Thomas Symphony Soiree: 1st

Event Information

Irving Hall

Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]

Price: $1.50

Event Type:

Performance Forces:
Instrumental, Vocal

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 June 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

20 Oct 1866, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Die. Prelude; Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Die; Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Die. Overture; Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Die. Introduction
Composer(s): Wagner
Composer(s): Beethoven
Participants:  William Mason
Composer(s): Rossini
aka Great symphony; Symphony, no. 9, C major
Composer(s): Schubert


Announcement: New-York Times, 01 October 1866, 5.

Lists orchestral compositions for the upcoming season.

Article: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 03 October 1866, 138.

Thomas has published the program for his five concerts. It is obvious that his intentions are challenging. He will need all his strength and energy to present this program with excellence. Fortunately he has a very good orchestra that knows him well and that he knows well.

Announcement: Dwight's Journal of Music, 13 October 1866, 328.
Announcement: New York Herald, 15 October 1866, 5.

“Mr. Thomas will give his first symphony soiree at Irving Hall on Saturday next, with an orchestra of eighty performers. The following programme will be presented: - Introduction to the Meistersänger von Nurnberg, by Richard Wagner; aria from Gluck’s Orpheus – Miss Antonia Henne, a debutante of great promise; concerto for piano in G, opus 58, Beethoven – Mr. William Mason and orchestra; Non piu mesta, from Cinderella, by Miss Henne; and the symphony in C, Schubert. Regarding the first work by Wagner we must speak a word of explanation. It was brought out on Sunday last by Mr. Carl Anschutz in a very defective and limited manner. The orchestral score demands more instruments than he had at his disposal, and its merits are considerably more than he was able to interpret. Mr. Theodore Thomas will produce it with all the effects necessary to give it the rendition designed for it by the composer, and it may have more attraction in his hands than with a small orchestra.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 October 1866, 6.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 October 1866, 8.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 17 October 1866, 7.

Includes program.

Announcement: New York Herald, 18 October 1866, 7.

“The first symphony soiree of the season of Mr. Theodore Thomas will take place at Irving Hall on Saturday evening. Miss Antonia Henne and Mr. William Mason will be the soloists on the occasion. The programme, already given in the Herald, is a very interesting one.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 18 October 1866, 4.

“Mr. Theodore Thomas’ third season of symphony soirees commences at Irving Hall on Saturday evening next. The programme is of course interesting and important. The principal instrumental pieces will be rendered by an orchestra of seventy performers. They – the pieces – are ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,’ new, by Wagner; the concerto in G for piano and orchestra, by Beethoven, piano part played by Mr. Wm. Mason, and Schubert’s grand symphony in C. Miss Antonia Henne, of whom report speaks in the highest terms, is the vocalist. After the present soiree the concerts will take place at Steinway’s new Music Hall, which we are glad to notice is announced as ready for opening on Monday week.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 18 October 1866, 8.
Announcement: New York Herald, 20 October 1866, 5.

“The first symphony soiree will take place at Irving Hall this evening. The programme comprises Die Meistersanger von Nurnberg, by Richard Wagner; Beethoven’s piano concerts in G, the C symphony of Schubert, an air from Orphee and a rondo from Cenerentola. Mr. Thomas’ orchestra of eighty performers, Miss Antonia Henne and Mr. Wm. Mason will appear.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 20 October 1866, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 20 October 1866, 5.

“Mr. Theodore Thomas’ third season of these valuable entertainments commences to-night. The orchestra has been increased to seventy performers – all of them, be it remembered picked players, and most of them entirely familiar with the baton of the conductor. The programme is exceedingly interesting. The pieces will be found named in our regular amusement columns. The soloists are Miss Henne (vocalist) and William Mason (pianist). Wagner’s new ‘Introduction;’ Beethoven’s Concerto in G, and Schubert’s Symphony in C, are the great instrumental features of the occasion.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 20 October 1866, 7.
Review: New York Herald, 21 October 1866, 5.

“The third season of the popular symphony soirees of Mr. Theodore Thomas opened auspiciously last evening at Irving Hall, with an immense audience and a splendid programme. The audience was of the character that is always met with at any concert or soirée of Mr. Thomas, being decidedly fashionable and critical. In no other musical festival will be seen ladies with the orchestral score open before them conversing on the work of the great masters. The soiree opened with Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg by Wagner. This work has been already performed in this city by Mr. Carl Anschutz, at one of his Sunday concerts. There it was manifestly given in a very incomplete manner, for it seemed to us last evening like a quite different work. There is really majesty and grandeur in it, and not the unmeaning pandemonium of sounds that we heard at its first production. The immense force of brass in it would become Babel without a proper coloring of strings; and no director, in justice to the composer and the audience, ought to produce a work without all the necessary instruments and parts.  Miss Antonia Henne made her first appearance in the aria, Che faro senza Eurydice, from Gluck’s Orphee. She has a voice of rare power and thrilling sweetness, and although last night she did not exhibit its full powers, yet it was easily discernible that on a second appearance and with more confidence she will take one of the highest positions among our American singers. Mr. William Mason played Beethoven’s piano concerto in G opus 58 with orchestral accompaniment. He played it with the delicacy and thorough correctness of an artist. Every passage was given with precision. Even the softest notes, the trills and chromatic runs were rendered with distinctness, and thus the entire work was intelligible. Schubert’s symphony in C closed the soiree.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 22 October 1866.

The audience was large, elegant and highly appreciative. The impresario has numerous patrons at this time; consequently his task is merely to maintain the support and expand the circle. The success of his soirees will make this an easy undertaking. It is the duty of an impresario to offer traditional as well as modern compositions in their programs. Theodore Thomas seems to agree with this approach. Wagner’s overture seemed ‘gigantic’ almost overwhelming as is his style. It is not an easy piece to perform. It requires sensitivity and full concentration from the conductor and the musicians.

The finale’s Schubert symphony was well performed except for the Andante, which was rhythmically not sufficiently tight and consistent. The introduction of the symphony is the most beautiful piece of music that a human mind could create.

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 22 October 1866.

The concert given Saturday by M. Theodore Thomas was one of the most brilliant. Only the true music-lovers assembled to hear religiously this perfect interpretation of the works of the great masters. Also, one must see the contemplation, the sustained attention, the vibrating at the beauties that the excellent orchestra of M. Thomas renders with such color and feeling. All was perfect and of the best selection, except for a piece by Wagner which we would have preferred to omit. The author of Lohengrin and friend of the king of Bavaria still doesn’t know the secret of how to charm us, but perhaps that’s just our barbarous taste. Luckily, Beethowen [sic] and Schubert came to console us for the eccentric music of the composer of the future.

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 24 October 1866, 184.

In case Wagner’s overture is an overture to an comic opera, we assume it is reflecting the style of his entire work. The music from this time period of the “Meistersinger” might involuntarily be perceived as much more comical as intended by the composer. 

Beethoven’s piano concerto found a very appropriate performer in Mr. Mason. He played with understanding, taste and creative expression. The cadence was by him and honors his talent. [Analysis of the Beethoven piece by Marx]

Ms. Henne possesses a beautiful, yet not a strong voice. Her artistic expression speaks of diligence and effective training. However, the spiritual aspects of Gluck’s piece could have been emphasized more. We missed not only ‘pathos’ but also strength and dynamics. It was a “tame” performance.

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 October 1866, 8.

Includes the program. “The first soiree of the third season of Mr. Theodore Thomas’s Symphony Soirees took place at Irving Hall, last Saturday evening. The attendance was good, though hardly as numerous as we expected. It was, however, as intelligent and critical an audience as we have seen in a concert-room. The programme was as follows…We suppose it is right that we should be afflicted with Wagner; we suppose he was sent for some wise purpose which has not yet manifested itself. Perhaps he is to music as boils are to the human system, absorbing all the vicious humors which might otherwise develop into something worse. If such is the case, we can only be grateful to Mr. Wagner and endure him uncomplainingly. We freely allow the few grand things which he has achieved, but we cannot swallow the many nauseous doses he has prepared for us without making wry faces. We do not know what the composition ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ is intended to represent, for its incoherence and hopeless confusion afford no key to the hearer. The few coherent passages mean nothing and lead to nothing, and there are passages where the subjects are so mixed up, the discords so excruciating and unmeaning, each instrument seeming to have an independent idea of its own, irrelevant to any general idea, that when the masses arrive at a positive harmony, a sigh of relief bursts from the bewildered hearers, and the last note is hailed with pleasure. This is certainly not the class of music that the people wish to hear. If it is beyond the comprehension of musicians, how can it please or benefit the unlearned? Some of the latter are overawed by the crashing, roaring discords, but we have heard no listener say that he was pleased, or confess that he was touched. Such music is neither healthy nor elevating, and we regret to see it occupying a space in our classical programmes. Either Wagner writes and puts forth dreamy, incomprehensible trash, or the conductors who assume the responsibility of interpreting it, fail in reading it understandingly. Mr. Anschutz and Mr. Thomas have attempted it, and both have failed to render it intelligible. It is, we believe and regret, on the Philharmonic programme, so that Mr. Bergmann will be called upon to give his interpretation. If he fails to unravel the tangled web of discordant ideas, we hope that the ‘Meistersinger’ will be permitted to rest at Nürnberg, never to be disinterred until the generation for which it was intended shall arise to comprehend it.

Schubert’s symphony in C was a blessed relief to every one present possessed of musical intelligence. It presents musical ideas, clearly expressed in beautiful and fascinating forms. The hearer follows the composer’s thoughts from phrase to phrase, and unembarrassed by involved outlines or irrelevant digressions, can digest and thoroughly enjoy each new beauty of imagination and varied instrumental treatment. Of the four movements of this symphony, the second – the Andante – is the most perfect in every attribute of beauty. Its subjects are rich in the attributes for amplification, and their orchestral treatment, for wonderful coloring and refinement and fanciful effect, has never been excelled by any composer of ancient or modern date. Schubert seems to have conceived this movement for the purpose of developing the idiosyncratic sonorities of the various instruments. Like the separate flowers in a parterre, the individualized instruments give color to the composition, till the ear, as the eye, is bewildered by the fascination of individual beauties and the gorgeous richness of the combination of the whole. This movement was finely executed, and displayed to the best advantage the fine material of which Mr. Thomas’s orchestra was composed. The performance of the whole symphony reflected credit upon the performers and their conductor, and its excellence was acknowledged by the public by hearty and appreciative applause.  

The vocal debutante of the evening, Miss Antonia Henne, an American lady from the West, pupil of Signor Muzio, made a decidedly favorable impression. She has a lovely voice, its chief charm being its full melodious equality throughout its entire scale, so perfect is the blending of its registers. Her style is unimpeachable; her execution is rapid and well articulated; the smaller graces of execution, too often neglected by pretentious artists, are given by her with neatness and precision. Gluck’s difficult aria, ‘Che faro senza Euridici,’ tested her ‘cantabile’ and recitative. The first was a success, the second displayed good phrasing and emphasis, but lacked in force and dramatic expression. The anxiety and fear attendant upon a first appearance must excuse this, and warm praise be vouchsafed for the general excellence of the performance. The close was very ineffective, a want which a few words of advice from the conductor would have supplied, and which we think it was his duty to have uttered, for the reasons, first, to produce the best possible effect for the performance, and second, for the sake of the novice, who was as a child in care of superior experience. We remember an anecdote of Jullien, who was conducting the oratorio of the Messiah, and followed with patience a well-known artist, who was rehearsing that grand inspiration of Handel, ‘I Know that my Redeemer Liveth,’ in which she introduced certain ornaments for effect. At its close he complimented her in the warmest terms upon her interpretation of the composition, and particularly emphasized his admiration of her execution of the interpolated passage of ornamentation, but he added, after a pause, ‘Ah, it is beautiful, Madame, verra beautiful, but do not do it any more. Handel’s music is good enough as it is.’ It is needless to add that it was not done at the performance. If, therefore, a director has the privilege to correct a well-established artist, he has also the right to advise the trembling novice in her first efforts before the public. We are aware that instrumental conductors look upon singers as necessary evils – as evils which the public demand to fill up the lapse of time between instrumental pieces; but to our mind, it is better to improve a little time in aiding promising but inexperienced vocalists, than to waste hours in endeavoring to dig out common sense from the fugitive compositions of Herr Wagner.

Miss Henne’s second aria, ‘Non piu mesta,’ confirmed the favorable impression made by her first effort. She was very warmly applauded, her first song being encored, though not repeated, and she may be said to have made a very successful debut. We had nearly forgotten to remark that both her arias were taken in much too slow a tempo.

Mr. William Mason interpreted Beethoven’s Concerto in G in a very chaste manner. His conception lacked the fire of inspiration, but his execution was neat, clear and accurate, and the passages were well emphasized and defined. The cadenza in the first movement was conceived in the true spirit, and was more emphatic in its rendering than any other portion of the Concerto. Mr. Mason won his due share of honor, and was loudly applauded.”

Review: New-York Times, 26 October 1866, 4.

“Mr. Theodore Thomas’ Symphony soirees have commenced this year far in advance of the Philharmonic Society, and have won a start before the musical season is well in the saddle. The first soiree was given at Irving Hall on Saturday evening, and attracted much attention. The subscription, we are glad to hear, shows a marked improvement over that of last season. Any indication that these valuable entertainments are increasing in public favor must be gratifying to all true lovers of music, and this is surely one of the plainest of indications. The programme opened with a new vorspiel or introduction by the unimitigable [sic] Wagner. It is to a comic drama called ‘Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg.’ Such a subject would suggest to most minds a light and melodious treatment of themes, but Wagner plunges into it hammer and tongs, and sweats and pants and roars as lustily as ever. The opening part has evidently been written with the mild purpose of being insane. There is method in the madness, but not sufficient to lead to anything startling. On the contrary it conducts us at once to everything that is tame and disagreeable. It is one of Mr. Wagner’s vanities to make music for the eye. The score of this part is regular in appearance, but to the ear it is a succession of diabolical dissonances – a sort of Stygian marsh of chords where everything that follows must perforce be more or less Elysian. And indeed the elaboration of the last part, where three subjects are wrought together with skill, is interesting and eminently effective. There is too much of it, however, and it is impossible to disguise the fact from one’s self that Wagner has again ransacked the ancient and respectable empire of dullness for much of his material. His coloring is as gorgeous as the war-paint of a wild Indian, and it is laid on in much the same way. In happy contrast to this remarkable production – and in many technical respects which it were folly to discuss it is remarkable – was Beethoven’s superb concerto in G opus 58 - a work where inspiration takes the place of labor, and genius gives talent the cold shoulder. The piano part was played with exquisite feeling and clearness by Mr. William Mason, and with exactly that quality of tone which it requires. We have no recollection of ever having heard this fine classic played to greater advantage. A new cadenza was written by Mr. Mason for the second part. Its only fault was the unusual one of being too short. Mr. Mason confines himself to Beethoven’s modulations, and uses them with candor and fairness as the themes of the cadenza. There are freshness and originality in the plan. Moscheles who steeped himself in Beethoven until he was almost tanned, and who has stopped up every crevice with a cadenza, used to take the themes themselves. That also was a good way, but we prefer Mr. Mason’s. It is larger and more conscientious, and does not exhibit the vanity of the player. In the second part we had Schubert’s Symphony in C, a work of pure music, so melodious that children cry for it; so ample that, even with the ‘repeats’ omitted, it fills up one-half of an evening’s entertainment. Schubert is always acceptable. He has rarely been heard to better advantage than on this occasion. Mr. Thomas’ orchestra is somewhat larger than of yore. It numbers 70 of the best players in the country, the majority of whom have been under Mr. Thomas’ baton for a considerable period. One of the latest improvements introduced by Mr. Thomas in the stringed department is the marking of the up and down bowing of the players. Musicians know the value of precision in this respect. The public notices that everyone bows in the same way. Both are content. Mr. Thomas conducted with his usual clearness and ease. The vocal department did not impress us as being equal to the occasion. Miss Henne possesses executive skill and musical intelligence, but her voice is deficient in quality, and her method too close for a large and crowded room. The second symphony-soiree will take place at Steinway’s new Music Hall on Saturday evening, Nov. 24. The programme is the finest ever presented in New-York. The leading instrumental work is Beethoven’s ninth symphony complete. We emphasize the last word because heretofore it has been the custom to play the choral symphony without a chorus. Mr. Thomas will be assisted in its interpretation by two hundred members of the Mendelssohn Union. In addition to the last great symphonic work of the world – for so the ninth symphony may be called – Mr. Thomas also gives us the first great symphonic work of its day – the ‘Jupiter’ symphony of Mozart.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 24 November 1866, 349.

Includes the program. “Mr. Thomas gave his first Symphony Soiree on the twentieth of October, at Irving Hall; the programme was as follows…

Wagner's composition is very heavy and unpleasing; in it he coquets with contrapuntal forms and leads into nothing but unsatisfactory results—except in regard to noise; of that he gives us more than enough! Schubert's magnificent Symphony was very well played by the orchestra. Mr. Mason's playing of the Beethoven Concerto was excellent, full of expression and understanding. He gave his own cadence in the first movement, and very ingenious it was in harmony and in arrangement of different themes, although a little more bravura would have improved it. Miss Henne, who sang on this occasion, possesses a sympathetic and agreeable mezzo-soprano voice, of considerable flexibility, but her part does not lie in the execution of such difficult arias, as gave us, especially that of Gluck.”