Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
Price: $1.50, $2 reserved
29 December 2016
“The second of Mr. Theodore Thomas’s admirable symphony soirees will be given this evening at Steinway Hall. The selection is one which will satisfy the most various tastes. Those who are special admirers of either Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Rossini or Hayden [sic] will be able to hear a choice and characteristic selections from the works of their favorite composer. Mr. Leopold de Meyer will perform two piano solos.”
The entertainment was “largely attended. Haydn’s second symphony, the ‘Consecration of the House,’ overture by Beethoven, and Schumann’s third symphony, were performed by Thomas’ orchestra, and Leopold De Meyer played some of his brilliant compositions with one of Chopin’s nocturnes, in his own inimitable style.”
“A large and extremely intelligent audience was in attendance at Theodore Thomas’s second symphony soirée, given on Saturday evening at Steinway Hall. The programme was not quite as good as that for the first concert, which could hardly be equaled. It was, however, deficient only by comparison, being positively excellent as a whole. The fine quality of the large orchestra of eighty pieces and the splendid leadership of Mr. Thomas were especially revealed by the accurate and feeling interpretations given to two such diverse compositions as Haydn’s symphony No. 2, in D, and Schumann’s symphony No. 3, in E flat. The former is one of the best specimens of Haydn’s clear and simple style, and the latter an equally good representative of the modern German school. We doubt if either one of these noble works has ever been given with a more thorough appreciation of its sentiment, while the energetic and spirited leadership of Mr. Thomas was conspicuous as usual.
We enjoyed these works more than that of Beethoven’s ‘Consecration of the House,’ which was nevertheless given with correctness, expressiveness and a fine sentiment. The soloist of the evening was the veteran Leopold de Meyer, whose marvellous [sic] execution, so far from being affected by his years, is rather chastened, and thus improved. A wondrously delicate manipulation seems now to be the strong point of the pianist, who, in his earlier years, was such a formidable assailant of key boards [sic]. When, however, we come to the soul of good playing, towards which all mechanical execution but supplies the means of expression, we must rank Mr. de Meyer far below Gottschalk as the interpreter of sensuous sentiment, and below Hoffman as the interpreter of the higher class of composition. No matter what De Meyer plays the resulting impression is about the same. With all his skill, delicacy, and grace, the soul is wanting.”
“Mr. THEODORE THOMAS’ second symphony soirée for the present season was given on Saturday evening, before an audience as notable for its numbers as it was observable for the warm interest it appeared to take in everything that was offered; the largest share, however, of favor given to the orchestral performances, appeared to be conferred upon the Beethoven Overture (C. op. 124) and SCHUMANN’S third symphony in E flat. The latter received the most earnest and devoted treatment from Mr. THOMAS’ superb orchestra, and unbounded applause from all who had the good fortune to listen to, and the good taste to enjoy it. One of the leading merits of this composition is its unconventionality. Its composer, like all authors upon inspiration, in no matter what department of art, seems to have had a holy horror of commonplace, and although he may frequently be detected endeavoring in far too studious a manner to avoid it, that fault can hardly be urged against the third symphony in E. The charmingly free performance by Mr. DE MEYER of CHAPIN’S [sic] ‘Nocturne,’ was also a favorite number of the programme, and, as usual, the pianist had to reply to enthusiastic encores.”
“An audience such as that which filled the better part of Steinway Hall on Saturday evening, affords the clearest of proofs that there is a genuine love of good music in New-York, and an appreciative public large enough to sustain it. Of the people who go to the opera, at least one-half go because it is the fashion; because it is so pleasant, if you are a young man, to flit about from box to box and drop compliments into the laps of your lady friends, or, if you are a girl, to receive the homage of your partners in the last night’s ball, while your ears are being tickled with melody and your eyes entertained with the woes and raptures of your favorite tenor, or the drolleries of the comic baritone. The patrons of the common run of concerts are for the most part persons who have not a love but a liking for music, a smattering of knowledge of the art, a keen relish for a commonplace ballad, and an admiration for pianoforte pyrotechnics and all sorts of musical humbug. With them, however, you will always find some discriminating listeners who know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and are content to sit through an hour’s trifling for the sake of ten minutes of real intellectual enjoyment. Then you have the oratorio audiences. These are composed half, perhaps, of people who really love and understand the old masters of song and counterpoint, and half of solemn folks, who look upon an oratorio as a sort of semi-religious service, which every respectable father of a family ought to encourage for the sake of public morality. But Theodore Thomas’s soirees are for one class only. Unless you love music for its own sake—unless you comprehend somewhat of the higher mysteries of the art, do not go to them. You will find there no pretty young women in gorgeous raiment, warbling silly songs, no handsome tenor with divine mustaches, screaming the agony of his heart. You will have no chance to flirt, and if you talk aloud during the performance people will think you ill-mannered. But if you really love and understand music, you will have such a treat as you can enjoy nowhere else except at the Philharmonic Concerts.
The programme of the second soirée, on Saturday, was rather less interesting than that of the first; but the first was a peculiarly fine one, such as cannot be made every day. This time we had, first, Haydn’s Symphony No. 2 in D. It is a work of considerable variety, and the second movement especially—the andante—is one of the most deliciously delicate inspirations of Haydn’s beautiful genius. Its joyousness and exquisite finish contrasted admirably with the grandeur and solemnity of Beetho[ven’s] impressive Overture in C, opus 124, which followed, and, with the weird poetry of Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, in E flat, opus 97, with its noble third movement—the andante—which closed the performance. The Beethoven overture—Die Weihe des Hauses—is namedin the programme ‘The Consecration of the House.’ A better translation of weihe would be ‘dedication;’ the work was written for the opening of a theater in Vienna. It was interesting and instructive to compare the playing of Mr. Thomas’s orchestra on this occasion with that they favored us with when Mr. Harrison brought out The Seasons a little while ago. Mr. Ritter, who led both players and singers in the oratorio, is a good musician, and a good enough conductor, but he lacks force. Chorus and orchestra consequently were at times in fault, and many times uncertain. Mr. Thomas on Saturday had twice as many instruments to lead—his orchestra consisting of 80 performers—but what a difference: Every man was up to his work, and full of the spirit of the composer. Every tone was sure; every note was full and distinct; and the time was perfect. Mr. Thomas has less delicacy than Bergmann. He cannot produce the superb shading which we admire so much at the Philharmonics this season; but he has good taste, and in point of precision he has no superior.
Mr. Leopold de Meyer gave valuable aid to the concert by his piano-playing. A better choice of a solo performer could not have been made, for Mr. de Meyer is not a mere gymnast, but a thorough artist, with a deep sense of what is truly noblest in his art. He played a transcription of Schubert’s Serenade, with variations, which had the rare merit of preserving the spirit of the theme, and a nocturne of Chopin’s, followed by a Soirée Musicale of Rossini’s. All three were in harmony with the instrumental pieces, and whoever selected them showed great sense and discrimination. For encores he played two short and graceful compositions, which we believe were improvised.”
The concert was only sparsely attended. There were no new pieces in the program. The opening piece by Haydn pleased the ears and it created an almost cozy atmosphere on that Saturday evening. However, this atmosphere was almost destroyed by the performance of the pianist de Meyer. Both Chopin’s piece and a da capo piece – probably his own composition [quote] – were played in a fashion of a social dance event and not a concert soiree. De Meyer is unquestionably a skillful musician. However, his taste of music is quite peculiar and often inappropriate. Beethoven’s overture and Schumann’s Symphony were performaned with excellence. The orchestra and the conductor were applauded enthusiastically by the audience.
To open with Haydn’s Symphony No. 2 in D was not a wise choice. This piece is more appropriate for a “coffee and concert” event. It is too insignificant musically to be presented here. The performance of the work was excellent, except for the restlessness in the last movement. All the other pieces of the concert were performed with precision and brilliance. It seemed as though the orchestra was excited in the last movement of the symphony [Schumann’s?] – the effect was grand. De Meyer is a fine pianist; however he has his specific style which is not for everyone. “Who feeds the audience with candy and pastry can not expect that the audience takes it for a main course” [quote]. The variations over the serenade were completely worthless which is not appropriate for an audience for a symphony concert. He also played Chopin’s nocturne with ornamentations and a paced that makes a serious listener believe he was joking. For a Sunday audience this fast pace waltz can be successful.
“The second of Theo. Thomas’ Symphony Soirées took place at Steinway Hall on Saturday evening, Dec. 7th. The orchestra numbered 80, and Leopold De Meyer was the soloist. [list of program] The Haydn Symphony was charming in its melodious simplicity; the last movement, a quaint little rustic dance in common time, was given with great verve by Mr. Thomas’s well-trained orchestra, as was also the Menuetto and its beautiful Trio in B flat major.
The Beethoven overture offered a marked contrast to the first work on the programme: massive, grand, and full of rich harmony it was ‘solid food.’ The fugal passage at its close was given with great spirit, and the different voci were clearly and distinctly defined.
The Schumann Symphony is a most attractive work, full of ideas and rich in subtle harmonies. The 2d and 3d movements are especially attractive; the former—a delightful Scherzo in C major—is very winning. In the third phrase, where the pedal point remains persistently and resolutely on C, while the upper harmony moves through that and the relative keys, the pathetic, appealing character is very noticeable.
In the 3d movement (marked nicht schnell and really an andante con moto) a peculiarly graceful effect is produced by the setting off, as one might say, of two beautiful themes, the one against the other, by the string and wind orchestras. The whole movement is full of quiet and peace.
With regard to Mr. De Meyer’s performance it becomes the duty of a faithful critic to utter a few unpleasant but necessary truths. It would be far better if at such a concert that gentleman should play music of a classical character. His selectison could scarcely be dignified by that name, with the exception of the Chopin Nocturne, and that was murdered outright by the insertion of flourishes and embellishments which were thoroughly meretricious and totally devoid of the Chopin spirit. It may, perhaps, be superfluous to remark that it is useless for Mr. De Meyer to attempt to improve upon the works of the author just mentioned; any such attempt music result in failure; if we are to hear Chopin let us hear him, and not somebody else. Mr. De M.’s encores, also, were of a trashy character, the second one being apparently an ordinary (literally so) polka. It is well that Mr. Thomas, with a most praiseworthy desire to please his patrons, should employ artists whom the musical world has acknowledged to be such, but it is not well that the character of such concerts as the Symphony Soirées should be lowered by such performances as those which I have mentioned; it is safe to say that such a display would not have been allowed in Vienna or London; nor, indeed, would it have been attempted there.
The audience, though not as large as could be wished, was an attentive and an appreciative one. The applause, however, was too indiscriminately bestowed, an error only too common with an American audience.”