Academy of Music
27 July 2017
“Very good concert. Mozart’s G minor symphony, Mendelssohn’s in A major, Wagner’s queer but clever ‘Introduction to Lohengrin.’ The superb scene from Oberon (‘Ocean du Ungeheuer’) and Deh Vieni by Mme. Parepa. The lady being vehemently called out gave us ‘Batti batti’ also. So the material of the concert was nearly all of a very high order. The first and third movements of the Mendelssohn symphony are certainly specimens of most thorough and elegant work B only not quite first rate. I think Weber’s faculty of expressing passion in legitimate music B music, that is, which can stand alone without depending for its effect on a vocalist’s magnetic or histrionic power B is second only to Mozart’s. I never hear the concluding intensities, joyous as they are, of the Oberon scene, or of Agatha’s in the Freyschutz without ‘a great disposition to cry.’ The latter is unmatched, so far as I know, by anything ever written for the voice of woman. As to Wagner’s ‘introduction’ B it may be defined as two squeakinesses with a Brassiness between them. It seems uncommon nonsense, but with an occasional gleam of smartness, like the talk of a clever man who is just loving his wit. I do not suppose however that Wagner is a half-crazed genius. I take him to be a composer of considerable ability and of prodding industry & that he writes like a lunatic in order to attract the notice he could not secure by putting his conceptions, such as they are, into forms of plain sense and artistic propriety.”
"Philharmonic Concert.—The fourth Philharmonic concert of the present season took place last night before a fully crowded house at the Academy of Music. The programme consisted of Mozart’s symphony in G minor, the introduction to Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin,’ and Mendelssohn’s symphony in A major, opus 90. The great prima donna, Madame Parepa-Rosa, sang the trying scena and aria from Weber’s ‘Oberon,’ ‘Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster,’ with immense effect. She afterwards sang ‘Deh vieni,’ from Mozart’s ‘Figaro,’ in superb style. The orchestra of one hundred performers did their duty well, and deserve to be ranked equal if not superior to any of the musical organizations of Europe. Under the able management of Dr. Ogden Doremus the Philharmonic Society this season has reached its proper standard, the head of the musical profession, and has given flattering promise of what music in the metropolis may yet reach.”
“The Fourth Philharmonic Concert: The fourth Philharmonic concert given at the Academy last Saturday night, was as satisfactory a musical performance as we have had this winter, excepting that of the Philharmonic Society which so nobly began the present season. The programme was, if not the best, yet well adapted to show what Mr. Bergmann’s strong and finely-balanced orchestra can do in the interpretation of diverse styles of music. A cheerful beginning was made with Mozart’s symphony in C [sic] minor, whose clear, well-defined and always pleasing movements received an interpretation as correct as it was spirited and full of apprehension of the composer’s sentiment.
In utter contrast to so easily comprehended a work is the introduction of Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin,’ which followed—a composition intensely admired by those who think they fully understand it, and which certainly imposes a delicate and difficult task on the orchestra. The piece was given, however, with accuracy and spirit. The late orchestral selection, Mendelssohn’s symphony in A minor, was not only the best, but was given with the most effect. In fact the piece is filled with a dreamy, poetical sentiment, which is expressed with that delicacy, continuousness and connection peculiar to Mendelssohn. The execution of this work was worthy of all praise.
Madame Parepa Rosa was the soloist of the evening, and bore off the honors of the occasion with her usual ease and grace. She sang a scene and arias from Weber’s ‘Oberon’ and two favorite arias from Mozart. The concert was in every respect a grand success.”
“The programme of the fourth concert was by no means so interesting as the one that preceded it. Indeed, it would be impossible [illeg] up to the standard of so memorable an entertainment. The ninth symphony by Beethoven, the concerto in A minor by Schumann, and the overture to ‘Jessonda’ by Spohr. This was the entire programme of the third concert. A feast for the Gods; requiring, perhaps a good appetite and a strong digestion, but certainly a feast. A congregation of musical Aldermen would hardly demand a succession of such things. Dr. Doremus, with his finger on the public pulse, therefore prescribed a different dish; a diet light and suitable to the emergency. For the majority this was judicious. But there were some who exclaimed with Speed, ‘I am one who am nourished on my victuals, and would fain have meat.’ Here is Saturday’s programme: [list of pieces] A little too much Mozart is the first impression, and a good deal of hard thinking confirms it. There was even more Mozart than is thus set down in the contract, for Mlle. Parepa-Rosa receiving an encore did incontinently sing ‘Batti, Batti,’ from that immortal work ‘Don Giovanni.’ The Symphony is also an immortal work, and so is the ‘Nozze di Figaro.’ Mozart, were he living, might exclaim with Pithonus: ‘Me only cruel immortality consumes.’
The symphony is one of the best ever written by Mozart. It is a quarry from whence many smaller works have been built, and can still supply material for the industrious composer who delves cautiously and avoids the inroads of his predecessors, especially the huge excavation made by Beethoven. The performance of this work was, of course, excellent. It depends almost entirely on the stringed and wood instruments, and these are plentiful and good in the present orchestra. The ‘Introduction to Lohengrin’ introduced the other qualities of the band, and satisfactorily also. But is it not a little stale and cheap to drag this piece into every season’s programme of the leading musical society of America? There is not a beer garden in the City that does not play this precious ‘Introduction.’ It is hackneyed to the last degree. Of its merits it is unnecessary to speak. They have long since been forgotten. Wagner has done many things. In spite of the strenuous advocacy of his friends, he has succeeded in getting a hearing for much of his music, which is the greatest thing. It is asserted that he has admirers, and there is no doubt about his having enemies. Only recently his overture to the ‘Flying Dutchman’—a very harmless piece of hard work—was hissed in Paris. When one considers the sort of stuff that pleases a French audience, it is not at all curious that this fate should have awaited an innovator. But here, in America, we have suffered longer and know better. We are stolid, having the fear of Germany upon us. We have taken a great deal of Wagner, and are ready for more. But this wearisome ‘Introduction’ is threadbare. The very performers seemed to think so; for a more long-drawn-out time performance has never been heard, and we trust in the common interest of humanity, never will be. The symphony in A major by Mendelssohn, is a work which the composer conceived when seeking health in Italy, hence it is commonly known as the Italian Symphony. The letters of Mendelssohn afford abundant evidence of the weak, emotional way in which it was written. The composer’s sensibilities were at their highest tension. His first necessity was to write to his sister, his next to cry, or write down an idea. The ideas thus saved were subsequently elaborated, and hyper-critics found them to be remarkably like those which the composer had before he visited Italy, or wrote to his sister, or cried. Nevertheless, Mendelssohn produced a smooth, pleasant work. Many people prefer the Italian to the Scotch Symphony, but there is little to choose between the twain. They are both the work of a thoroughly accomplished and clever musician. For the rest it is immaterial whether he dropped a tear into Lago Maggiore or sobbed on the shores of Loch Katrina.
Mme. Parepa-Rosa sang the piece from ‘Oberon’ at the top of her voice. It is a monotonous piece, requiring an unusual amount of dramatic declamation, and ending with the familiar but awkward theme from the overture. Mme. Rosa's superb voice filled the house and delighted the audience. She sang every note like an artist, but she was deficient in dramatic expression. Her opening apostrophe to the ocean could not have been excelled. It was an exhibition of admirable singing. The movements which follow require something more than singing, and this we did not detect. Nevertheless, she was called twice before the curtain. In the second part she sang the ‘Deh Vieni,’ from the ‘Nozze di Figaro,’ and being encored, ‘Batti, Barri,’ from ‘Don Giovanni.’ They are not often heard to such positive advantage.”
“The fourth Philharmonic Concert on Saturday evening, was better than either the third or the second and inferior to the first only in the character of the music performed. We cannot have a ‘Pastoral Symphony,’ however, every night, and if there was nothing on this fourth programme equal to that divine work of Beethoven’s, there was, at any rate, nothing common or trivial. The G minor symphony of Mozart’s, with which the concert opened, is very strongly marked with the composer’s characteristic cheerfulness, and is one of his pleasantest works, though not one of his greatest. The first movement, a sprightly allegro molto, was played with correctness and admirable delicacy. The andante is solemn and impressive—almost ecclesiastical—with superb massive forte passages for the strings. The crescendo and decrescendo in this movement deserve particular notice. They were given with a nicety which Mr. Bergmann alone, of all our resident conductors, knows how to obtain. The third movement opens with a dashing minuet, played with a good deal of fire, and changes into a graceful trio, which would have been perfect had not the horns now and then given forth an uncertain sound. The finale, allegro assai, was the best executed portion of the symphony. The next orchestral composition was the introduction to Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin.’ We fear it was not appreciated, and the beginning of it, where we sat, was not heard, owing to the loud talking of some ill-bred young men in the lobby; but it is very curious and very beautiful. It opens with a series of harmonics, played andante and pianissimo, by two or three first violins alone, on a high pitch, and relieved by faint breathings once and again from the flutes. Other stringed instruments take up the movement in turn—it is not a melody, only a succession of undulating harmonies—and when the strain becomes almost painful from its high tension, the horns chime in with a soft, rich, grateful chord; there is a gradual gathering in of all the mighty forces of the orchestra, and with a tremendous sweep the swelling tones rise to an overpowering climax. Then they die away again, one by one, and the composition finishes, as it began, with prolonged notes on the upper strings of two or three violins. It will readily be understood that to play this properly the violinist must have unusual steadiness of hand and niceness of touch. They did well on Saturday, but not perfectly well, and in the very last note one of them was out of tune. The performance, however, was generally so excellent, and the distribution of light and shade, to use a convenient though hackneyed phrase, was so correct that it would be ungenerous to lay stress upon small defects. The closing piece was Mendelssohn’s beautiful Symphony in A major. This is the one generally known as the Italian symphony. It was begun during the composer’s visit to Italy in his twenty-second year, and in its graceful and sunny style we can trace not only the national characteristics which it was his purpose to describe, but the intense personal enjoyment which we know that his journey yielded him. The andante was written after the other parts of the symphony, his design being to reserve it for a visit to Naples; but in that home of luxurious indolence he found labor impossible, and the movement was not composed, we believe, until after his return to Germany. It is like a dream of past delights—of blue skies, and soft zephyrs, and waving groves where man basks in the enjoyment of pure laziness, and pleasure is of that sleepy kind which is not so much active enjoyment as a delicious repose. We may be mistaken as to the time when this andante was written, but it seems to have been inspired rather by delights remembered long afterward than by pleasures just experienced.
The solos at this concert were by Madame Rosa, and had the merit of being not only excellent in themselves, but in keeping with the tone of the rest of the performance. Her scene and aria from Weber’s ‘Oberon,’ ‘Ocean, thou might monster,’ was superb. The opening was one of the most magnificent pieces of musical declamation we ever heard, and she showed throughout a keen appreciation of the dramatic character of the composition, with all the power of voice and perfection of culture to give it adequate interpretation. But this is a matter of course. In music such as this everybody knows that Madame Rosa is peerless. The closing lines of the noble song were given with an easy grandeur, a sublime contempt of difficulties, to which Madame Rosa alone is equal. After the ‘Lohengrin’ introduction she sang the ‘Deh Vieni’ from Mozart’s ‘Nozze di Figaro,’ and in reply to an encore she had the good taste to choose another air by the same composer, the ‘Batti batti’ from ‘Don Giovanni.’"
The concert attracted a large audience. Although the performed works were very familiar to the audience, they were executed exellently with the direction of Bergmann. Parepa-Rosa received enthusiastic applause especially for the big aria out of Oberon deservedly so.
“The Mozart Symphony has all the Mozart characteristics; freshness, grace, and entire absence of straining after unheard of and undesirable effects; in a word, the finest results attained by the simplest means; it is so refreshing to be spared the blare of trombones and the clash of cymbals.
One must either admire ardently or dislike thoroughly the ‘Introduction to Lohengrin.’ Inasmuch as many prominent examples of the school to which it belongs are far-fetched, overstrained and full of contortions, it is pleasant to be able to say of the ‘Introduction’ that it is eminently enjoyable; the only drawback is the terrible strain upon one’s nerves and attention necessitated by the prolonged dwelling of the violins upon those very high notes at the commencement and close of the work. The tone is necessarily uncertain and quavering, and the suspense is very wearisome; the harmonic changes and modulations are elaborate and exceedingly beautiful.
The Italian Symphony, as it is called, was welcome, as it always is and will be. The lovely, placid Scherzo was rendered with marked effect; but why will Mr. Bergmann insist upon such rapid tempos? This seems to be one of the few faults of that able conductor.
Mme. Parepa-Rosa decidedly surpassed herself in the charming ‘Deh vieni’ (the accompaniment is fully as fine as the song itself); her pure, clear mellow organ was in fine condition, and her vocalization faultless. She was warmly greeted by the very large audience.
As an evidence of the high estimation in which these concerts and their rehearsals are held by young females of the ‘Miss Hog’ variety, I overheard one of that stripe saying to a friend, in the intervals of candy-munching; ‘I do so dislike these Philharmonics, they are so grinding.’ Comments are superfluous. –F.”
...The most monotone and boring concert of the Philharmonic season. The chosen pieces for the program have been heard repeatedly. The orchestra played with less fervor and ambition as usual. The best performance was Mozart’s work. Mendelssohn’s symphony is not a favorite of the audience, not even of patrons who like Mendelssohn. Wagner’s piece could have been conducted more delicately, namely in the pace. We have heard this work performed much better before with Bergmann’s direction. Parepa-Rosa’s performance left nothing to wish for.
“Somebody in the N. Y. Weekly Review has been feebly throwing dirt at Mendelssohn, apropos of the Italian Symphony, performed at the last Philharmonic concert, and calls him a ‘petite maitre de musique,’ &c. Alas, poor Mendelssohn! Fortunately he is not alive to sink under the weight of this crushing dictum. –F.”
“The fourth concert of this splendid and exceptional body of artists was another occasion of rare enjoyment to all who attended it. It presented an orchestral selection fully equal to the reputation of the Society, and three more strongly contrasted works than those performed it would be hard to suggest.
Mozart’s vigorous G minor symphony (bursting with thought and beauties), Wagner’s Introduction to Lohingrin (Wagnerian, which ought to be praise enough), and Mendelssohn’s youth-suggesting, Italian symphony, composed a feast which was rendered still more delightful by the intermezzi of Mme. Rosa’s always delightful vocalization.
We know not how some of our best critics could have allowed themselves to write disrespectfully of the Italian Symphony. We have always preferred it to the Scotch Symphony of the same composer; and truly, although the former is not a very recondite work, it were folly to deny its charming points and musician-like treatment. The first movement is fresh as a summer morn, with smiling blossoms, resplendent in purset dew-drops. The passage in the Scherzo for four horns, although slightly like Weber, is yet original in treatment, and never fails to quiet ‘Flirt-harmonic’ tongues for a few moments, and that is something! But the Pilgrim March in the 3d movement, to us, has always been the jewel of this Symphony. We could tell a tale if we chose (a slightly romatic one, too) about a moonlight performance of this March, on an organ in a little chapel on the borders of a certain beautiful lake. Only two persons were there, and how moonlight did stream through the stained glass windows! Also there was no gas—it would have been an insult to Nature! But what are we about? No; we shall not tell the story. Nevertheless, that March is beautiful, original, and heavenly, in spite of the critics! But to ‘ravennons a nos moutons,’ as the huckster said (musical sheep this time), we will add, that the receipts at the Philharmonic concerts have steadily increased since the election of Dr. Doremus as president—a cause for hearty congratulation among all friends of this antihumbug musical organization.”