Manager / Director:
Lafayette F. Harrison
George Frederick Bristow
Price: $1, $1.50 reserved
7 July 2017
"George Bristow’s oratorio, ‘Daniel,’ was brought out last night by the New York Mendelssohn Union, under the management of Mr. Harrison. [list of soloists] The work was presented for the first time in America, and it is one that bears the stamp of genius of the highest order in every measure. Mr. Bristow is known as the great representative American composer, whose orchestral works defy competition on the other side of the Atlantic at present, but in this oratorio he has surpassed all his previous efforts. It is more of an opera than an oratorio in the ordinary acceptation [sic] of the word, for it is dramatic in the extreme, and the choral and orchestral parts are treated in an original and singularly effective manner. Some of the choruses are unequaled in grandeur, brilliancy and dramatic power, and the orchestration throughout is that of an accomplished musician and a talented artist. The choruses were given by the society with a precision, expression and feeling such as we have rarely heard in this hail, and Mme. Rosa’s rendering of the air ‘He that Dwelleth’ eclipsed anything she has ever sung in concert or oratorio in New York. Miss Hutchings shared with her the honors of the evening by her excellent singing of the air ‘I am the Lord, thy God.’ Truly, such a work, by an American composer, too, should be frequently heard in this city. Want of space prevents us from entering into an analysis of it, but there is not a weak point or appearance of vulgarity in any part of it. No common themes or trifling nonsense disfigures it, but the impress of a true artist and impulses of genius are in every line of it.”George Bristow’s oratorio, ‘Daniel,’ was brought out last night by the New York Mendelssohn Union, under the management of Mr. Harrison. [list of soloists] The work was presented for the first time in America, and it is one that bears the stamp of genius of the highest order in every measure. Mr. Bristow is known as the great representative American composer, whose orchestral works defy competition on the other side of the Atlantic at present, but in this oratorio he has surpassed all his previous efforts. It is more of an opera than an oratorio in the ordinary acceptation [sic] of the word, for it is dramatic in the extreme, and the choral and orchestral parts are treated in an original and singularly effective manner. Some of the choruses are unequaled in grandeur, brilliancy and dramatic power, and the orchestration throughout is that of an accomplished musician and a talented artist. The choruses were given by the society with a precision, expression and feeling such as we have rarely heard in this hail, and Mme. Rosa’s rendering of the air ‘He that Dwelleth’ eclipsed anything she has ever sung in concert or oratorio in New York. Miss Hutchings shared with her the honors of the evening by her excellent singing of the air ‘I am the Lord, thy God.’ Truly, such a work, by an American composer, too, should be frequently heard in this city. Want of space prevents us from entering into an analysis of it, but there is not a weak point or appearance of vulgarity in any part of it. No common themes or trifling nonsense disfigures it, but the impress of a true artist and impulses of genius are in every line of it.”
“Mr. Bristow’s ‘Daniel’ came to judgment on Saturday night at Steinway Hall. A large and critical audience assembled to do honor to the occasion, and it is but just to the composer to say that, in spite of the drawbacks unavoidably incident to its first performance, his work received very hearty commendation, and deserved it. ‘Daniel’ is a very remarkable production. It differs from the usual style of oratorios in essential particulars, and to obtain a proper appreciation of its qualities more than one hearing is necessary. Mr. Bristow does not suffer his music to drag, nor the hearer to nod. On the contrary, the score is so full of dramatic power and tender passages that it is rather operatic than sacred; and these peculiarities serve to give it a zest altogether unusual.
“[list of performers] It was evident that the artists and the members of the Union alike entered into the spirit of the undertaking. Madame Rosa was in excellent voice, and not only sang superbly, but imparted a degree of sentiment to the music which must have been as gratifying to Mr. Bristow as it was agreeable to the audience. It seemed like the tribute of one first-rate artist to the high qualitites displayed in the work of another, and so was exceedingly appropriate and enjoyable. Miss Hutchins also sang with skill and good taste, and Messrs. Thomas and Hill performed their parts so well as to present a marked contrast to the Arioch and Herald, who should be replaced by a better singer at the next performance.
“The quartet in the first part, admirably given by Messrs. Hill, Eddy, Thomas and Nash, was a singular and exceedingly effective part of the work; but the wild music of the Babylonian chorus which followed, brought down a storm of applause. This chorus is remarkable, as well for its beauty as for the curious effect it produces. It is a gem in the oratorio, coming in unexpectedly, and causing an effect as startling as if a strain of the barbaric music of the Africains were suddenly interpolated in a penitential psalm of David. A chorus without orchestra in the second part is also a peculiar effect, which Mr. Bristow manages with skill.
“We hope this work will soon be repeated, for it is only at a second hearing that its grasp can be fully understood and its beauties thoroughly appreciated. Mr. Bristow’s reputation as a composer will gain much by this production, for in it he shows the possession of great resources, profound knowledge and delicate sentiment.”
“The oratorio of ‘Daniel’ to which wee have already made brief mention, was brought out at Steinway Hall on Saturday evening. It was received with much favor. We shall be mistaken if public opinion does not require its speedy repetition. We have no doubt that it will improve on acquaintance. Such a work, indeed, cannot be understood or appreciated at a single hearing. The music is excessively difficult, and sufficient to tax the resources of the best artists. It was not well studied, and in more than one instance, it was badly interpreted. These defects will disappear at another performance, and we hope it shall take place soon. The choruses are fresh in the memory of the Mendelssohn Union, and even the orchestra may have learned something which it is desirable it should not forget. It would be a shame to shelf Mr. BRISTOW’S work after a single hearing, for it is certainly the most important musical composition yet brought before the public. It is written with the skill of a master, and with the freedom of a man who neither lacks invention nor daring. The transitions are sometimes extraordinary, but the effect is never extravagant. Indeed, many of the best points for the ear are those which look strangest to the eye. They are wroght with a thorough knowledge of the effect intended, and a musicianlike command of resources. Mr. BRISTOW possesses an abundant vein of melody. It is clear, flowing and graceful, adnd has never been displayed to such advantage as in this oratorio. There are several morceaux of the most exquisite conception, pure and lovely in the highest degree, and attractive far beyond the expectation of oratorio. It must be remembered, however, that Mr. BRISTOW has discarded all models, and writes with the freedom he would exercise in writing for the stage. The involved and drowsy forms of oratorio have no attraction for him. He goes straight to the point with dramatic energy and passion. The orchestral background is more than usually high colored, the composer allowing himself a greater latitude even than that taken by COSTA. Mr. BRISTOW’S practical knowledge of instrumentation gives him an advantage in this respect which he has put to good use. The tints are clearer and brighter than in ‘Rip Van Winkle,’ where the orchestration is more symphonic than dramatic. In ‘Daniel’ it often verges on the operatic. Some of the themes, indeed, are Italian in their conception, and in the capacity they have for final effect, or culmination.
“It is impossible from a single hearing to give more than a general impression of Mr. BRISTOW’S admirable work. That it is in the highest degree favorable will be gathered from the remarks we have made. The performance was not by any means perfect, but considering the difficulties of the work and the short time of preparation, it was creditable. Madame PAREPA-ROSA was, of course, perfect. She sang with more than her usual enthusiasm, and was evidently interested in the music and the occasion. Miss HUTCHINGS acquitted herself satisfactorily in the contralto part. The lady progresses rapidly, and is a most agreeable singer. The other parts were sung agreeably by Mr. HILL, Mr. J. R. THOMAS and Mr. HERMAN FROST. The composer presided in the orchestra, and was greeted with well-merited applause. He is the Director of the Mendelssohn Union, the members of which association sang the choruses with remarkable animation and effect.”
“The taste of the public for the most elevated style of music, the Oratorio, develops itself visibly in our metropolis. Thus the first performance of Bristow’s new oratorio, ‘Daniel,’ was attended by a large and fashionable audience at Steinway Hall Saturday evening. Through some of his former compositions Mr. Bristow has already acquired a reputation with the American public, and his new work does ample credit to his talents as a composer of sacred music. This reputation is so much more enviable and difficult to acquire as the greatest celebrities in the musical world such as Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelshon [sic], etc., have devoted special attention to religious compositions. Mr. Bristow is, in our opinion, particuklarly fortunate in his compositions of arias and his quartette in the first part, ‘Help us, Oh, God,’ not less than the aria of Daniel, ‘Break off they Sins,’ in part second, give ample evidence of the high talent of their author. The choruses which Haydn has transnmitted to us in his ‘Creation’ and his ‘Messiah’ [sic] are so sublime that modern compositions are tame, as compared with the former. Still, we are inclined to believe that the performance of Saturday labored under disadvantages, inasmuch as the members of the Mendelssohn union, who did their best to render the chorus an imposing one, have evidently not had the time requisite for thorough study of such a work. The buoyancy, for instance, of such phrases as the chorus ‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ and ‘Drive him from men’ had, for these reasons, not sufficient opportunity to be appreciated. A second and third performance would probably display the merits of the work to better advantage. The same remark applies to the orchestra, and although the stringed instruments acquitted themselves creditably of their somewhat difficult task toward the end of the second part, we failed to discover that precision and the expression in the transitions from forte to piano, and vice versa, which is as essential for successful execution as the keeping of time. The organ was ably rendered by T. P. Morgan, and added its share to the attraction of the performance. The star of the evening was, undoubtedly, Madame Rosa, who, with her full, sonorous voice, carried everything before her, and earned general applause. The aria ‘He that Dwelleth’ gave evidence of her being an oratorio singer de preference. The style of Miss Hutchins is an entirely different one from Madame Rosa’s, and the contrast all the more striking and interesting. With her pathetic, quiet alto voice, and the expression of solemnity which she knows how to impart to her performances, she is not inferior to the most accomplished artist and, without contradiction, one of the chief ornaments of the musical world in our city. Among the solo singers we will also mention Mr. T. R. Thomas [sic], who won well-deserved laurels in the aria, ‘Break off thy Sins,’ which he was called upon to repeat. As a whole, we may call the performance a success, and if Mr. Bristow will, for the future, insist on the strict interpretation of his work on the part of the orchestra as well as the chorus, he will succeed in establishing his reputation as a composer more even than that of a director.”
“On Saturday Evening, Dec. 28, the Mendelssohn Union gave in Steinway Hall, the first performance of Mr. G.F. Bristow’s new Oratorio ‘Daniel.’ The orchestra numbered 60, and the chorus about 100—60 male and 40 female voices. Mr. Bristow conducted, T. P. Morgan assisted at the organ, and the soloists were Mme. Parepa-Rosa, J.R. Thomas and Miss Hutchings.
“Extended analysis is out of the question, and I can only say that the work is most carefully written and scored, and that many of the numbers are melodious and pleasing. The orchestral accompaniment to the chorus in A minor (No. 13) is excellent, somewhat Mendelssohnian in character; indeed there are strong suggestion of that master throughout the entire oratorio. The chorus No. 11 is very well worked up. The recitatives were all very monotonous and were, as a rule, badly, given. This was especially the case with No. 12, ‘To you it is commanded,’ which was bellowed by the ‘Herald’ without regard to taste or tune.
“In the chorus No. 18 it was very evident that the sopranos were by far too few, and their voices were drowned by the orchestra and the organ; it was also noticeable that the voices and instruments had not been drilled sufficiently together.
“Daniel’s Aria: ‘Break off thy sins,’ (No. 20) is a very attractive number, and was fairly sung by Mr. J.R. Thomas; he received an encore, and sang a portion of the Aria again. The effect of the repetition was slightly marred by the fact that the orchestra, though some misunderstanding, were not within hailing distance of the soloist; the result was a blur of sounds. The contralto Aria in F-sharp minor is very fine, and in the hands of a finished artist would have made a most decided impression.
“Mme. Parepa sang with her usual ease and taste. Mr. Thomas did fairly. With regard to the tenor, a charitable silence shall be maintained. Miss Hutchings sang in a painstaking manner, but her voice is very unpleasant in quality, and has neither depth nor richness; her upper notes were hard and labored.
“The audience was a very large and tolerably attentive one. The applause, however, very singularly, was of the mildest and most timid character; this may have been owing to ignorance as to where ‘the laugh came in.’
“It is greatly to be desired that the public should have another opportunity of hearing. Mr. Bristow’s works. With all the leading roles assumed by competent artists, Daniel could not fail to make a stronger and deeper impression that it did.”