Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
Price: $6 Reserved seat; $2 Single tickets including reserved seats
30 December 2018
“The fifth season of Mr. THEODORE THOMAS’ admirable series of symphony soirees will commence on Saturday evening, Dec. 12, at Steinway Hall. The programmes for the five entertainments have been made out with care and with the aestheticism which usually characterizes Mr. THOMAS’ ideas on the subject. Many pieces of intrinsic and historical interest are restored to the concert programme for the first time in America, while the works of the grand masters maintain, as heretofore, their just prominence. Beside these, Mr. THOMAS introduces, as he has constantly done, many entirely new works, illustrating the progress of art, by such composers as RUBENSTEIN, GADE, VOLKMANN, BRUCH, etc. . . The Mendelssohn will assist in the choral portions of the programmes.”
Programs for Theodore Thomas’s five forthcoming Symphony Soirees at Steinway Hall.
“Theodore Thomas gave his first symphony at Steinway Hall on Saturday night to a large audience. The orchestral features of the programme were enjoyable, if not unusually noticeable. Considerable interest was manifested in the choral efforts of the Mendelssohn Union, which sang for the first time in public since it has been under Mr. Thomas’s leadership. A motet by Mozart was given with unusual effect in the matter of light and shade, and a chorus by Schumann for female voices was exquisitely sung. At times a fuller body of tone might have been wished for, but, on the whole, the chorus singing of Saturday night was far better than New York is generally favored with.”
“Mr. Thomas gave the first of his symphony concerts at Steinway Hall last evening [i.e. 12 Dec.]. He was assisted by the Mendelssohn Union, a choral society of mixed voices, formerly under the leadership of Berge the organist, now under that of Mr. Thomas. The programme consisted of sterling works, Mozart, Beethoven, Catel, and Schumann, being the composers from whose compositions it was made up. Thomas’s orchestra does not play as well as the Philharmonic. They lack the finish, probably for the reason that they lack the necessary rehearsals. The Mendelssohn Union sang three of Mozart’s motets, and sang them well, but the chorus is not sufficiently numerous for fine effects. There was not sufficient body of tone. A large body of singers is just as necessary to make a good pianissimo as to make a fortissimo. The Mendelssohn Union has not the requisites for the one or the other. If they could sink their jealousies and be merged with the Harmonic Society, we should have a chorus to be proud of. But they doubtless have their sufficient reasons for maintaining a separate organization.”
“For the opening of his fifth season of Symphony Soirées, Mr. Theodore Thomas presented, at Steinway Hall, on Saturday evening, the following interesting programme: Overture, ‘Semiramis’—Orchestra—Catel, Motet No. 1, ‘O God, when thou appearest’—Chorus and orchestra: Motet No. 2, ‘Have mercy, O Lord’—Bass solo, chorus, and orchestra; Motet No. 3, ‘Glory, honor, praise, and power’—Chorus and orchestra—Mozart; Concerto, Piano, G, Op. 58—Herr Ferd. Von Inten and orchestra—Beethoven. Psalm XXIII, Op. 132—Chorus for female voices and orchestra—Schubert. Symphony, No. 1, B flat—Orchestra—Schumann. All of these pieces were new to an American audience, except the concerto and the symphony. As a general rule the earliest orchestral concerts of the season are not very satisfactory, the players during their long vacation losing a good deal of the delicacy and precision which are acquired by frequent practice together, under a careful leader, and in the highest classes of music; but Mr. Thomas’s band, on Saturday showed hardly any of the usual defects; they have been playing under his direction all the Summer and Autumn, and though their performances have been of rather a coarser texture than the Winter’s work requires they have at any rate been kept from growing rusty. In Schumann’s beautiful and familiar symphony the playing was particularly good, and the Larghetto movement was given with good taste and feeling. The overture to ‘Semiramis,’ by Catel, is quite short, and more remarkable for scientific finish than for melodic inspiration. Catel was one of the best harmonists of the last generation, and this little overture is finely constructed and rich in its instrumental treatment, although to the untutored popular ear it will probably seem dry. The Mozart motets, however, are charming little compositions which the least learned hearer can well appreciate. The characteristic graces of the great master sparkle all over them. The Mendelssohn Union, of which Mr. Theodore Thomas is now conductor, took the chorus parts, and sang with precision, and the careful observance of musical shading for which we have often had occasion to praise them; but the male voices were few and weak, and the chorus altogether was decidedly too small for the orchestra. Mr. Marco Duschnitz labored with the bass solo in the second motet. He is a good scientific musician and his intonations are always true; but his voice is not a pleasant one, and is not a bass voice either, but a baritone, and he sings as if singing were very hard work, calling into play every muscle of the head and bust. In the Psalm XXIII, the chorus, for the first time in this country, was sung as Schubert intended it to be, by female voices only, and the effect was admirable. The orchestra was held under closer restraint than in the motets, and the performance altogether deserved warm approval. We have little fault to find either with the Beethoven piano concerto. Mr. Von Inten is an accurate and agreeable player, with a clean, sure touch, and a chaste, intelligent style, though he is too cold to be a thoroughly good interpreter of Beethoven. We hope he may be heard often this Winter, for he is a conscientious pianist, and good pianists of that sort are rare.”
“CHRONIQUE HEBDOMADAIRE. -- . . . . M. Thomas’s first grand concert [was] so remarkable for its execution of three magnificent motets by Mozart and of Schumann’s great symphony in B-flat, whose effect was transporting. . . . Joshua’s musicians should have played that symphony around the walls of Jericho. . . "
“Mr. THEODORE THOMAS resumed his admirable series of symphony soirees on Saturday evening, thereby inaugurating the fifth year of a very serious, and we fear, not very remunerative, undertaking. Mr. THOMAS has fought his own battle bravely. He has made his name known as that of an energetic musician, and he has introduced many novelties of great importance to the musical community. Indeed, in this latter respect he has out-topped the Philharmonic Society, who are only now going over the ground which Mr. THOMAS has previously travelled.
“The programme on Saturday night opened with an old-fashioned overture by CATEL, good in its way, and indicating the work of a prominent mind of the last generation. The style is no longer in vogue. CATEL’S overture has but one advantage. It is very short. Three motets by MOZART were sung by the members of the Mendelssohn Union, who were hardly represented in force. The female voices of the Union are excellent, but the male element is by no means striking. It requires both strength and balance. The motets are melodious, and were rendered creditably. So, also, was the 23rd Psalm, by SCHUBERT, a singularly saccharine and tame production. It was given with female voices only and orchestra, as originally contemplated by the composer. An arrangement, it will be remembered, was recently sung by the Arion Society at its late concert, and we think the composition gains by the male element. Mr. FERDINAND VON INTEN played BEETHOVEN’S Concerto in G, opus 68, with much effect. The gentleman has a good touch, and is evidently a cultivated and conscientious artist. She [sic] played with clearness and intelligence, but lacks power. She [sic] was heartily applauded. The accompaniments by the orchestra were poorly rendered, and were almost invariably too late. The performances terminated with a spirited performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B flat—a work which is too well known to need further comment. The second symphony soiree takes place on the 15th of January. We hope to see a better attendance, and trust, moreover, that Mr. THOMAS will see the necessity of rescinding the ridiculous order with which he has recently burdened the programme—namely, that the “doors be closed precisely at 8, and opened again after each movement.” So long as there are variations in the weather, and uncertainties in travel, so long will it be impossible to be always punctual. There can be no punishment for a late comer, save the loss perchance, of a portion of the music. All these regulations are interferences with the privileges of the public, who have a right to come when they like and leave when they like. Mrs. FANNY KEMBLE, with much better reason, tried this obsolete plan, and failed. She found it to her advantage to abandon it, and in view of her failure we hardly think Mr. THOMAS will succeed.”
“On Saturday evening, Mr. Thomas gave his 1st Symphony Soirée, with Herr von Inten (pianist), the Mendelssohn Union, and orchestra of fifty [programme, see above]
“The Semiramide Overture is now in rehearsal by the Philharmonic Society 2nd concert and is, in my opinion, a mediocre production, unworthy of a place on Mr. Thomas’s programme.
“The 23d Psalm was performed for the first time at the concert of the Arion Society, and of course was sung at that time by male voices, whereas in the present instance a female chorus was substituted. It is delightful composition and the instrumentation is peculiarly attractive.
“Mr. Von Inten, who played the charming Beethoven Concerto from memory, exhibited quiet composure, an excellent technique, and a thoroughly artistic spirit; but he lacks force, and his hands seem incapable of accomplishing that which his heart and head so evidently feel and understand.
“The concert closed with the very beautiful Schumann Symphony in B flat. I gladly take my position among the advocates of Schumann, and can say with truth that to me his music means more than does that of any [?!] other author. If the most steadfast upholder of the ancient (perhaps because it is so) can listen to the Larghetto of this Symphony without seeing and feeling that Schumann stands in the very foremost rank of the brotherhood of genius, then I can only say that from my heart I am sorry for him.
“Of the general performance I am reluctant to speak, for I can say but little in praise. The wind instruments were unaccountably and exasperatingly kinky, as likely to hit wrong notes as right ones. The strings were infinitely better. As for the singing, the Motets went moderately well; but in the 23d Psalm the female chorus was hopelessly ‘draggy’ and uncertain as to the proper volume of voice. The audience numbered some 1200 and was, mainly, a seriously and earnestly attentive one.”
(…) The Mozart motets were sung rather well by the Mendelsohn Union, as well as the 23rd psalm, the latter, though, would have gained with even finer nuancing. The youthful Von Inten showed the difficult yet wonderfully charming Beethoven concerto to its advantage with mastery. In our opinion Von Inten will have much greater success with classical compositions than modern ones. Schumann’s B flat symphony as finale was performed with verve, precision, and fire by the orchestra under the direction of Thomas.
“The ‘Symphony Soirees’ of Theo. Thomas were commenced Dec. 12th. As usual, the programme presented a series of novelties. The enterprise of this young veteran of the baton in bringing out new works is a subject of surprise, not only to the musicians of this country, but also to those of Europe. We are told that his programmes are often discussed and commented upon among the higher musical circles of Germany by reason of their variety and novelty.”