Madrigal Concert

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Performance Forces:

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 May 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

26 Jan 1869, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Festa
Composer(s): Unknown composer
aka Hör mein Bitten, Herr, neige dich zu mir; Oh for the wings of a dove
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
aka They say I may marry the laird
Composer(s): Barnard
Text Author: Barnard
aka Dorothy
aka My mother bids me bind my hair
Composer(s): Haydn
aka Sweet honey sucking bees
Composer(s): Wilbye
aka Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone; Fair Phillis
Composer(s): Farmer
Composer(s): Bishop
Composer(s): Flemming
Composer(s): Callcott
Composer(s): Mozart
Composer(s): Haumann
Participants:  Mathilde Toedt
aka Fantasy caprice; Fantasia caprice
Composer(s): Vieuxtemps
Participants:  Mathilde Toedt


Announcement: New York Post, 09 January 1869.
Announcement: New-York Times, 11 January 1869, 5.
Announcement: New York Sun, 15 January 1869, 2.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 19 January 1869, 4.

“Miss Toedt will be there with her fiddle. We appreciate this young lady’s playing, but on such an occasion we fear she will be quite as much out of place as were one or two of the solos sung at the first concert.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 19 January 1869, 4.

“Miss Toedt will be there with her fiddle. We appreciate this young lady’s playing, but on such an occasion we fear she will be quite as much out of place as were one or two of the solos sung at the first concert.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 20 January 1869, 7.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 25 January 1869, 5.
Review: New York Herald, 27 January 1869, 8.

“The madrigal concert of last evening was one of the most delightful entertainments ever given in Steinway Hall. A large, brilliant and highly appreciative audience sat as if spellbound during the performances, and at the conclusion of each piece testified their approbation by repeated rounds of enthusiastic applause. The following were the gems of the programme [programme given] . . .   Miss Matilda E. Toedt—a charming and accomplished violinist—performed Hanman’s ‘Fantasie Brilliante’ and Vieuxtemps’ ‘Fantasie Caprice’ with marvelous skill.  First among the lady singers were Mrs. G. W. Brown, soprano; Mrs. Levi Muller, alto; Miss Hattie Loveridge, soprano; Mrs. E. C. Evstaphien, soprano; and Mrs. M. H. Johnston, alto.  The following gentlemen deserve special mention:—G.  G. Rockwood, tenor; G. F. Acker, bass; C. Hall, bass, and J. A. Johnson, tenor.”

Review: New York Post, 27 January 1869.

“The graceful ladies and courtly cavaliers who two or three hundred years ago breathed forth musical voices under the borrowed names of Phillis and Corrdon would have felt quite at home had they been able to visit, by the pale glimpses of the gaslight, Steinway Hall last night. Indeed, they would have heard their favorite glees and madrigals sung better, perhaps, than they ever did in their own times. As a general thing, these compositions were hardly intended for public performance, but were the agreeable pastime of the social circle. Every lady and gentleman was then expected to be sufficiently versed in music to take her or his part and read it at sight; but it is not probable that these amateur singers often, if ever, met together in such a numerous phalanx as that which delighted the audience at Steinway’s last night. The hall was crowded to overflowing, and the audience was both brilliant and enthusiastic. The favorite numbers were repeated from the programme of the first madrigal concert, and to these were added several new selections. Miss Toedt played well on the violin, and Mrs. Estephenieve sang ballads tastefully. It may be argued that these latter features were out of place in an entertainment of this character; but it should be remembered that this was not an ‘old folks’ concert,’ but only the performance by the best amateur musical talent in the city of such ancient music as they chose to select.

“The opinion was generally expressed last night that a subscription series of concerts of this order would form a very popular feature of our winter’s music, and might easily be made remunerative to those participating.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 27 January 1869, 8.

“The repetition last night at Steinway Hall of the glee and madrigal concert, given during the holiday week by a number of enthusiastic amateurs, was in all respects one of the pleasantest events of the musical season. Encouraged by the success of their previous venture, the chorus assembled in full force, and sang with boldness and spirit. The audience was a much larger one than the hall could comfortably accommodate, and was appreciative and enthusiastic. We have little doubt that another and still another repetition of the entertainment would be cordially welcomed. There is an indescribable charm in the elaborate simplicity of this old-timed music, with its quaint phrasing, its joyous, hearty spirit, its free, spontaneous melody, and its directness of sentiment, combined with a curiously ingenious involution of harmony. The genuine old madrigals, or part songs sung by chorus without accompaniment, were, with perhaps two exceptions, the best portions of last evening’s concert.  The most striking of those sung last month were repeated, including Morley’s ‘Now is the month of Maying,’ ‘Fair Phillis I Saw,’ Festa’s ‘Down in a Flow’ry Vale,’ and Ford’s ‘Since first I saw your face.’  Two or three new madrigals and several glees were added, and the solo songs were much improved. Of these last there were only four. Mrs. Evstaphieve sang two ballads very nicely, but they were entirely out of place. Mr. M. Hawley Johnstone gave that pretty old song of Haydn’s ‘My mother bids me bind my hair.’ Mr. Aiken sang with vigor and expression Dr. Calcott’s ‘The Soul’s Errand.’ We should be glad to know on what authority the programme-maker attributes the words of this song to Sir Walter Raleigh. Miss Toedt played two violin solos with taste and expression, but her performance was open to the same selection as that of Mrs. Evstaphieve; it was not in harmony with the general spirit of the entertainment. If we except the four madrigals we have already mentioned, the best vocal performances were Mendelsohn’s ‘Hear my prayer,’ from the LVth Psalm, and Flemming’s ‘Integer Vitae.’ The former was beautiful mainly by the intrinsic beauty of the music, the latter by the irreproachable delicacy and intelligence of the singing. The conductor was Dr. Brown, whose firmness and self possession contributed in a very important degree to the excellence of the performance. Mr. Connolly accompanied the glees and solo singing at the piano, and Mr. Edward Hoffman played for Miss Toedt.”

Review: New York Sun, 30 January 1869, 2.

“Such a concert as that given at Steinway Hall on Tuesday evening is a worthy contribution to true art. It was so appreciated by the great audience that filled the hall—such an audience as is drawn together by Mrs. Kemble’s readings and other rare occasions—made up from the number of those to whom the city owes what reputation it has for refinement, intelligence, and culture. For a brief hour we were permitted to forget the abominationof negro minstrelsy, the degrading of the French muse, the general depravity that has beset the popular music of the day, and were carried back to the simplicity, the nobelnessthe naturalness of the old English composers. It was like exchanging the vitiated, heated, gas-lit atmosphere of a crowded room for the freshness of a Junee day in the open woods. These madrigals were written in the poetic age of English literature, when Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher, scattered through their dramas the beautiful sonnets which have been made the text for so many of them, and to which they are so much akin in simplicity and charm. ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind,’ ‘Ye Spotted Snakes,’ and ‘Sigh no more, Ladies,’ and all the rest of the beautiful series which have been used by the old composers and wedded to fitting music. The men who wrote them were no journeymen, but thorough musicians, skilled in every resource of counterpoint, canon, imitation, and fugue, full also of delicate fancy and genial and happy inspiration. Their compositions are broad and simple; a child might catch their melody and appreciate their beauty, while a master would envy the exquisite skill and profound knowledge with which the parts are treated, balanced against each other, and fitted together to make the perfect whole. It is only at long intervals, once in perhaps four or five years, that we have an opportunity of hearing this music in New York, and then it is, as in the present case, the result most likely only of a happy accident. The chorus that gave these madrigals was brought together a few weeks since to give a concert in aid of a worthy musician, Mr. James A. Johnson. The concert proved so unequivocally good that the demand for a repetition was universal. In obedience to this demand the present concert was given. The names of all who assited were printed upon the pgroamme, with one notable exception, that of the person to whose unflagging energy, wise discretion, and skill the successs of it all was mainly due. We refer to Dr. Jas. L. Brown, the conductor—a gentleman who, like the late lamented Dr. Quin [sic], has gained a double eminence, adding to a name already distinguished in medicine the lighter but no less honored laurels of faithful son of art—not unmindful that while Apollo was god of medicine he was god of music also. To collect together sixty voices, to bring them into harmony, to make them sing difficult compositions with smoothness, unity, precision, and expression, and to accomplish all this in a few short rehearsals, is no light undertaking. That it should have been so admirably done as in this instance, is a fact deserving of the highest praise. The programme also showed a wise regard for the character of the occasion. The solo pieces sung by Mr. Aiken and Mrs. Eustaphieve were selected with becoming discretion and fitness, like the madrigals from the works of English composers; while that of Mrs. Johnson, though by Haydn, was kindred to them in feeling and treatment. The unity of purpose that marked the programme was broken only by the violin playing of Miss Matilda Toedt, and by a composition which, though it had least relation of all to the rest of the performance, was really the most meritotious work given during the evening. It was Mendelssohn’s noble music to a portion of the fifty-fifth psalm—a soprano solo and chorus. The psalm itself gives great scope for musical illustration. It is one of those supposed to have bbeen written by David at the time when he fled from Saul and took refuge in the mountains. Hunted from place to place in perpetual terror, his life became a burden to him, and his weariness found expression in the opening lines of the psalm. The verse that kindled by their own inspiration that of the great composer are these:

               ‘My heart is sore, pained with me, and the terrors of death  are fallen upon me.

‘Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror overwhelmes me. And I said, O for the wings of a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest.’

“On these phrases Mendelssohn has founded his noble hymn. It has always seemed to us to be one of the highest expressions of sustained religious emotion ever wrought and in a stage connected composition. The spirituality and devotional feeling of [line illeg] Pergolesi, and others at the early and pure Italian school; while in other respectes it excels them, since its composer, with equal depth of religious nature, had larger command  of the resources of his art. Every one can see what an opportunity for vivid contrast the verses afford to the musician. Throughout the composition the chorus forms a dark background, against which the soprano voice is brought out in high relief, independent of the chorus, and yet every phrase of feeling reflected there as in a darkened but magnifying mirror. The expression of anguish and despair and overwhelming terror so wonderfully rendered by Mendelssohn, and told in accents of tribulation by the soprano, is heightened and intensified by the dark, vague harmonies of the chorus, which goes shudderingthrough doubtful and discordant keys, darkly wandering, and vainly and hopelessly seeking peace. The suspense at last becomes painful and almost intolerable, an no way seems to open itself out of the universal gloom. At last the spell is broken, and the overburdened soul finds relief in supplication. Out of the darkness and unrest comes the pleading voice of entreaty: ‘O for the wings of a dove! For then I would fly away and be at rest.’ The musical phrase is so peaceful, gentle, and melodious after the stormy turbulence of the preceding movement, that the sense of relief is delightful. The transition of sentiment is managed with wonderful tact and dramatic force; and in the whole range of religious art there are confessedly but few finer examples of the exquisite adaptation of music to the illustration of the author’s thought than that here given. Who shall say that the inspiration of the musician was less direct and heavenly than that of the poet?

“As to the madrigals, it would be difficult to say which was best where all were so admirably selected. Each seemed best while it was being sung, and remained so until the next came to efface the sweet impression by another that seemed only sweeter because it was more recent.

“Between ‘Fair Phillis I Saw,’ by Morley, ‘The Silver Swan,’ by Orlando Gibbons, and ‘Sweet Honey-sucking Bees,’ by Wilbye, all composed in the reign of Elizabeth, there was almost no choice; each seemed perfect in its way. The words of ‘O by Rivers,’ were attributed in the programme to Shakespeare; but we think it would be difficult for Dr. Brown to find them there. The old madrigal is hummed by Evans in the ‘Merry Wives,’ but Shakespeare had no hand in it. The male-voice choruses were not very good. It takes a longer training than the conductor was able to give in this instance to induce an exuberant body of men to sing pianissimo. The nearest approach that this chorus made to it was a mezzoforte, and all the delicate shading, without which male-voice part-singing is nothing, needed looking after. Flemming’s ‘Integer Vitae’ is an easy composition to look at, but a most difficult one to sing as it should be sung. Finally, now that public demonstration has been made of the beauty of this old English music, why should not a Madrigal Society be formed here? Many exist in England. One especially has flourished for more than a century in unimpaired vigor. We have the singers among us. The reservoir of music from which to draw is almost inexhaustible. One or two concerts a winter would pay the entire expenses of the Society and leave a balance in the treasury. It only needs that some man of energy should give himself to the work, and this beautiful music may easily find a permanent home with us. Can it not be accomplished?”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 13 February 1869, 399-400.

“On Tuesday evening the ‘Madrigal Concert’ (which I mentioned in a preceding letter) was repeated with some slight changes in the programme.  The repetition, I am told, was equally as successful as the original entertainment.”