30 September 2019
“The Philharmonic Society propose to reciprocate Mr. Booth’s courtesy in reading for them, by giving a performance, on Wednesday afternoon, the 26th inst., at Booth’s Theater, of Schumann’s music to ‘Manfred’—Mr. Booth having consented again to read the poem. The occasion will doubtless call out a great audience.”
“The Philharmonic Society propose to reciprocate the service rendered them by Mr. Booth in reading Manfred for them, by performing Schumann’s music to this poem on Wednesday afternoon, at 3 o’clock, for Booth’s reading of it a second time. Ole Bull is to take part in the performance. The repetition will be welcomed by those who, attended on the first occasion, and by many others, if they can possibly find room.”
“The Philharmonic Society has reciprocated in the most thorough manner Mr. Booth’s courtesy in reading Byron’s ‘Manfred’ at their recent concert. Yesterday afternoon they played Schumann’s music at Booth’s Theatre, the popular tragedian reading the text. The attendance, chiefly composed of ladies, was very large, and the receipts most gratifying. A violent rain storm awaited the graceful multitude at the close of the performance, and the damage to silks and satins was painful to all sympathetic minds, among which, under the circumstances, dry goods dealers are not included.
Mr. Booth read Byron’s stately lines and Cornell’s prosaic prologues unequally. Several words were misplaced, and in one instance a whole line was omitted, spoiling the splendid soliloquy descriptive of the Coliseum by moonlight, by causeing Manfred to say that—
‘The trees which brew along the broken arches,
Shone through the rents of rain.’
The sudden exclamation with which the Chamois Hunter interrupts Manfred, as he is about to leap from the crag, was given with the most calm indifference, as if it were uttered casually by Mr. Toots, and were ‘of no consequence.’ On the other hand, Mr. Booth was very dignified and effective in his delivery of the noble apostrophe to the sun, and thoroughly dramatic in the appeal to Astarte. This latter extract was equal in intensity and fervor to anything Mr. Booth has done on the dramatic stage, and created a profound sensation among the audience.
Schumann composed music to accompany ‘Manfred.’ Had Mr. Smith, of Snagtown, Illinois, written it, the Philharmonic Society would naturally not have thought it worthy of the slightest attention; but deceived by the glamour of a name—by the reputation of a musician who, judging from this composition, is singularly overrated—they produced it. We regret that Mr. Booth did not engage Mr. Mollenhauer to write music for this reading. He would have given us melody in place of meaningless confusion; or if he had produced such drearily pretentious concatenations of sounds as this so-called music of Schumann’s, his friends would have shed the balm of sympathy over his failing faculties.
Of course, Schumann being nominally on the list of the great German masters, we shall probably be alone in our outspoken iconoclasm—not alone in our opinion, but alone in our expression of it. Yet we are certain that the entire audience yesterday inwardly felt as we did—that Schumann’s illustrations of ‘Manfred’ are noisy, dull and painfully ugly. There are but two or three gleams of transient melody—it is an insult to vocal music to dignify by this term the few ungrateful strains he has allotted to the voices. The beautiful words of the ‘second spirit’ summoned by Manfred—the verses beginning
‘In the blue depth of ocean,
Where the wave hath no strife,
Where the wind is a stranger
And the sea snake hath life,
Where the Mermaid is decking
Her green hair with shells,
Like the storm on the surface
Came the sound of thy spells’—
might easly suggest pleasing musical treatment. But Schumann’s dreary strains to these lines are as much descriptive of the toothache as of anything else. The noble chorus of spirits to Arimanes is, in the hands of this composer, another failure, and the other vocal adaptations are beneath notice.
In the orchestral accompaniments to the recitations there are occasional bars of grace and beauty. In other cases the ‘accompaniment’ consists of a staccato chord which suggest an exclamation point suddenly and needlessly gifted with vociferous speech. A good effect is, however, made at the reiterations of the word ‘come,’ which a somber chord on the brass instruments emphasizes the command of the spirit to the dying Manfred. As a whole, however, Schumann’s composition is a wearisome affliction, and goes far to extenuate the obvious but hitherto somewhat inexplicable tendency of Manfred to suicide. The audience yesterday received these chaotic attempts at descriptive music in solemn silence. Brought up to believe that Schumann was a great composer, and that everything coming from his pen must be great and good, they suffered in grim and sturdy quietude, as became the doomed victims of a conventional Juggernaut. Byron and Booth form an enjoyable intellectual treat; but Schumann’s musical ideas of Byron are enough to shipwreck both.
After the performance yesterday Carl Bermannn the conductor, was the recipient from Mr. Booth of an elegant baton. It is about sixteen inches in length, made of aluminum, with a ribbon or band of gold about a half inch in width encircling its whole length, upon which are engraved bars of music, with the names of the great composers and the inscription of ‘Herr Carl Bergmann, from Edwin Booth.’
It is also surmounted with a crown of solid gold, and the opposite end adorned with an amethyst, in the centre of which is placed the initial ‘B,’ set in small diamonds. Mr. Booth presented this elegant gift to Mr. Bergmann in person, first making the following remarks:
‘Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Philharmonic Society: Before retiring, I wish to make a few remarks in response to the very flattering compliment with which you have honored me—merely to express to you my sense of gratitude, and the profound gratification it gives me to be brought in contact with those who have so zealously devoted their energies and talents to so good a cause. Also, to request that, if at any furure time my serices can be made available, you will consider me a free and willing co-laborer with you in the field of art.
To that great soul of music, Herr Ole Bull, I can only bow in reverence and feebly murmer my thanks, nor must I omit to mention my deep indebtedness to Mr. Cornell, without whose kind assistance I should have blundered.
Here in Thespia’s Temple, Melpomene greets Euterpe with a sister’s pure and loving welcome, and in token of their amity, I beg leave to present to your worthy ‘Chef d’Orchestre,’ Herr Carl Bergman, (who, in his position as conductor, is ‘monarch’ of all he surveys, this scepter, which may serve to remind him of the great esteerm which, I am confident, we all entertain for him.’”