symphony, the reviewer declared that ‘on the whole it contains so many beauties that it must be a desideratum to the selection of every music lover’ – although the reviewer was apparently  assessing these from the individual orchestral parts, not from a score or performance.


Opening of the Minuet and Trio movement from Alday’s Symphony no. 1

The music for these symphonies was believed to be lost for many years. A set of wind parts was identified in the RIAM’s collections in 1994, and much more recently a complete set of parts of his first symphony was discovered in the National Library of Ireland by DIT/RISM Ireland researchers, enabling the first performance of the work in modern times, and allowing for a fuller assessment of the work.


Opening of Mozart’s Overture to Die Zauberflöte from an 1812 London edition, which was sold through Paul Alday’s music shop. The overture was published as “Symphony no. III”  – the terms ‘symphony’ and ‘overture’ were often interchangeable in this period.