Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
Price: $1.50 reserved; $1
21 January 2019
“The formal opening of Steinway Hall for the season occurred last Saturday night. Besides the superb music furnished by Theodore Thomas’s orchestra, the solo performances were excellent. Madame La Grange and Mr. S. B. Mills gave the assistance of their eminent talents. An unexpected pleasure was conferred by Mrs. Scott Siddons, who—at the request of Mr. Steinway—read selections from Tennyson and Shakespeare . . . The changed appearance of the hall attracted universal attention and admiration. There is now no more elegant place of amusement in New York.”
Merely notes that Steinway Hall will reopen for the fall season sometime in October.
“The first appearance in this country of Mrs. Scott Siddons has been postponed from Oct. 19 until Oct. 26. It was found impossible to complete the interior decoration of Steinway Hall by the date first specified. The sale of seats will nevertheless be commenced this morning at Schirmer’s, in Broadway.”
“REOPENING OF STEINWAY HALL.
Steinway Hall, the interior of which has been thoroughly remodeled during the Summer recess, will be reopened for the season on Saturday evening next, when a grand concert, under the leadership and with the coöperation of Mme. Anna de la Grange, will be given. The sale of reserved seats commences this day.”
“OPENING OF STEINWAY HALL.
Steinway Hall, which during the Summer has undergone extensive alterations, and is now one of the prettiest, as it used to be one of the ugliest, concert-rooms in New-York, will be opened on Saturday evening with an excellent inaugural performance by Mr. Thedore Thomas. The walls have been tastefully decorated; the unsightly platform has been remodeled and inclosed in a handsome proscenium, one side of which serves as a screen for the organ, while the other contains private boxes, and statues and medallion portraits have been disposed in becoming places. [Lists program and some performers.] Here is a bill worthy of Mr. Thomas’s reputation, and we predict a crowded house. The sale of seats began yesterday.”
“REOPENING OF STEINWAY HALL.
The decorations of Steinway Hall having been completed, that spacious establishment will be reopened to-night under the auspices of Mr. Theodore Thomas. The programme is extremely interesting, and the soloists are of the first class. Mme. Anna de La Grange, makes her rentrée on the occasion, and will undoubtedly be greeted by hosts of friends. [Lists instrumentalists and program.] With such a concert the musical season will be nobly inaugurated.”
“A most fitting inauguration of this splendid hall—for with its recent interior alterations and embellishments it is indisputably the finest as well as the largest hall in the city—was the concert given last evening by Theodore Thomas, assisted by his grand concert orchestra, and the eminent vocal and instrumental artists who made their appearance. A brilliantly select assemblage filled the spacious hall. As Mr. Thomas, the great maestro, made his opening bow, he was greeted with that irrepressible enthusiasm that always marks his professional appearance. As from the instruments of the forty performers in the orchestra were poured forth in swelling harmony the grand notes of one of Beethoven’s masterly symphonies every sound was hushed but the exquisitely entrancing harmonies of these two score instruments—now a grandly rising chorus of wildly melodious sounds; now a sweetly attuned solo; now the low, soft cadence of the dying symphonies. It is unnecessary to expend words of eulogium upon this orchestral band, whose musical performances have so long been an established and popular institution of our metropolis. They performed three selections, one from Beethoven, as stated, another from Mendelssohn and the third from Myerbeer [sic]. The great musical feature of the evening, in fact the crowning musical glory of the concert to most, doubtless, was the appearance of Mme. De la Grange. She was greeted with a wild tumult of enthusiasm. She first sang an aria from ‘Don Giovanni.’ That same richness of tone, compass of voice and artistic expression that have won her such distinguished celebrity as prima donna characterized her singing of this selection, as of other selections which she sang, and all of which were received with rapturous applause. Two other features of the concert were the appearance of those eminent artists, Mr. S. B. Mills, the pianist, and Mr. F. Bergner, the violoncellist. The former played two selections—the ‘Romance Rondo’ from Chopin, and ‘Fairy Fingers,’ his own composition, set down in the programme as ‘Caprice Characteristic.’ His playing was in the highest degree artistic, and his touch of the instrument inexpressibly delicate and masterly, and notably his style and execution did not portray that airy, aspiring after effect that mars the performances of so many otherwise most excellent players. Of the violoncello Mr. Burgner [sic] is unquestionably the sovereign. The wonderful skill which he showed in playing this instrument, so rarely introduced in concerts or musical entertainments for solo effect greatly enhanced his previous brilliant reputation. [An] unexpected treat to the audience, this pleasure being supposed to have been reserved til tomorrow evening, was the reading between the parts of the concert by Mrs. Scott-Siddons of Tennyons’s poem, ‘The May Queen,’ and the sleep walking scene from ‘Macbeth.’ This being the first appearance of Mrs. Siddons in this country everybody, of course, was keenly on the qui vive on this her unexpected debut. The fame of her histrionic name had unquestionably, with a good many a preliminary prepossessing effect, but after all she must stand on her merits. Two pieces presenting such wide emotional contrasts—the childish simplicity of the young May Queen and the bloodstained murderess, Lady Macbeth, in her nocturnal wanderings—could hardly have been selected. But she proved herself equal to the contrasts, and read the two selections, or, more properly, recited them, for she scarcely referred to her text book, with the true skill of a master artist. Her manner is quiet and subdued, and though perfectly self-conscious and self-reliant she is as pleasingly modest and retiring as becomes her youthful years and girlish face. She possesses that rare gift of merging her individuality in her readings—the grand secret no doubt of the success that has attended her readings elsewhere, and which gave happy and abundant promise last evening of equally brilliant success in this country.”
“The reopening of Steinway Hall took place last evening. A concert was the inaugurating entertainment, in which Mme. Lagrange, Mr. S. B. Mills and Mr. Theodore Thomas’ orchestra took part. The [illeg.]ense concert room has been somewhat altered and richly decorated, since the closing last season. The work of remodeling was confided to Mr. Henry Reck. The old orchestral platform, at the rear end of the hall has been convereted into a large and permanent stage, inclosed [sic] on either side by elegant proscenium boxes, from which abut small balconies supported by columns, forming an alcove over each of the Fifteenth-street exit doors. The left of these boxes serves as a screen to the organ, (necessarily placed in that corner of the hall,) while that on the right is intended for ordinary occupation. The left of the proscenium is surmounted by a large medallion, in which is placed a fine alto-relief bust of Beethoven—the corresponding one of the opposite side being occupied by one of Mozart. The rear all of the stage in its design and architecture corresponds with the proscenium, thus rendering its aspect perfectly well balanced. Midway, however, of the rear wall, two large alcoves have been constructed, in which are placed two statues larger than life size: the one to the right being symbolical of poetry—that on the left of music. In the auditorium other changes have been made. The fronts of the balconies have been entirely remodeled, and the heavy and cumbrous paneling replaced by light and graceful continuous curves, mouldings and outlines, with decorated trellice work and rich embellishments; the effect being in perfect keeping and harmony with other portions of the hall. So, also, the side windows have been surmounted by elegant cornices, and the intervening panels so arranged and decorated as to deprive them of their previously objectionable appearance. The renaissance style of the decoration has been adopted throughout, and the chastened elegance and softness of the blending of the colors, combined with the rich and elaborate character of the designs, all in harmonious keeping with the one prevailing idea, render the ensemble complete as a finished work of art; for whether the eye is turned to the ceiling with its rich plastic mouldings, borders and corner pieces, which give graceful height and roundness to it; the handsome proscenium and stage, with its elaborate ornamentation; the large expanse of the side walls, rich in design; or the light and airy balcony frontage—no objective point is presented, and but one idea of elegant refinement and repose prevails.”
“The much talked-of frescoing and decoration of Steinway Hall have at last been completed, and on Saturday night it was opened to the public. A great flourish of trumpets preceded this frescoing. A cartoon by Kaulbach, to be put upon the wall facing the audience, was talked of. Gorgeous prophecies of the brilliant things that were to be done were indulged in. Every few weeks some fresh item was added to the tale of splendor, till it seemed that the hall must certainly become a second palace of Aladdin. Meantime it stood bare and bleak and ugly. The liveliest imagination could not conceive of a more barren or unattractive room, and everybody felt that come what might, nothing could be worse than the barn that it was. The painters and carpenters have come and gone, and the hall stands renewed, and as unlike itself as Cinderella was to herself after the fairy had touched her with her wand, or Bottom after his great transformation scene. Where before there was nothing but the dull, cold, gray plaster, there is now color and warmth, and blue and gold. Before, the stage was a lop-sided affair, the organ being in one corner, with nothing to balance it in the other. Now the corners are skillfully equalized by the architect, and between them niches have been cut in the wall, and statues of Music and Poetry placed in them. Evey one remembers the long, spindling, narrow windows on either side the hall, and how they helped to make it ugly. Art has found a way to break these long distressing lines by color and by lights, so that the old effect is neutralized. The ceiling is particularly fine. The marbling of the side walls and the ornamentation of the front of the balcony we do not admire. Many gas lights have been added to give the hall additional brilliancy, and it certainly now may be looked upon as at least the second, if not the very finest concert hall in the country.
The concert was an excellent one, opening with the greatest work of the greatest of composers – Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The orchestra was not in symphony drill; they have been playing for a hundred nights to the clinking of lager-bier glasses and the shuffling of feet of promenaders at Thomas’s Central Park Garden concerts, and have forgotten how to play delicately. The material is all right, but it has grown coarse and hard from the work it has been at. The Arabs say that a horse that has been one day in a cart can never perfectly recover himself; and Thomas and his orchestra have been doing rough summer work—musical carting, as it were; but they will, let us hope, soon recover their delicacy of tone, the loss of which was so particularly noticeable in the playing of portions of the symphony and in the accompaniments. Mr. Mills played part of the lovely E minor concerto of Chopin for piano and orchestra with that nerve and power and brilliancy that have made him famous. He also played a feeble and poorly composed piece of his own, called ‘Fairy Fingers.’ The fingers were all right, but where were the ideas? It is all natural enough that artists should make use of their opportunities in the concert room for the purpose of self-illustration, and to get a hearing for their own works; but they must expect, if their works are really weak, to have that fact suggested to them by the impartial critic. An unxcepected addition was made to the pleasure of the evening in the appearance of Mrs. Scott Siddons, who was not announced in the programme and who recited short extracts from the ‘May Queen’ and from ‘Macbeth.’ As she is to appear to-night in an entertainment of her own, we reserve our notice of her until another occasion.”
“The grand inaugural concert at Steinway Hall on Saturday evening attracted an intelligent and brilliant audience to that establishment. It was the first important concert of the season, and was rendered additionally attractive by the fact that it exhibited for the first time the new decorations with which the Messrs. Steinway have, during the past four months, endued their handsome hall. We gave the official particulars of these decorations in yesterday’s paper. They were conducted under the direction of Mr. Henry Reck, a European architect of repute, who was engaged and brought over expressly for the purpose. The general style is that of the Renaissance, but it is a quiet and chaste phase of the Renaissance rather than a pronounced one. The balconies have been vastly improved, and are now comparatively light and pleasant, instead, as of yore, being cumbersome and ugly. The area behind the balconies has been artistically thrown back, and contributes now to the effect, instead of adding to the dreariness of that part of the house. The ceiling is beautifully frescoed. It is remarkable more for the excellence of the work than for any particular effect of color. This remark, indeed, applies to all the decorations. Where the stage used to be is now a beautiful proscenium, with boxes on either side, surmounted by busts of Beethoven and Mozart. There are alcoves also, containing two statues representing Poetry and Music. These figures were imported from Berlin, and are strikingly graceful. They are almost originals, for the moulds were destroyed after two copies had been taken from them. The walls are marbled, and the windows surmounted with delicate foliation. Many additional lights have been placed in the hall, and a new system of ventilation has been adopted, which will insure a regular and healthful temperature. With these alterations and improvements, Steinway Hall is decidedly the handsomest building in New York. The effect is sober and impressive, and the work invites and repays examination. It is entirely appropriate for a music hall, but would be considered cold for a ballroom. Mr. Reck has been guided by elegance and propriety, and has trusted to wholeness and consistency of designs, rather than to color. He has been rewarded with success.
The programme opened with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (C minor), which was played excellently by Mr. Theodore Thomas’ regular orchestra. It is one of the grandest of the master’s works, and returns most gratefully to the memory after a Summer’s stupor of weak music. Mr. Thomas’ interpretation of this Symphony is well known. It is always a favorite with his audiences, and a source of interest to his orchestra. Mr. S. B. Mills followed in the Romance and Rondo, from the E minor concerto by Chopin (opus 11). We object, as a rule, to playing parts of a concerto, but these morceaux are so nicely contrasted and are so complete in themselves that they barely need the support and suggestiveness of the other movements. In such works there are few pianists living who can surpass Mr. Mills, and no one in America who can at all approach him. Power combined with great sensibility of touch and distinct articulation of the fingers, and equality in scale passages which is remarkable, and conscientious correctness in striking notes which seems to be a second nature to him—these are the qualities which Mr. Mills exhibits. He was in admirable force on Saturday night, and played the excerpts we have mentioned in a style that was absolutely faultless. Subsequently, Mr. Mills executed a bright trifle by himself, called ‘Fairy Fingers,’ and in response to an encore, played his second Tarantella. Mr. Bergner was the other soloist and gave Servais’ ‘Souvenir de Spa’ very effectively. He has a better tone and greater certainty of execution than any violoncellist now before the public.
Mme. De Lagrange made her rentrée on this occasion, and was warmly received by the public. She sang the letter aria from Don Giovanni, and Rode’s air and variations, shining to the best advantage in the latter. The lady is one of the truest artists we have ever had in this country, but the isolation of the concert-room does not exhibit her powers to the best advantage. She was not in good voice; her well-known skill, however, carried her through the tortures of Rode’s air successfully. The orchestra played in the second part the overture to Melusine and the Fackeltanz (No. 3) by Meyerbeer.
The appearance of Mrs. Scott Siddons between the first and second parts was an agreeable surprise to the audience, many of whom had no intimation of her intention to do so. The lady’s personal appearance is strikingly in her favor. Mrs. Siddons read the first part of Tennyson’s ‘May Queen’ and the sleep-walking scene from Macbeth. The contrast was sufficiently marked. Inasmuch as Mrs. Siddons makes her public appearance to-night at Steinway Hall, we shall defer further notice of her powers until a more fitting occasion.”
“We have already described the improvements which have been made in Steinway Hall under the direction of Mr. Henry Reck, and have only to add that the effect on Saturday night, when the gas was lighted and the seats were filled with a gay and well-dressed audience, was in the highest degree pleasing and cheerful. The decorations are in excellent taste, and the colors, though possibly a little cold, are grateful to the eye and well contrasted. A pleasant room sometimes makes the success of a doubtful concert, where much depends upon the good nature of the audience, and Steinway Hall will now be a far more popular place of entertainment than it was in its austere youth, when it looked so much like a Puritan meeting house that any music livelier than Old Hundredth seemed out of place in it, and applause sounded like sacrilege. This is fortunate; for, according to present appearances, we shall have little or no music this Winter anywhere but in Steinway and Irving Halls. The Academy of Music will be in a comatose condition as soon as Miss Kellogg has sung twice more, and the opera-houses on the west side are given up to the patrons of pretty-waiter-girl saloon.
The performance at the opening of Steinway Hall was remarkable for that rarest of good things, a programme excellent in every number. There was no padding, no trash thrown in to catch the untutored ear, but all the selections possessed artistic merit, and all the solo performers were accomplished artists. The orchestra, under Mr. Theodore Thomas, was strong and in good trim. The first piece on the bills was Beethoven’s fifth Symphony (C minor). The first movement, Allegro con brio, was taken with rather a heavy hand, but the others were admirably played, especially the melodious andante con moto, the beautiful pizzicato passages in the third movement, and the accelerando of the final allegro. Mendelssohn’s ‘Melusina’ overture, which opened the second part of the concert, we were sorry to perceive produced very little effect. Charming as it is, and full of poetry, it is too delicate for the taste of a miscellaneous audience, and is seldom very warmly received, partly because for its due appreciation it needs to be supplemented by a representation of the legend which it was written to illustrate. The story of ‘the lovely Melusina,’ the fairy maiden who wedded Count Raymond of Perpignan, on condition that he should never seek to penetrate the seclusion into which every Saturday she used to retire, and who lived happily with her lord until one fatal day he broke his promise and discovered that once a week she was transformed for twenty-four hours into a mermaid, is one of the favorite fairy tales of France, and was made the subject of an opera by Conradin Kreuzer. Mendelssohn saw it played at a German theatre when he was twenty-four years old, and being displeased with the overture but fascinated with a charming actress who took the principal character, he wrote this overture as a substitute for the original. He himself thought very highly of his composition, and his judgment was not mistaken. ‘It may not be encored by the people,’ he writes in one of his letters, ‘as Kreuzer’s was, but it will give them more solid delight.’ In the beautiful melody which runs through it, embroidered with varied fancies, we seem to hear the ripple of waters and the weird music of fairyland, while the shadow of coming misfortune spreads over the whole piece a vail of mild melancholy. The orchestra played it with delicacy and good taste. The third Fackeltanz of Meyerbeer, with which they wound up the performance, was more popular, and we presume was equally well done; but the senseless custom in which audiences indulge of trooping out as soon as the last piece begins, disturbed it to such a degree that criticism was impossible.
The vocalist of the evening was Madame La Grange, who made her first appearance in New-York since her return from Europe, and was very cordially received. She was in excellent voice, and displayed her wonderful culture to great advantage, particularly in Rode’s variations Brilliantes, on a sweet and plaintive little melody which she sang deliciously. Her rendering of the ‘Letter Aria’ from ‘Don Giovanni,’ was a finished piece of vocalism, but the aria is too dry for a concert room. Madame La Grange was twice encored. Mr. S. B. Mills played, with the orchestra, the charming romance and rondo from Chopin’s piano concerto in E minor (opus 11), and his own ‘Fairy Fingers’ caprice, besides a tarantula of his own on being recalled. He is always a pleasing artist, and on this occasion played admirably, especially in the Chopin concerto, which was at once brilliant and delicate. Mr. Bergner’s correct method and sympathetic touch at the violoncello were keenly relished in Servais’ Souvenir de Spa.”
The renovation presents the Steinway Hall as a completely changed venue. When Steinway Hall was build the hall was not considered finished, because the walls were so thick that they took a long time to dry. Therefore the frescos and other decorations could not be added yet. Henry Reck is the extraordinary European architect who is known for his excellent work in Paris. He was hired for the finishing work at the Steinway Hall and result shows how conscientiously he fulfilled his mission. Without disturbing the acoustics, the construction errors were removed, and the new decorations display a refined elegance and pure harmony in the style of the original style of the renaissance.
The old orchestra platform is now used to enlarge the stage.…Over the left side of the proscenium box and a medaillion depicts a bust of Beethoven, on the other side the medaillion depicts Mozart’s bust. In the back wall of the stage, two large alcoves house two life size figures symbolizing poetry and music. These statues were shipped from Berlin, and they stand out with their gracefulness, beauty and also the skill of the sculptor. These are originals and can not be duplicated, because the moulds were immediately destroyed after the sculptures were cast. The front of the balconies in the auditorium were completely replaced by elegant, continuous curves and shapes and rich ornaments which does not disturb the harmony of the rest of the hall. Elegant cornice was placed over the side windows....The improvement of the ventilation system allows setting a specific temperature in the building.…The hall is filled with an air of harmony, elegance and thus a majestic serenity.
Thomas was a good choice for the opening concert. He conscientiously fulfilled the expectation of an appropriate program for connoisseurs as well as lay people. Of all the musicians in the performance we want to especially mention C.B. Mills who played Chopin’s E minor concerto as no other can. Noticeable also: Bergner’s “Souvenir de Spa” and Mrs. LaGrange’s impure singing.
“Musical Correspondence. New York, Oct. 26
Steinway Hall was opened to the public with a grand orchestral concert under the direction of Theo. Thomas, on Saturday evening. The hall, during the summer months, has been remodeled and decorated in an elegant and tasteful style, the important task having been confided to the care of Mr. Henry Reck, a distinguished European architect who was engaged expressly for the purpose.
‘The old Orchestral platform has been converted into a large and permanent stage, enclosed on either side by elegant Proscenium boxes, from which abut small balconies supported by columns forming an alcove over each of the 15th Street doors. The left of these boxes serves as a screen for the organ (necessarily placed in that corner of the hall) while that on the right is intended for ordinary occupation. The left of the proscenium is surmounted by a large medallion, in which is placed an alto-relievo bust of Beethoven, the corresponding one on the opposite side being occupied by one of Mozart. Midway of the rear wall, in two large alcoves, are placed two statues larger than life size; the one of the right being symbolical of Poetry—that on the left of Music. These statues were imported from Berlin, and are remarkable for their grace and beauty of design and execution, and also from the fact that but one other copy of either exists. There are many improvements in the interior construction of the hall, in the shape of minor details tending to the comfort of the auditory and the performers; among them are large additional and improved methods of ventilation.’
All these improvements occupied many weeks of weary labor, and were made at an aggregate cost of $25,000. The Steinways receive some reward for their liberal outlay in the admiring appreciation of the public and the very evident fact that this is one of the most elegant Music Halls in this, or perhaps any other country. It certainly surpasses anything which I have seen in Paris or London.
To return to Mr. Thomas’s concert on Saturday evening. The attractions were an orchestra of 45, Mr. S.B. Mills, Mme. La Grange, Mr. F. Bergner and (last but not least) the new Enlgish dramatic reader, Mrs. Scott Siddons. The programme included the following old favorites:
5th Symphony, C minor……………………Beethoven.
1st Concerto, E minor………………………Chopin.
The orchestra, albeit a little weak in the last movement of the Symphony, played remarkably well. Mr. Mills was less excellent in the Concerto than might be wished, and his new copmositon (called, for some occult reason, ‘Fairy Fingers’) is utter trash. Mme. La Grange sang an aria from Don Giovanni in a style which was sufficiently good, but would have been far better if she still possessed even a remnant of her formerly magnificent voice. Mr. Bergner played a ‘cello solo with quiet excellence. Mrs. Scott-Siddons, who is a grand-daughter of the famous Mrs. Siddons, read the first part of Tennyson’s greatly over-rated ‘May Queen’ and the sleeping-walking scene from ‘Macbeth.’ Mrs. S. is a lady of a little more than medium hight, with a poetically beautiful face and form of grace and elegance. Her reading is something wonderful, and she needs only a deeper and richer voice to be superb. Her conception of the two selections, so widely different in character, had something of positive genius and was entirely novel. Her reception was most warm and earnest and was a farewell augury of her professional success on this side of the Atlantic.”