New York Harmonic Society: Die Schöpfung

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Manager / Director:
Lafayette F. Harrison

Frédéric Louis Ritter

Price: $1.50 reserved; $1

Event Type:
Choral, Orchestral

Record Information


Last Updated:
22 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

23 Jan 1868, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Schopfung; Creation
Composer(s): Haydn
Text Author: Swieten
Participants:  Thomas Orchestra;  New York Harmonic Society;  George Simpson (role: Uriel);  John Rogers Thomas (role: Raphael; Adam);  E. J. Connolly [org-pf];  Maria Scoville Brainerd (role: Gabriel; Eve)


Announcement: New York Post, 20 January 1868.

“The oratorio season at Steinway Hall will be continued on Thursday evening by the performance of the ‘Creation.’ Miss Maria Brainerd, Mr. George Simpson, and Mr. J. R. Thomas will be the soloists. The full chorus of the Harmonic Society and Mr. Thomas’s orchestra have also been charged.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 20 January 1868, 7.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 21 January 1868.
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 January 1868, 4.
: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 23 January 1868.

“Ellie and me to Steinway Hall for the Creation. Not very crowded. Chorus admirable--orchestra very good--soli respectable, but a little deficient in strength and spirit.  The tenor was perhaps an exception. ‘[Illeg.] native worth’ was charmingly sung—as it well deserves to be—and was encored. We missed Parepa’s fire and power and brilliancy, especially where the soprano sings against the chorus, as in ‘The Marvelous Works.’ But her substitute Mrs. or Miss Brainerd was of average merit, or above it. The audience seemed appreciative and did not talk.

I never heard this magnificent composition with more delight. To say nothing of its grandeur and beauty, it is wonderful for the wealth of varied musical thought which it embodies. Every one, almost, of the great multitude of independent original phrases, that copiously illustrate every recitative and aria, is beautiful and suggestive. The work is an inexhaustible mine of Musical Form. After hearing but half of it, one is nearly satiated and exhausted, and incapacitated for full enjoyment of the half that remains—just as the first six courses of a heavy state dinner prevent one from appreciating the courses that follow.  The first part of the oratorio—say to the end of ‘The Heavens are telling’ is about as much as an average mortal can fairly take in and digest at a single sitting.

Much impressed by Haydn’s wonderful faculty of suggesting by musical language the focus and movements of matter. Of course I do not mean what is called ‘imitative music’—the orchestral mimicry of natural sounds. That is seldom tolerable—generally vulgar, inartistic and vile. Haydn has sinned much in that way, but in this work he has done so but once—at least conspicuously—videlicet in the tootling and murmuring of his tom-pigeons in the ‘Bird Song,’ so called. The suggestion I speak of is not imitation, but something far higher,  e.g.—one example out of very many—one sees it in the accompaniment to ‘By heavy beasts the ground is trod’ and to ‘The light & flaky snow.’ So too the sparkling flashing little flute notes that make themselves heard through the orchestra in the accompaniment of ‘In his eyes with brightness shines the soul.’ So the crescendo of color & of light in the prelude to ‘In splendor bright,’ & the exquisitely delicate contrast between the first part of that melody (or recitative?) and the second—‘With softer light and milder beams’ and the third little concluding passage in which the orchestra becomes silent, and the unsupported voice seems to suggest ‘the space immense of the azure sky,’ & to be wandering through its loneliness.

These are two very signal instances of this translation of form or motion into musical language. (I have remembered and thought of both for more than twenty years, so I write under no sudden vagary.) The first phrase of the prelude to ‘On mighty pens’ seems to me perfectly to represent the heavy flapping of some great bird’s wings as he begins his flight, and then his swift progress till he becomes a point on the sky. (!!!!But is not the truth, the truth?) That ineffable choral phrase ‘A new created World’ &c is connected on both sides, or at its beginning and its end, by a few notes, piano and staccato, with the raging roaring fugue-y minor fortissimo chorus ‘Despairing, Cursing, [illeg.] attend, their rapid flight’ etc. This little quiet bit of pure choral melody, thus contrasted, is to me a visible picture. I can see a canvas covered by the representation of black eddying cloud, with lightning playing in its folds; except where the cloud has broken in the midst of the picture, and the new created orb is revolving on its appointed course in serene and happy sunlight—(‘Dreht sich umher der Erde [illeg.]’)—while the forms and darkness of chaos are passing rapidly away.

What refinement of Nonsense! ‘Musical description’ of the ice breaking up on the Hudson at Albany (see Salmagundi)—of an Antelope picking up mescal beans on the Plains in lat: __1 __= [email protected] long: __1 __= [email protected] etc., etc. (Vide John Phauix [?]). But all this and much more of the same sort is simply visible to me, and, as I suppose, to all who appreciate first-class music.  It is visible perhaps more keenly than if it were displayed in colors on canvas, because the mere mechanical accidents of a painting are absent and the image formed on the mind=s retina is free from imperfection. I do not suppose, of course, that these musical notes would convey this meaning if divorced from the words with which they are associated, for Music is not a plastic art (as says Fr. Schlegel). But being associated with words, Haydn makes these notes enforce their meaning and illustrate and expand it from finite to infinite, as only a great Master of Music can do. Qu: is not this translation of material form, movement, or color, into the language of music, another example of the ‘Correlation of Forces’? I ask the question very humbly and respectfully.”

Review: New York Herald, 24 January 1868, 8.

“Steinway Hall.—‘The Creation.’—It is hardly necessary to say what kind of weather assaulted the good folks of Gotham last night. Yet in spite of mud, slush, rain and snow a goodly audience crowded Steinway Hall at the oratorio of ‘The Creation.’ The three angels and our first parents were represented by Miss Maria Brainerd and Messrs. Simpson and Thomas. This beautiful work of Haydn was never given before in this metropolis with more spirit, élan and true appreciation of the ideas of the great composer, and the encores were numerous and well deserved. The choruses were ably conducted by Ritter, and the orchestra was all that might be desired.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 January 1868.

“In spite of the inclemency of the weather there was a goodly crowd last night at Steinway Halll to listen to the welcome strains of the familiar oratorio, by Haydn, ‘The Creation.’ Whatever may be said of the conception of this work, considered from a modern artistical and musical point of view the primitiveness and purity of sentiment displayed in this work will always make the deep impression it did on this occasion. The performance, under the direction of Mr. F. L. Ritter, was creditable to all concerned. Mme. Parepa-Rosa being still sick, Miss Maria Brainerd took her part, and gave entire satisfaction. The marvelous work sung by her and chorus was deservedly encored. The same honor Mr. Geo. Simpson shared in the rendering of ‘In Native Worth.’ Mr. J. R. Thomas, as well as the members of the New-York Harmonic Society, contributed to the success of the evening, also due to the energy and merit of the indefatigable manager, Mr. F. L. Harrison.”