Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
Price: $2 reserved; $1.50
16 August 2018
“Mr. Theodore Thomas gave the third of his very valuable and interesting symphonic soirées at Steinway Hall on Saturday evening. The attendance, although good, was not adequate to the occasion. If Mr. Thomas’ soirées have not yet become a matter of fashion like the Philharmonic concerts, they, are, at least, worthy of the same consideration. We owe our first acquaintance with many important works to the perseverance of Mr. Thomas, who, in more discouraging times than these, has pushed ahead with steady purpose and undaunted resolve. And the question naturally arises, are the times bad? So far as City amusements are concerned, we answer No. The theatres are doing well, and so are all of the miscellaneous crowd of small exhibitions, such as minstrel companies, &c. But for some reason music has been allowed to fall into disfavor. The art which needs the most protection seems to have the fewest friends. Even the latter are discouraged. As for the public, where it finds that an enterprise of importance is merely the subject of a paragraph, it is not likely to be greatly concerned one way or the other whether it succeed or fail. Goethe’s axiom that we should always support the beautiful, for the useful takes care of itself, never was so true as now. To return. The opening piece was Beethoven's Symphony in F, (No. 8,) one of the most agreeable and popular of the series, if not the best. The work is well known, and it is only necessary to refer to the execution. The first movement was played with singular force—the violins and stringed instruments displaying an unusual degree of precision and emphasis. The second movement could not have been handled more delicately. The theme is familiar to every one, and is quaintly, even prudishly, charming. The Minuetto of the third movement was marred by the bad quality of tone of the clarinet, but otherwise was excellent. The last movement was also given with nerve and clearness. It is a long time indeed since the work was played so effectually. Mr. Thomas had evidently gone through the parts carefully, and bowed and marked the strong passages in a clear manner. The result was a striking unanimity of effect. Occupying the place of honor in the second part was Liszt's symphonic poem, ‘The Ideal’—a musical illustration of Schiller's poem. It belongs to that class of music called, derisively but not inappropriately, programme music. It means a great deal, if you have the words in your hand, but lacks form and is void if you have them not. The opening chord enables the composer to go wherever he likes, and he does. The interest of Liszt's orchestral music is seldom continuous. It is found mainly in the power of culmination. Few composers know so well how to get to a point; not directly and methodically, but by daring and unexpected strides. The subjects of the symphony are clear enough, but it is their treatment which most interests the listener. The knowledge of instrumental coloring possessed by Liszt is hardly, if at all, inferior to that of Berlioz, whilst in a thoroughly perplexing contrast of rhythms he is often the latter’s superior. The effects in the present instance are well contrasted, and the climax is approached in a masterly manner. Nothing indeed can be more sonorous and impressive than the ‘Apotheose’ with which it terminates. Although not a work to satisfy the masses, it is one which will always interest the musician, who, however, will not fail to detect many reminiscences in it. It was finely played by the orchestra under Mr. Thomas’ direction, as also was Schumann's overture to ‘Geneveve.’ There were two soloists, Mme. Balogh and Mr. S. B. Mills. The lady sang two of Schumann's songs very badly, but was more successful in Schubert’s ‘Ungeduld.’ Of Mr. Mills we can harly speak in terms of sufficient praise. The Romanza and Rondo from Chopin's E minor concerto were given with a round, distinct, yet delicate grandeur which we have never before heard equaled, even by this artist. It is not merely the quantity of tone that Mr. Mills produces, nor the clear, round pearly separation which parts each note from its neighbor, but makes the string brilliant and beautiful. It is the variety which he imparts to passages, wherein individual coloring is permissible. Without this gift Chopin's music is to apt weary by the closeness of its repetitions. Mr. Mills exhibits an idea like a gem. There is not a facet from which the bright light does not sparkle. He was, of course, received with enthusiasm. In the second part he played a posthumous scherzando by Mendelssohn, strictly in the style of that master, and brilliant, but not otherwise interesting. In response to an encore he played Chopin's Etude in C sharp minor, as only he can play it.”
“Mr. Theodore Thomas’s Third Symphony Soirée on Saturday night, at Irving Hall, was attended by an intelligent and appreciative audience, but we wish for the sake of good music that the audience had been larger. Mr. Thomas has been engaged for several years in an enterprise in which nothing but an enthusiasm for his art could have supported him. Thanks to him we are enabled to renew at frequent intervals our familiarity with the best masters in the highest forms of the art; but the number of persons whose musical culture is sufficient for the comprehension and enjoyment of such compositions appears to be painfully small, and the soirées can hardly be very remunerative. Still the attendance on Saturday was better than it often is; the house might be called a good one, though it was by no means full. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F, opus 93, was excellently played, the charming second movement – allegretto scherzando – being especially well done. The overture to Schumann’s ‘Genoveva’ which closed the programme, was also given with general accuracy and delicacy of expression. Little exception can fairly be taken to any part of the instrumental performance except for the horn-playing, upon the uncertainty of which we have before had occasion to remark. We risk little in supposing it must be the bane of Mr. Thomas’s existence. The chief interest of the evening attached to the production for the first time of Liszt’s symphonic poem founded on ‘The Ideal’ of Schiller. It has more gracefulness and less tempestuous violence than are common in Liszt’s compositions, but there is too prolonged a dwelling upon one thought. It opens with an impressive andante, quickening to a sweeping forte passage; this is followed in turn by a soft dreamy movement, a few bars of pleasant though fragmentary melody, and then a fine dreamy crescendo. The characteristic fortissimo climax to this movement is repeated as the finale to the symphony, after a beautiful passage for the reeds and an agreeable little scherzo.
Mr. S. B. Mills played a romance and rondo from Chopin’s Concerto in E minor, and a posthumous presto scherzando of Mendelssohn’s, with his well known precision and conscientiousness and all his accustomed delicacy of touch. Madam Augusta Balogh made her debut as a vocalist, singing two songs of Schumann, one by Dessauer, and one by Schubert. She has an excellent contralto voice, which she does not know how to use, and she is not likely to become a favorite.”
This concert attracted a larger audience than the concerts before, and the program offered a variety of different musical expressions. The first two movements of Beethoven’s opening symphony were played so slowly that it seemed as though the piece was not given sufficient attention and practice. In contrast, the rehearsals for Liszt’s “Die Ideale” were clearly given much more attention. Unfortunately this piece was not perceived very well. An uninteresting, boring theme was repeated over and over in every possible key and modulation, and with almost every instrument. Colossal beginnings are followed by an unexpected climax, which hurt ear and feelings most of the time. It is an impossibility to understand how the composition relates to Schiller’s poem. Most certainly, the blind followers will see only a non plus ultra of the new musical direction in this new piece. Their motto: the more outrageous, the better. Schubert’s overture ended the concert with an accurate and well-played performance.
Mills played with his usual beautiful talent and excellent training. The alto singer was not merely of interest because alto voices are not common, but also because of her skill. Both Mills and Mme. Balagh received much applause.
“The last symphony soirée, given on Saturday evening by Mr. Theodore Thomas, was one of the best of the present season. The most important of the selections performed was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8, in F, opus 93, which was given with a precision, thoroughness and fullness of rendering especially admirable. The pleasure of listening to such a work, and to Schumann’s overture to ‘Genoveva,’ which nobly closed the programme, was of the most solid and satisfactory character, Liszt’s ‘symphonic poem’ of ‘The Ideal’ was of a quite different description. It taxed both the ability of the orchestra and the patience of those who strove to discern any connected sentiment or thought in the chaotic music. The soloists were Mr. Mills and Madame Balogh. The former we never heard to better advantage. The latter pleased us best when she concluded her last stave.”
“Musical Correspondence…New York, Jan. 13.—Mr. Thomas’s 3d Symphony Soirée was given on Saturday evening, Jan. 11, at Steinway Hall. Mr. Mills was the solo performer, and programme was as follows:
8th Symphony, op. 93…..Beethoven
Lieder: ‘Ich grolle nicht,’ and ‘Frühlingsnacht’…..Schumann (Miss Balogh)
Romance and Rondo, from 1st P. F. Concerto…..Chopin (S. B. Mills)
Symphonic Poem, ‘Die Ideale,’ 1st time…..Liszt
Presto Scherzando, (posthumous)…..Mendelssohn
Overture to ‘Genoveva,’ op. 81…..Schumann
The 8th Symphony, with its Haydnish Allegretto and tumultuous Finale, is peculiarly attractive, and constitutes a marked contrast to the 7th of that noble series of symphonic works which have so justly established the undying fame of Beethoven. The orchestra was particularly excellent in those rapid transitions from fortissimo to pianissimo, which are so characteristic of the 1st and 4th movements; the little shimmering, tremolando passages in the latter were admirably done.
The Schumann and Schubert Lieder were ruined by the coarse and slovenly manner in which they were sung by a new aspirant for public favor, Mme. Balogh. It was evident that she had not the slightest conception of the magnificence of passion which fills and overflows the ‘Ich grolle nicht’; further, she sang flat, and the effect was terribly harassing.
Liszt’s so-called Poem was after the usual sort; the usual waiting for the appearance of an idea, the usual agonizing suspense, the usual rapid changes of key, and the usual want of form, aim, or purpose. It seemed as if some member of the orchestra, whose province it might be to make prominent some theme or melody, had been unable to make his appearance, and that the ‘Poem’ had been given without him; in other words, Hamlet with the role of Hamlet omitted.
Refreshing and cheering, after this ‘ideal’ performance, came the Genoveva Overture, which is the genuine, prophetic, future music. Something for which a thorough and loving appreciation shall yet come.
Mr. Mills played the heavenly Romance (from the Chopin Concerto) delightfully; he never showed more delicacy of touch and tenderness of feeling than in that exquisitely romantic music. The Rondo was given with the crisp, strong manipulation which constitutes one of the marked features of his artistic excellence. The Presto Scherzando (his second solo)—a most attractive composition and not strictly a concerted piece—received a hearty double encore, as it deserved. To this Mr. Mills responded, in the first instance, by simply bowing, and in the second upon the renewal of the applause, by playing a charming Etude in C sharp minor by Chopin.
The audience was large and really appreciative. There seemed to be a very general and lively satisfaction manifested, at the substitution of Mr. Mills, as soloist, for Mr. De Meyer, who had been announced to appear at this Soirée.”