12 January 2016
“At the next concert, April 20th, Berlioz’s symphony from ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the overture to Tannhauser, and Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphony are to be given.”
“Philharmonic concert tonight with Ellie and her mother. . . ‘Jupiter’ Symphony grandly rendered. It embodies the sentiment of L’Allegro--especially its first and third movements, which might have been written for some solemn and joyous festivity.
‘Where throngs of Knights and Barons bold
No weeds of peace high triumphs hold,
With store of Ladies whose bright eyes
Rain influence and judge the prize.’
Nothing so grand, stately and joyous was ever written for the orchestra, as the opening movement of this symphony. Nor is there anything in orchestral music (so far as I know) comparable to delicate subtle beauty with the Trio of the 3rd movement, nor anything so elegant and refined as the adagio or andante--whichever it is. I mean the 2nd movement.
“After this noble translucent transcendent work we were favored with a piano concerto in E flat by Mr. Liszt, which was very dreary and then with two movements (only two, thank Heaven) from the ‘Symphony Romeo and Juliette’ by that ingenious Frenchman M. Hector Berlioz. Is it not a shame that we cannot hear Mozart and Beethoven at a Philharm. concert without having one’s stomach turned by a dose of Berlioz, Liszt or Schumann? I’ll set about getting up an opposition Philharmonic for the culture & propagation of Music in the true sense of that great word. Concert wound up with Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture. It is so clever and effective that it seems a work of genius, and not of mere talent--perhaps it is. Our Philharmonic gives us generally some great work of Beethoven or Mozart. But to hear it you must sit through certain offensive platitudes of Liszt or Berlioz or Schumann. Berlioz was almost as base depressing and disgusting tonight as Mozart was exciting and glorious.”
“The last Philharmonic concert took place last night at Steinway Hall. The great feature of the concert, in fact of the whole season, was Mills’ playing of the first concerto in E flat, by Liszt. It was the acme of piano playing in this country; and although we have heard this distinguished pianist play in excellent style on other occasions, yet this time he surpassed himself. If this is a fair representative of Liszt’s music, why, give us Liszt at every concert, always excepting his Faust Symphony. The magnificent orchestral background, the impetuous, delicately limned piano part, as varied and artistically wrought as any of a great painter’s works, and the admirable ensemble from beginning to end, were worthy of the unanimous encore that followed. It is useless for us, within limited space to attempt an analysis of such a work, but we will content ourselves with saying that the work, the artist, the orchestra and the instrument were all worthy of each other, and enough to redeem many shortcomings of the society.”
“…The Philharmonic Society gave their fifth and last concert of the twenty-fifth season on Saturday evening, at Steinway Hall. The programme offered no formidable difficulties. The symphony was Mozart’s No. 4, ‘Jupiter,’ the overture, Wagner’s ‘Tannhauser’ in E, to name two things in music more utterly opposed in every respect than which would be utterly impossible. Which of the two is really music? might be asked, for certainly both are not. Perhaps the best and most effectual orchestral display was in the third and fourth movements from Berlioz’ ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ a fact which did honor to the Society and its conductor, Mr. Bergmann. This piece offered a taste of novelty which appeared to be enjoyed as fervidly by the orchestra in the utterance thereof as it was by the audience in the hearing. The ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ though a vigorous and showy performance, is straightforward throughout. The concerto player was Mr. S. B. Mills, and the concerto was Liszt’s picturesque composition in E flat, which was most expressively rendered. It is easy to accompany Mr. Mills, whose time is as steady as his expression is true and his execution masterly. Indeed this gentleman’s splendid performance of the concerto and of Chopin’s solo for the piano were the events of the evening.”
The program was long and interesting. Both the opening piece and finale were excellently prepared and performed. The two new pieces, the E minor piano concerto and Berlioz’s “Romeo and Julia” attracted quite some interest from connoisseurs and other patrons. Liszt’s work is such a grand composition that it is hard to evaluate after hearing it just once; the last movement with its brilliantly arranged and so typically characteristic march is decidedly the best and most appealing part. The piano part of this work is challenging; however, Mills handled it with ease. Berlioz’s “Romeo and Julia” did not please the audience. The “scene d’amour”, a musical paraphrase of the balcony scene, seems forced and unnatural. The music hardly conveys the tone and emotionality of the scene. The fourth part is much better. It musically depicts the dream fairy Mrs. Mab. However, the words of the British poet carry much more charm than the music, in which the composer attempts to use effects of daring, eccentric sound combinations too forcefully. The performance, however, left nothing to wish for.
(…) Liszt’s E flat concerto [musical analysis and critics interpretation] was excellently performed by Mills. He showed a surprisingly deep understanding of the work and strong confidence, which puts him right among the first class pianists. The audience appreciated his performance highly. We can clearly state that the work as well as the artist had a sweeping success.
(…)The attendance was sparse. In general, this season was not a financial success. We hope this will not threaten the existence of the [Philharmonic] society. The orchestra and Bergmann as conductor are very good.