24 February 2015
"Irving Hall was thronged on Saturday evening on the occasion of the third concert of the Philharmonic Society. Every available seat and standing place was occupied, and the scene was one of great brilliancy. [program given] Mr. Mills, the pianist, played a concerto in G, by Beethoven, with an orchestral accompayment, and two solos; an Impromptu in E, by Chopin, and a Tarantella of his own composition, with much success. Mr. E. Perring, who was to have appeared, presented a plea of indisposition, and his place was very acceptably filled by Mr. J. R. Thomas, the baritone, who sang the well-known 'Wanderer,' and a very pretty ballad."
"The third Philharmonic Concert, on Saturday evening, attracted to Irving Hall one of the fullest and most fashionable audiences we have ever seen assembled there. Whether it was the merit of the programme, or the fact of there being no other musical entertainment in the City, that occasioned this rush, we shall leave to the Directors to decide, who will, of course, ascribe it to the mearest motive, say the programme. Mr Theodor Eisfeld conducted with his usual ability, and was kind enough to play Schumann's Symphony No. 1 in B flat, opus 31 somewhat quicker than usual, by which means it passed off without any serious consequences. Mr. J. R. Thomas then sang a song--'The Wanderer' by Schubert--and was deservedly applauded, having volunteered at the last moment and acquiting himself unexceptionally. The first part was brought to an end by a superb performance of Beethoven's Concerto in G, the piano part being interpreted in a vein of grand and massive certainty by Mr. S. B. Mills, who in works of this kind, and, in fact, in all that he does, constantly reminds us that he is one of the few great artists now among us who ought to be heard at a Philharmonic concert. The cadenzas introduced were by the veteran Moscheles, and are remarkable for their identity with the spirit of the composer. They were played to absolute perfection by Mr. Mills, as indeed was the entire piece. The piano on which Mr. Mills played was one of Steinway's new scale Grands, and it impressed us as being one of the most majestic instruments we have ever heard in the concert room. Concertos like this, and the one in F minor by Chopin, (played with such memorable effect by the same pianist,) have new significance when interpreted by such ample means. Mr. Mills played a couple of solos in the second part, and was called out three times. The remaining instrumental features (in addition to another solo by Mr. J. R. Thomas) were a very queer overture by A. Rubenstein, the Russian composer, and Wagner's gorgeous overture to the Tannhaüser [sic]. The latter was the most enjoyable orchestral morceau on the programme, and was keenly appreciated by the audience."
Includes program. "The great feature of this concert was undoubtedly Schumann's Symphony. It was evident, that the very numerous audience, one of the largest we have ever seen congregated at Irving Hall, listened to the beautiful work throughout with the most heartfelt pleasure. The musicians played it con amore, with fire and soul. . . . And yet, when years ago these musicians played the symphony for the first time, they failed to fathom the depth and beauty of the work, and well understood to reproduce in the listeners the emotions, which this beautiful music must have caused them. And yet, when years ago these musicians played this symphony for the first time, they failed to fathom the depth and beauty of the work, and the public shared their want of interest and faith in the genius of Schumann. Thus time and the earnest desire for improvement in knowledge and taste, which has characterized the latest period of musical art in this country, as well as to do justice to a man, who is acknowledged by the whole of Germany as a great master, have obtained for him in this country that position, which is due to his genius and his influences on art matters in Germany.--We mention all this, because but very recently we read in the London Athenaeum, that this very composer was 'deficient in melody, licentious to impurity in harmony, imperfect in technical skill, and frequently false in expression.' To judge from our experience, there is still some chance left for this English critic to come to his senses, although according to the opinion of all those, who know the man, Heine's celebrated sentence will be forever applied to him, 'I know a critic, who is generally a fool, but there are even for him some moments of light, when he is a stark mad.'
We know very well the shortcomings even of this symphony, which is decidedly the freshest in melody, he ever wrote; we know, for instance, that we shall never be reconciled to the finale of the first part as well as to that of the last part, but at the same time we recognize with every repeated hearing the flow of original ideas, the poetical conception, the interesting polyphonic treatment, the surprisingly effective instrumentation, which none but a great genius could have produced in his first work of this style of music.--How thin, how small sounded, for instance, the Concert-overture of Rubinstein, compared with the riches of fancy, displayed in Schumann's symphony! Yet Rubinstein's work is quite respectable, but it comes from a smaller light, from a man, who moreover neglects to use the sharp and effective scissors of self-criticism.
We must still mention the performances of the two soloists on this occasion. Mr. J. R. Thomas gave considerable proof of intelligence and musicianship in his rendering of 'Der Wanderer.' Mr. Mills pleased us less on this occasion. It is true, his technics were as grand as ever, the scales, the passages could not have been given neater, but his manner of tearing and breaking the rhythm, of retarding at every possible moment, in order to produce some kind of effect, was not at all artistic, and certainly out of place in the performance of a concerto by Beethoven. The first motivo sounded under his hands quite different, than as played by the orcestras, and ought not to be, for most decidedly Beethoven's ideas cannot be improved by tricks of modern pianoforte playing."