Manager / Director:
Lafayette F. Harrison
Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
6 December 2017
Harrison will continue his concerts at Irving Hall all the way to the end of winter. In the next concert the talented concert singer Mr. Pollack will perform. Carl Wolfsohn has engaged him for performances in New York and Philadelphia.
“Mr. Harrison’s programme for the eighth of the Sunday concerts will be interpreted by the following eminent talent: Miss Kate McDonald, soprano; Mlle. Camille Urso, violin; Mr. J. Pollack, baritone; Mr. Y. W. Colby, pianist, and Mr. Theo. Thomas, with his full orchestra of forty solo performers.”
“Mr. Harrison will give his eighth concert at Irving Hall to-morrow evening, on which occasion Madame Camille Urso will make her first appearance since her return from Europe. Miss Kate McDonald will also appear, and Mr. Thomas’s grand orchestra will perform some of his instrumental selections. These concerts have become an established fact, so that whether the weather is fine or inclement, the hall is always filled, so popular are they with the people.”
Includes program. “The success which has attended Mr. Harrison’s enterprise at Irving Hall in giving Sunday concerts resulted last night in an audience such as never before was congregated in the same hall. There were not less than eighteen hundred people present, as there were many turned away for want of room, and the entrance and passages were crowded. And the concert, both as to artists and programme, was well deserving such an attendance. The programme opened with the ever welcome and never tiresome overture to William Tell. It is the favorite of every audience, and given by such an orchestra as that of Mr. Thomas, it was received last night with applause. Mr. J. Pollack sang the ‘Heart Bowed Down,’ or at least a German version of it. He has an excellent voice, somewhat like Campbell’s, and uses it to some extent well, but he entirely lacks the soul and thrilling feeling that is so apparent in everything that Mr. Campbell sings. The great attraction of the concert was Mlle. Camilla Urso, the distinguished violinist, who appeared for the first time since her return from Europe. She played a ballad and Polonaise, by Vieuxtemps, in a style equal to the anticipations we formed of her from her European successes. She has still much to learn, but in purity of tone and taste in execution she is indeed a great artist. Her tone, if not rich, is clear, and, considering the damaging effect which the heated atmosphere of the hall had on the strings, she appeared to better advantage than many of our well known violinists would under the same circumstances. She played Gottschalk’s Cradle Song, in response to the inevitable encore, and played it well. Miss Kate McDonald sang Fesco’s ‘Winged Messenger,’ and the ‘Last Rose of Summer.’ Her voice is not large in tone, but always enjoyable. In such ballads it is far superior to any operatic singer we now have in the metropolis. Clear, fresh, beautifully modulated and bird like, Miss McDonald’s voice is fully adapted to those touching ballads which the people, the masses, like and can appreciate. Lumbye’s ‘Visions in a Dream’ followed. The beautiful flute and zither melodies in it are full of soul and sentiment. The zither is an instrument constructed on the same principle as the guitar, and has a novel but pleasing sound. The second part of the programme consisted of…The manner in which these concerts are now conducted cannot fail to keep them up to the standard which attracts such immense audiences in Irving Hall.”
“Two so-called sacred concerts were given last night. One of them took place at the Olympic Theatre—the other came off at Irving Hall. The attendance at both was good—good enough, in fact, to deserve something better in the way of music than was offered at either. If the ‘selections’ that were given (instrumental as well as vocal) were chosen for their ‘sacred’ character, it is to be feared that the notion of what is holy must be rather limited in the minds of the framers of the programmes at both places. Ballads of unrequited ‘love’ have not hitherto come under the classification of religious music, nor have the lighter operatic melodies been considered very referential or godly! Half the music played and sung at the concerts last evening were of these orders; although at Irving Hall Mr. Theodore Thomas indulged, as usual, in a ‘Theme’ and ‘Symphony’ or two, which are not (as a general thing) as sacred as they are soporific. These Sunday night concerts threaten to become popular, but before they become entirely so, or altogether worthy of extended favor, the singers in them must be of a better order, and the managers must come from behind their present hypocritical mask and call their entertainments something else than ‘Sacred’—for they are certainly anything else!”
[First part is mostly illegible but talks about the vogue for Sunday concerts; takes a jab at those who don’t fear assimilating their music with lagerbier, etc.]
The eighth of the concerts organized at Irving Hall by M. Harrison, under the musical direction of the excellent orchestra leader M. Theodore Thomas, had a particular attraction. The program contained two pieces executed by the incomparable violinist, Mlle Camille Urso, whose reputation, begun in America, received, last season, a dazzling consecration in Europe. Mlle Camille Urso was welcomed in Paris by the masters of her art, by the Vieuxtemps, the Allards, the Sivoris, who immediately recognized her as an artist of the first rank and who opened their ranks to mark her place among them. She has a brilliant engagement for next season at the Exposition Universelle, and she has come back to pass this winter in New York, called by urgent family business. It’s therefore, somehow, in passing, that she makes herself heard in New York, and there isn’t one fastidious dilettante who doesn’t want to partake of the enchantments this inimitable artist reserves for us.
Her appearance at Irving Hall was greeted with thunderous applause. When silence was reestablished, and at the first strokes of her masterly bow, it was easy to read on all the faces the profound impression produced by the breadth of her style, or the purity and fullness of sound that she draws from her instrument, the infinite grace of its singing, and the irreproachable accuracy with which she modulates the most delicate phrases, even in the middle of the most unimaginable breakneck performance. It would take several columns to analyze all the qualities of such a talent, which unites charm, power, flexibility, energy, accuracy, and beyond all this the classic simplicity that produces the most thrilling effects without effort, without charlatanism, while making light of the most unattainable difficulties.
After the first piece, Ballade et Polonaise, a composition of great originality by Vieuxtemps, Mlle Camille Urso was recalled with enthusiasm, and returned to play a charming Berceuse of Gottschalk, arranged for the violin expressly for her by the eminent pianist. Nothing is more suave, more delicate than this web of exquisite modulations—a song as sweet as a breath, that only a woman’s hand is capable of executing with this purity, and that a composer would never have dreamed of writing for a man. Not a note of this delicate melody, not a trace of its aerial murmur, was lost in the vast hall, where fifteen hundred people held their breath in order to capture it.
A third piece, the Caprice of Vieuxtemps, completed the admirable virtuoso’s part of the concert, which will be noted as an event among the memories of Irving Hall.
One also heard a young and amiable singer, Mlle Kate McDonald, who is sure to have a very good future. Her voice, of a clear and congenial tone, is well placed, admirably accurate, and of a broad, great range, although its volume does not exceed a middle size. Mlle McDonald sang Le Messager Ailé (The Winged Messenger) of Fesca with great taste, and a Ballade by Busch. Recalled after the first piece, she sang La Romance de la Rose, from Martha, quite well, and was applauded deservedly as well as warmly.
M. Pollack, a baritone who possesses a beautiful voice, of a somewhat melancholy tonality, was also applauded in two pieces where he demonstrated secure style and excellent technique.
Finally, the orchestra, composed of forty musicians, all artists of proven talent, was heard at the beginning and end of each of the two parts, in ensemble pieces that couldn’t have been played better in the great capitals of Europe.
In sum, these concerts are good fortune for people of taste who don’t admit that the supreme religion consists of boring themselves on Sunday, and the spirit which they are followed is perfectly justified by their excellence.
“In every direction we hear of young ladies winning honors in the musical profession. Mlle. Camilla Urso is somewhat out of the beaten path, inasmuch as she has selected the violin as her medium of musical expression. But how perfectly and sentiently it responds to her wishes! The lady made her renirée before a very large audience at Irving Hall on Sunday last—the occasion being the eighth of Mr. Harrison’s delightful series of entertainments. Mlle. Urso has but just returned from Europe, where she surprised the most critical audiences. In America the lady is well known, but we notice a marked improvement in her playing, and have no hesitation now in placing her among the foremost of living violinists. Her success was complete, winning not merely the plaudits of a miscellaneous audience, but the heartiest approval of a very strong delegation of the profession. These Sunday concerts are in every way admirable. At the one to which we are referring, Miss Kate McDonald was the soprano. Last season we had occasion to speak of this young and interesting lady. Her voice is singularly soft, pure and gracious, and she manages it with exquisite sensibility. There is no better concert singer now before the public. Mr. J. Pollack, a German singer, and pupil of the famous Stockhausen, sang a couple of pieces with true feeling and expression. He has a fine voice, which may easily be brightened by greater animation of style. The orchestra, as heretofore, was under the direction of Mr. Theodore Thomas; and being his own picked men, they played superbly. The ninth concert is on Sunday next. Mrs. Anna Payne and Mr. J. N. Pattison are the soloists.”
“Camille Urso’s playing at Mr. Harrison’s Sunday evening concerts at Irving Hall is the theme of general comment. Her career in this country has latterly been a brilliant one; and her talent, which has been developed among us year by year, has been acknowledged by those capable of criticizing her acquirements, without stint. The judgments thus recorded have been sustained by the best European critics, and her six months sojourn in Paris proved a season of pure artistic triumph. Among first-class artists she was recognized as an equal, and her playing now gives evidence of the advantages of high artistic association. Her style is more matured, her readings are broader, and in all she does there is an appearance of more perfect polish than heretofore. The masculine element of the violin has never been attained but by one woman, Milanola, but Camille Urso has gained much in that direction and plays now with a strength—a sustained force which leads us but little to ask for. Her execution of Vieuxtemp’s difficult composition, the Ballade and Polonaise, was a masterly performance. She has caught the broad manner and marked character of that great master, and interpreted his work in a style which no other violinist in this country could, except Poznanski, his favorite pupil. In her own special, womanly style, she has certainly no superior for pathos of expression and tenderness of sentiment were never more exquisitely illustrated than in her performance of Gottschalk’s paraphrase of his Cradle Song, arranged for and dedicated to her. It was a performance that brought tears to many eyes and deeply affected all. We may be justly proud of the talents of Camille Urso, for they have been developed and nurtured in this country, and she will represent honorably and successfully in the Old World, the rapid growth and appreciation of Art in America when she reappears in Paris in the Spring of 1867.”