Church of St. Francis Xavier
20 June 2020
Part of long article discussing the decoration and music planned for Christmas Day worship services across the city. “Among the compositions to be given by the choir is Mercadante’s Mass No. 1. The music will be under the direction of Professor William Bergé [sic]. The solos will be given by Mrs. Wernecke, Signor Tamaro and other professionals, assisted by a large chorus and an orchestra of twenty-five pieces.”
“At the Church of St. Francies [sic] Xavier, Sixteenth street, Mercadante’s three part mass will be sung. The soprano, Miss Teresa Werneke, and the tenor and bass, Tamaro and Bacelli, together with the organist, Dr. William Berge, and a strong chorus from the Berge Choral Union will render assistance.”
“The music of this church since the return of Dr. William Berge to the choir has undergone a wonderful change for the better. Yesterday the grandest festival of the church was celebrated in an appropriate manner by a most masterly performance of Mercadante’s three part mass, with selections from Catalani, the Adeste Fideles, arranged by Berge, and the ‘Stradella Overture’ and ‘Prophet March’ as an opening and finale. The mass has never been given with chorus and orchestra, although it is a standard favorite in choirs. It is an exceedingly brilliant and taking work, abounding in charming themes, and the orchestral subjects are very effective. The Kyrie is solemn, prayerful, and the parts glide into each other with chant-like effect. The Gloria opens with a trumpet passage, after which there is a beautiful modulation from the key of B flat into D major, the voices and instruments working back through a series of dissonances into the original key. The Laudamus is a delightful trio for soprano, tenor and bass, which leads through a passage of startling chords from F major to D flat. Here the tenor and bass have an interesting dialogue, the bass responding to the interrogatory phrases of the tenor. The Que tollis in nine-eight time has some remarkable chords and modulations. The bass, tenor and soprano then have three successive recitative passages, fine examples of declamation, and then comes a dashing choral finale which is very effective and brilliant. The Credo opens with a bold, impressive declaration of faith by each voice in succession, and the Et in unum has a sparkling orchestral accompaniment, a popular theme entirely distinct from the voices. Four bars, in which the fundamental notes give the tones of the common chord singly, led by a very beautiful modulation from the key of C into A major, and then comes the Et Incarnatus, a simple, pretty trio. The basses then energetically [illeg.] Crucifixus, representing the clamor of the rabble for the death of the Savoir, and the sopranos and tenors repeat the words, but with tenderness and feeling, to exemplify the anguish of the mother and the lament of the disciples. The basses close Et sepulus est with a most sepulchral passage. The Et resunexit is vivid and startling, and gives an idea of the convulsions of nature when the Savoir triumphed over death. Et itenum is a brilliant and effective bass solo, with a distinct subject as accompaniment in the orchestra, like the Et in gunum Deum. A charming trio sun by Tamaro, Berge and Bacelli in a style which would have brought down the house at a concert, next followed. The finale of the Credo will bear comparison with any Italian work for brilliancy, dash and electric effect. The most remarkable features in the mass are the wonderful modulations and harmonies.
“Berge’s effective arrangement of the Adeste, in which a Wagnerian system of counterpoint is introduced, and in which each voice sings a variation on the subject, while the chorus gives out the air, was sung at the Offertory. The Sanctus and Agnus were from the works of Catalani. We have rarely heard the overture to ‘Stradella’ or the ‘Coronation March’ given with more vigor and effect. The phrasing and nuances were more distinctly marked, and the musicians seemed to throw their whole soul into the work. Eben’s orchestra was engaged for the occasion, and a select chorus from the Berge Choral Union assisted the soloists, Miss Teresa Werneke, soprano; Signor Tamaro, tenor, and Signor Bacelli, bass. Miss Werneke’s voice was noticeably effective in the soprano variation in the adeste [sic], reaching A and B in alt with ease and undiminished power.
“[Brief note on the pastor and sermon.] The church was crowded. At five o’clock P. M. Berge’s vespers were sung by the choir, with Lambiliotte’s Christmas Tantum Ergo, with solo obligato.”