Thomas Symphony Soirée: 4th

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]

Event Type:

Performance Forces:

Record Information


Last Updated:
1 March 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

13 Mar 1869, Evening

Program Details

American premiere of Bruch’s Symphony No. 1, op. 28.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka I wrestle and pray
Composer(s): Bach
aka Gipsy Life
Composer(s): Schumann
aka Tannhauser overture
Composer(s): Wagner


Announcement: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 28 November 1868, 264.

Includes program.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 10 March 1869, 7.
Announcement: New York Herald, 13 March 1869.
Review: New York Herald, 14 March 1869, 3.

“Despite the deteriorating influence of the trashy music which has so long usurped the operatic and concert boards the symphony soirees of this admirable conductor and musician have during this season secured a large number of patrons and on all occasions a very encouraging audience. The hall was pretty well crowded last night. The programme was something out of the beaten track, comprising a suite in canon form by Gramm, a young German composer of the present day; an eight part motet by Bach, sung by the Mendelssohn Union; a symphony by Max Bruch; a chorus, ‘Gypsy-Life.’ By Schumann, and the magnificent overture by Tannhauser. The suite has been played before by Mr. Thomas, but never with such effect as last night. The string quartet in which he himself took part was tumultuously encored. There is hardly another composition of the present day in which the strings are so charmingly brought out. The chorus and orchestra showed thorough training and artistic appreciation of the composer’s ideas in every piece. The wonderful counterpoint of the motet in its full, ever-changing measures received that attention and precision at the hands of the large array of artists which is seldom heard at present in the concert hall.”

Review: New York Post, 15 March 1869.

“Theodore Thomas offered a pleasant programme at his fourth Symphonic Soiree at Steinway’s on Saturday night. A symphony by Max Bruch was the most prominent orchestra feature. It is in the modern school: bold, rather original, and decidedly melodious. The Scherzo is particularly enjoyable. The Mendelssohn Union furnished the chorus, and were particularly acceptable in Schumann’s delightful little cantata, ‘Gipsey Life.’ The soiree concluded with the admired ‘Tannhauser’ overture of Wagner.”

Review: New-York Times, 15 March 1869, 4.

“Mr. Theodore Thomas gave his fourth symphony soirée at Steinway Hall, on Saturday evening, when the following admirable programme was interpreted [lists program].

The suite by Grimm is a striking production, as all productions for stringed instruments are apt to be. Wind and brass have added to the strength and massiveness of the orchestra, but not to its delicate expression of sentiment. Grimm is neither youthful nor fresh. He possesses, however, a thorough command of the resources of stringed instruments, and exhibits it forcibly. His work—in which Mr. Theodore Thomas took part—was encored. The motet, by Bach, was, of course, introduced for the sake of the Mendelssohn Union, who sang it with more than average clearness. The symphony is the effort of a talented musician, but is not likely to interfere with the popularity of better known productions in the same line. Schumann’s charming genre piece, ‘Gypsy Life,’ was given with fine effect, and the ‘Tannhauser’ overture was, of course, warmly applauded.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 March 1869, 5.

Lists program. “This was an interesting and sufficiently varied selection. The suite of Grimm’s was received with much favor, especially the second movement (andante), a graceful trio, played by Mr. Theodore Thomas, Mr. Matzka, and Mr. Bergner. It was heartily encored. The third movement, a minuet, was charming. The chorus of Bach’s was admirably given. It was a grand work, partly in the fugue style, but containing also a severely beautiful choral. Neither this, or either of the two pieces which followed it, had ever been performed here before. The symphony by Max Bruch belongs to the exasperating modern school which loves to disgfigure itself and to heap its own road with unnecessary difficulties, and to choose the hardest and most tortuous ways for getting to the destination. The symphony nevertheless contains several exquisite passages, and much excellent and forcible writing, is compact and logical, and gorgeous in its instrumentation, and the first, second, and fourth movements (allegro maestoso, scherzo, and allegro guerriero) are highly effective. Schumann’s ‘Gypsy’ music is another novelty with which Mr. Thomas has done well to make us acquainted. It is melodious and really fascinating. In this, as well as all the other portions of the concert, both chorus and orchestra showed the result of patient and intelligent study and enthusiasm for their art. We have never heard them with more thorough satisfaction.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 27 March 1869, 6.

“March 15.—On Saturday evening we had Theo. Thomas’s 4th Symphony Soiree, with the Mendelssohn Union, Mr. Thomas’s orchestra, and the following programme:

   Suite in canon form, op. 10…..Grimm

   Motet, ‘I wrestle and pray’ (1st time)…..Bach

   Symphony, E flat, op. 28 (1st time)….Max Bruch

   Gipsy Life, op. 29, Chorus and Orchestra (1st time)….Schumann

   Overture, ‘Tannhäuser’….Wagner

“This is a fine array of good things and they were generally speaking, very well performed. This remark applies particularly to the orchestra, which did admirably; but less praise is due to the Mendelssohn Union.

The Grimm Suite was especially noteworthy on account of the artistic manner in which the them of each movement was ‘imitated.’ The Andante was simply a String Trio, in which the viola was taken by Mr. Matzka, the cello by Bergner, and the violin by Thomas himself, who descended from the conductor’s stand for the purpose. This movement (the Andante) proved very attractive to the audience, and it was emphatically encored. The third movement (Tempo di Minuetto) has a very neat episode in E major, and the Finale is full of vigor and purpose.

The Bruch Symphony seemed of unequal merit, the first and second movements being far the best of the five; indeed the Scherzo (second movement) in G minor, is a gem in its way and has an exquisite trio. The treatment of the wood wind instruments reminds one very strongly of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo, a little too strongly for the credit of Herr Bruch.

Schumann’s ‘Gipsy Life’ is simply charming, and had the fragmentary and episodical solos been taken by competent persons, the general effect would have been far more satisfactory. 

The Soiree closed with the superb Tannhäuser Overture was played with electrical effect by that fine orchestra.”

Review: New York Musical Gazette, April 1869, 45.

“Theodore Thomas’ fourth Symphony Soiree was a concert of unusual interest. The enterprise of this conductor in presenting genuine novelties to his audiences, has been frequently referred to by us, yet there seems to be ever new occasion for wonder in that direction. This city, and with it the whole country, owes Mr. Thomas a debt of gratitude that it will be difficult to repay.”