Academy of Music
14 February 2017
“The second concert of the New York Philharmonic Society will be given at the Academy of Music to-morrow evening. At the first concert of the present season the house was crowded, and the receipts were much larger than at any former entertainment given by the society; but a considerable proportion of the audience only procured single admissions. The officers of the society are desirous that it shall fulfill its primary purpose of educating and developing a taste for the higher order of music, and with the view of placing its advantages within the reach of all, the prices for the whole season have been fixed at a moderate rate. Five concert and fifteen rehearsal tickets are offered for $10, or fifteen concert tickets for $15. It is the general verdict that the society has never been so thoroughly organized as now, and its promises of doing a good work for musical culture is excellent.”
“The latter [Philharmonic Society Orchestra] has been increased to one hundred members.”
“The Academy of Music was crowded from parquet to dome last night with a truly fashionable audience that recalled the palmist days of this great society. The display of toilets was something that would delight the eyes of the most critical modiste, and the most celebrated artists in America, Ole Bull, Mills, Leopold de Meyer, Morgan, &c. were present. Miss Alida Topp proved herself the great artiste we have always deemed her, and in the Liszt fantasia, a bizarre, wonderful work in which the ‘March and Chorus of Dervishes” of Beethoven are worked up in a truly original manner, she brought an enthusiastic encore, to which she responded by playing the ‘Rhapsodie Hongroise No. 2’ by Liszt. This seems to be her pièce de resistance, and she did it full justice. We did not like her rendering of the ‘Concertstück,’ in either conception of the composer’s ideas or in the tempo, which was entirely too slow.”
“The second concert of the Philharmonic Society’s twenty-sixth season took place at the Academy of Music on Saturday evening, when the house was completely filled. The programme opened with SCHUBERT’S beautiful Symphony in C, which was exquisitely played, and gave hearty satisfaction to the audience. The melodious nature of the composition, and its vigorous treatment, combine to make it always popular and agreeable. The same may be said of MENDELSSOHN’S well-known overture ‘Meerstille und glückliche Fahrt,’ which was also very excellently rendered. It is indeed a great satisfaction to hear such works performed by the present orchestra of the Philharmonic Society—numerically stronger than ever, and better in its principal elements—and especially when Mr. BERGMANN is at the conductor’s desk. The novelty of the occasion was an overture to ‘Othello,’ by Mr. F. L. RITTER, a resident musician of acknowledged talent. The work was not, strictly speaking, new. It was produced at the Harrison Festival last Summer, and its favorable reception on that occasion probably led to its selection by the Philharmonic Society. The principal merit of the work is its sonority. The various instruments speak freely, and are for that reason powerful and impressive. There are several subjects to the overture, showing that Mr. RITTER does not lack invention. But these motives are marshaled in a somewhat disorderly way, and do not arrive at any positive climax. It is a question of length, not of culmination. The connecting links are sometimes eccentric, and, no doubt, mean more than they express; but the treatment generally is steady and musicianlike.
“Miss ALIDA TOPP was the pianiste of the occasion. The lady is a pupil of Hans von Bulow, and has not studied under that master in vain. She has his manner in a striking degree, and is by no means free from his faults. Among the latter may be mentioned an extraordinary manner of taking the tempi. This was particularly noticeable in WEBER’S concerto in F minor, which, however was well and brilliantly played. LISZT’S ‘Ruins of Athens’ fantasie was not a happy selection, but exhibited the power and technical skill of the lady, both of which are considerable. In response to a very general encore Miss TOPP gave an additional proof of her endurance by playing LISZT’S ‘Hungarian Rhapsodie,’ No.2. The lady performed on one of Steinway’s superb grands – the finest instrument we think we have ever heard.”
“[programme of the concert] The only objection that we can fairly make to this bill is that the two halves are not well balanced, by much of the greater share both of the merit and the interest lying in the first part. The great work of Schubert’s belongs nearly in the foremost rank of symphonic compositions, and is rich enough in melodic forms to be popular even with unscientific listeners. For its due effect it requires more imperatively than most music a delicacy and distinctness of shading on the part of the performers. It had these on Saturday night, for it is in the faculty of insuring them that one of Mr. Bergmann’s chief merits as a conductor consists. The ‘Othello’ overture by Mr. F. L. Ritter, one of our New-York musicians, and well known from his connection with the Harmonic Society, was performed at the Steinway Hall Musical Festival last June, and was then received with considerable applause. Now that we hear it again more perfectly given, we adhere to the favorable opinion which THE TRIBUNE expressed of it on its first presentation. It is an agreeable composition, with some well-marked rhythmical movements, passages of decided animation, and effective climaxes. The Mendelssohn overture which closed the evening is hardly ever played well enough to satisfy a fastidious ear, and if we have fault to find with the performance of the slow opening movement—which seemed to us lacking both in smoothness and firmness—the same fault is almost common enough to be the rule. Miss Topp’s playing in the beautiful concertstück of Weber’s was admirable. The Liszt Fantasie is also well adapted to display the marvelous clearness of her touch, and the brilliancy of her execution, but music is something more than display, and the composition is a singularly empty one. She gave great satisfaction to her hearers, especially in the Fantasie, and for an encore played the ‘Rhapsodie Hongroise No. 2’ of Liszt, which, like all her performances of the evening, was admirable.”
The Philharmonic management was able to increase the attendance, which had been on its way downward until today. Schubert’s symphony had not been played in a while. The 100 member orchestra performed this piece with beautiful nuancing and accuracy. Topp was neither able to grasp the spirit of Weber’s f minor piece nor fully handle the technical difficulties. However, this composition is done so well that even a mediocre performance is pleasing. Topp played her second piece by Ritter with admirable strength. [rest of review cut off/page ends here]
“It is only within the last ten or fifteen years that this Symphony has been performed and it is difficult to understand how such a noble work could have so long (Schubert died in 1828) remained unknown to the musical world. The opening eight or nine bars of horn solo are fitly entitled by Schumann, ‘Horns of Elfland faintly blowing.’ It is easy to perceive how a work of such genius took so strong a hold as it did upon Schumann’s admiration. In it there is the spontaneity of Mendelssohn, the depth and breadth of Beethoven, the elaborate instrumentation and peculiar quaintnesses of Schumann, yet, through all, the unmistakable individuality of Schubert himself.
“When all the numbers are so admirable, it is impossible—without occupying too much space—to enlarge upon the merits of any particular one. The Allegretto in A minor (2d movement) is perhaps the most attractive. There is something unbearably sad in the measured, resistless and unceasing march of the low bass notes taken by the cellos and contrabassi. The theme itself is charming.
“The Scherzo is finely worked up; the Trio in A, which breaks in upon it, being a gem. The Finale, grand and broad, is a sort of foreshadowing (to use that expression) of the closing movement in Schumann’s C-major Symphony.
“The ‘Otello’ Overture, by F. Ritter, although written in a most careful, logical, and musician-like manner, yet lacks freshness, spontaneity, originality.
“Miss Topp, a young lady of twenty-one, and a pupil of Von Bülow, played the Weber Concerto with much rapidity of execution and firmness of touch. The element of tenderness and feeling seemed, however, in a certain degree lacking; further there was a little uncertainty with regard to her playing precisely with the orchestra.
“It may be heterodox to hold or to confess such an opinion, but the Concerto is certainly [?] a most uninteresting composition. Miss Topp played without the score.
“The orchestra, under Mr. Carl Bergmann’s careful leadership, played admirably, every point of light and shade was faithfully observed and scrupulously rendered.”