Academy of Music
10 November 2016
“To Philharmonic Concert at Acad. of Music, sat in one of the galleries, and came off at the end of Part I, not caring to hear an ‘Overture to Manfred’ by Schumann and strongly preferring not to hear, at any price, ‘Mazeppa’ and ‘Poeme Symphonique’ by the galvanic Abbe Lizst or Liszt or whatever his name is. So we heard Beethoven’s Pastorale and a piano concerto (‘Op. 8’) by Mozart. I heard them, with Ellie, at yesterday’s rehearsal. No painter ever put so much sunshine on his canvas as Beethoven has embodied in the wonderful First Movement of the Pastoral Symphony. The Mozart Concerto is delightful—its second movement quite memorable for the exceeding beauty of its melodic subject, which is strongly flavored with the real original Mozart aroma (for which Mozart had the exclusive patent [illeg.] the Jupiter Symphony, Vedrai Carino, and the Benedictus of the 12th Mass) and which Handel, Beethoven and Haydn never produced, great as they were. Hoffman marred two movements of the concerto by interpolating elaborate inane ‘cadenzas’ to show off his fingering. He might just as well have done a little legerdemain, exhibited a confusing trick with cards or a bottle, or turned three back sommersaults [sic] over his piano. Neither interpolation would have been more impertinent and unseasonable than was the introduction of these senseless phrases into Mozart’s pure crystalline music. Hoffman should be ashamed of himself for he plays as if he appreciated the great so-called classical composers.”
“The first concert of the 26th season of the New York Philharmonic Society was given on Saturday evening at the Academy of Music. The society has enlarged its orchestra this year to 100 performers, and under the competent leadership of Mr. Carl Bergmann, and the energetic and liberal direction of its new President, Dr. R. Ogden Oremus, it promises a more brilliant season than it has ever had before. The programme opened on Saturday with Beethoven’s fascinating Pastoral Symphony. We have never heard this musical poem better interpreted. The delicacy and breadth of the first Allegro, the piquant grace of the Andante, the massiveness of the great storm movement, and, finally, the ravishing beauty of the pastoral chant were given with a precision and brilliancy of coloring which left nothing to be desired. The symphony is a perfect landscape. As we listen to this wonderful composition of the greatest of musical geniuses, we seem to wander through waving woods and blooming fields to listen to the ceaseless babbling of the brooks as they flow on forever, to hear the warbling of birds and the melody of the zephyrs, the roar of the Summer shower, the pattering of the rain-drops on the leaves, and the festivities of the rustic dance. Our hearts are filled with the calm enjoyment of rural happiness, and finally the cup of delight is filled to overflowing by the delicious Allegretto, which whoever hears unmoved has no music in his soul. Mr. Richard Hoffman [sic] played, with orchestral accompaniment, Mozart’s Concerto for the Piano (Op. 8, in D minor.) It is hardly necessary to say that he executed his part with remarkable neatness and purity of touch, the Romanza being especially well done; but the addition of Hummel’s impertinent cadenzas was a sacrifice to the vulgar taste to which neither Mr. Hoffman nor the Philharmonic Society ought to have stooped. Schumann’s ‘Manfred’ overture which followed is not, as some of the newspapers [sic] critics seem to suppose, the introduction to an opera, but a musical illustration of Byron’s poem of that name. Its character ought to be understood, for half the beauty is lost unless we associate and compare the wild, supernatural spirit of the music with the sense of the poetry, and remember, as we listen, the peculiarities of the drama which it purports to embody. We are borne along over Alpine summits and among craggy glens; we call up the spirits of the unseen world from the hearts of the mountains, and are carried into the ghostly court of Ahrimanes where Manfred in vain seeks relief from the tortures of his despairing soul. The sentiment of all this Schumann attempted to express. He succeeded only partially, but he produced a work of real genius, instinct with the Byronic spirit. Mendelssohn’s charming Concerto for the violin, with orchestral accompaniment (Op. 64, in E), was accurately rendered, the soloist being Madame Camilla Urso, with whose tasteful style and dexterous execution the public of this city are familiar. The closing piece was Liszt’s Poème Symphonique of ‘Mazeppa.’ Its purpose is like that of the ‘Manfred’ to embody a poem of Byron’s, and the idea was a happy one to group together in one concert, three such remarkable descriptive works as those which the Philharmonic Society played on this occasion. Beethoven is the representative of the poetry of nature; Schumann of the poetry of the supernatural; Liszt of the poetry of human passion. We cannot like the ‘Mazeppa.’ It contains much of the fire of inspiration, and passages of tremendous strength; but the merit of a work of this kind must be judged by the harmony and beauty of its parts, not by single passages. It begins with a sneeze, and its finest movements are interrupted by bursts of magnificent nonsense. It was well, however, to let us hear it, and the performance by the orchestra was worthy of all praise. The season has opened auspiciously. The opera house was entirely filled and the passage ways were crowded with persons unable to find seats.”
“The first concert of the Philharmonic Society given this season at the Academy of Music, on Saturday evening, was such a success in every respect as must have been highly gratifying to the new management of the society, as it undoubtedly was to the thousands who crowded every inch of sitting and standing room in the Academy. The confidence inspired by the thoroughness of the rehearsals was fully justified by the performances at the concert, none of which fell below the high expectations previously formed, while in some respects the reality exceeded the anticipation.
The orchestra numbered just a hundred performers, the list of whose names on the programme included a majority of the best known soloists in the city, while the direction fell into the hands of Mr. Carl Bergmann, whose equal as a leader of large orchestras it is difficult to find anywhere. With such material, under such leadership, the inspiration of the immense audience of Saturday evening was all that was needed to ensure a perfectly even, artistic and spirited performance, and this was exactly what was enjoyed on this occasion.
The opening selection was ‘Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony,’ whose massive grandeur, wonderful harmonies, tranquil and idyllic beauties, and delicate gradations of light and shade have never been more correctly and feelingly interpreted here. A single performance of this kind more than justifies all of the labors incident to the organization and training of a society like the Philharmonic, which conferred an inestimable public benefit by giving this great and incomparable work in a style so admirable. Mr. Richard Hoffmann played Mozart’s Concerto (Op. 8, in D minor) with an orchestral accompaniment. The purity of Mr. Hoffmann’s style of playing was never better exemplified, nor the remarkable quality of his touch. In these days, when the piano has to endure so much torturing at the hands of the gymnastic school of performers, it is delightful to hear a player who can interpret simply and with feeling such pure music as that of the concerto referred to. The other soloist of the evening was Mme. Camille Urso, who performed Mendelssohn’s concert for the violin (op. 64, in E) with all of her usual excellence of execution, and won a most enthusiastic storm of applause. In some respects she surpassed herself, and, in particular, exhibited somewhat more than her ordinary animation. As a mere executant she probably has no equal in this country. Such accuracy, exquisite taste and entire control of the resources of the violin as she displays would provoke a furor of admiration, were there more of that indefinable something which may be called inspiration or genius.
Schumann’s ‘Manfred’ overture, which transmutes into musical expression the spirit of Byron’s famous poem, was given with animation and a fine appreciation of its wild and supernatural elements. Somewhat more strong and less musical in its character was the ‘Poeme Symphonique’ of Liszt, which concluded the concert. Those who like this class of music must have enjoyed the performance.
We cannot close without a word of commendation for the audience, which not only showed itself unusually appreciative, but was free from those pests of our public places of amusement, the people who advertise their lack of breeding by their annoying clatter. This is a nuisance which has been so observable of late that we are glad to be able to speak so well of a pleasing and bright exception.”
The audience was elegant and mostly attentive. The program consisted of familiar pieces. Compared to the competitor, Thomas’ Symphony Soirees, which introduce newer works and thus represent the evolvement and progress of music, the Philharmonic Society is here to preserve the classical and be conservative.
The performance of the orchestra and the leadership of Bergmann were excellent…Urso played the violin concerto with the usual skill and also with beautiful understanding and feeling, the latter [of which] she lacked before. The audience received the concert well.
The program was a colorful combination of variety; a menu with something for everyone’s taste. Respectful as I am of the “Pastorale” and the two concertos, it is still a curiosity that Hoffmann plays the same pieces every year. How about Ascher or Roseler for a change? The orchestra pieces under the direction of Bergmann went smoothly, the “Mazeppa” was played with fire and love. The theater was completely filled.