Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
Price: $2 reserved; $1.50
19 June 2017
Incorrectly announced performance for February 13.
“Mr. Theodore Thomas gave his fourth soirée on Saturday evening, at Steinway Hall. The orchestra, as usual, consisted of eighty performers, and the soloist was Mr. Carl Rosa – who played on this occasion far better than we have heard him play before. Spohr's very beautiful concerto in G major, (No. 11,) has seldom been given with such delicacy and correctness. The programme otherwise was brief, but entirely satisfactory. It consisted of Beethoven's ‘Coriolanus’ overture, Schumann's Symphony in C, and a ballade for orchestra by Hans von Bulow – the pianist who is most talked about by his friends and least by the public; who has displayed a great capacity for impertinence and a very small one for common sense. He is conspicuous also for liking Wagner's music, and being the brother-in-law of Liszt—distinctions which the Germany of America cannot be expected to resist. Hence some one has said that Hans Von Bulow must necessarily be a great man, and perhaps he is. The ‘Ballade’ which was played on Saturday night was sufficient evidence that he has very clear and expansive ideas. The form, to be sure was a little extensive; but it was form and not confusion. The instrumentation was extremely well colored, many of the effects being better and purer than we find them in Liszt. It is however always programme music, and oppressive from the smallness of its pretense, and the greatness of its significance. It was played excellently by the orchestra; as indeed were the two other works to which we have referred.”
“The fourth soirée of the season was given on Saturday evening, at Steinway Hall, to a larger audience than at any previous one. The programme was as follows: Overture Coriolanus, Beethoven; Concerto for Violin, G Major, No. 11, Spohr; Ballade, Op. 15 (Der Sanger’s Fluch-Uhland), Bulow, first time; Symphony, No. 2, in C, op. 61, Schumann. The overture and its performance by Theo. Thomas’s orchestra, are thoroughly familiar to all concert-goers, and need not be dilated upon. Spohr’s trying and difficult concerto for violin was given by Mr. Carl Rosa, with the grace, delicacy, and finish that mark all his performances. In the second adagio, especially, he played with great feeling and expression. Mr. Rosa is one of the few conscientious artists who have sufficient respect for their profession and for the public to execute a piece from beginning to end in the most thorough manner possible to them, without bidding for popularity by making false and sensational effects in certain points, and performing the remainder of the piece with carelessness and indifference. The Ballade, by Bulow, was the great feature of the evening. During the present controversy between the music of the past and the music of the future, the first performance of any composition by one of the leading disciples of the new school must necessarily be an event of considerable interest and curiosity. The ‘Ballade’ is a musical illustration of a romantic poem by the celebrated German poet, Uhland. The story is that of two minstrels, an old man and a youth, who arrive at the castle of an ancient king, in the midst of a grand feast. At the request of the king the youth commences to sing, and moves all the knights and ladies to tears. The queen in her enthusiasm throws the minstrel a rose, and the king, enraged at what he supposes to be a mark of tenderness in the queen, throws his javelin at the young man and strikes him dead. Upon this the old man calls down the vengeance of heaven upon the cruel tyrant, and the castle falls in ruins, burying beneath, with his victim, the king and his whole court. The leading motive of the composition is a very beautiful melody in flowing, easy, and rather graceful rhyme. The instrumentation is, of course, the great feature of the piece. It is very powerful, and shows in a marked degree the influence of Liszt on his favorite pupil. It is more united than in the orchestral works of the great pianist, and is free from those exuberant and startling flights of fancy which distinguish these latter. Some of the harmonious combinations are strikingly beautiful and original, and the leading instruments of the orchestra are brought into prominent relief. The chief points of the composition were displayed with good effect and precision by the orchestra, and the first performance was a complete success. It will no doubt be repeated. The second portion of the concert consisted of the symphony in C No. 2 by Schumann. It has been already given here several times by the Philharmonic Society and Theo. Thomas. This symphony, although marked as the second is the third composed by Schumann. It was finished and first performed in Leipsic in the year 1846, and seems to be a continuation of the symphonic works composed by Schumann during the few previous years. Schumann himself says of it: ‘After writing the opening of the first part, the sostenuto assai, I conceived the idea of elaborating it into a grand symphony. I was then suffering from severe sickness, and worked at it to divert my mind from the state of my health.’ The whole of the first part shows evident signs of this struggle. The performance of the symphony was not remarkable for ease or finish. It being the last piece on the programme, the orchestra showed evident signs of fatigue, especially in the adagio marked expressive, the execution of which lacked this quality altogether.”
A large audience attended the concert. Bülow’s attempt to put Uhland’s poem “Der Sängers Fluch” to music succeeded only partially, which were the most interesting parts. The orchestra was challenged by the composition; however, Bergmann guided them well through the difficulties. The overture and the symphony were also performed in a satisfactory fashion. A highlight of the concert was Kopta’s violin solo by Spohr. He played not only with technical skill, but also with sensitivity and expression.
“New York, Feb. 17.—Theo, Thomas’s 4th Symphony Soirée occurred on Saturday evening at Steinway Hall. This was the programme:
Violin Concerto, G major, No. 11…..Spohr
Ballade, op. 15, ‘Minstrel’s Curse’…..Von Bülow
Symphony, C major, No. 2, op. 61…..Schumann
This array of pieces is perhaps somewhat less attractive than that which was performed at the last Soiree; less attractive, that is to say, as a whole; the Symphony would of course lift any programme above the level of uninterestingness.
Carl Rosa played the Spohr Concerto. Mme. Rosa had been originally advertised in Mr. Thomas’s prospectus, to appear on this occasion; her illness made it necessary to engage some other artist, hence Herr Rosa.
Von Bülow’s ‘Minstrel Curse’ was a most aggreable disappointment. It would be natural to expect, from one supposed to be thoroughly imbued with the Liszt spirit, a work containing many of those incomprehensible, undesirable and unmeaning twists and turns of the music of the latter author. Many of the inevitable evidences of the ‘future style’ were of course there, but there was also melody and some really beautiful harmonic changes. A ‘cello solo, which appeared not long after the opening phrase, was most charming. It would be pleasant to hear this composition again.
The crowning glory of Schumann’s Symphonies was faithfully and carefully played. In the tender, serious Adagio there was a little indecision, the invariable uncertainty of the violins upon the high D; otherwise there is but little fault to find. The headlong rush of the Scherzo, especially in the fierce climax which terminates the movement, was given with a unity of purpose deserving of much praise. Could anything be finer than the Finale with its strong, vigorous hold upon the soul? There may be a more glorious Symphony—I have yet to hear it.
The audience was a surprisingly large one, decidedly the best (pecuniarily) with which Mr. Thomas has been favored this season. It would really appear that people are beginnig to appreciate Mr. T’s untiring efforts to afford them an opportunity of hearing and enjoying the best music at, a very moderate price.”