23 October 2021
“The second concert for the first season of the Church Music Association took place last night at Steinway Hall. An audience distinguished alike for numbers and fashion was in attendance, and, so far as this is to be esteemed an indication of success, nothing better could have been desired. The beauty of the ladies present and the splendor of their toilettes were themes of universal comment. Steinway Hall is so contrived as to exclude with unrivaled ingenuity and precision the atmospheric air. The consequence of this arrangement was enjoyed on the present occasion in full perfection. By 9 o’clock the hall was in a state such as gave a vivid idea of an exhausted receiver; and the flushed faces and stentorous breathing of the company unmistakably showed how much they enjoyed this provision for their comfort. We feel bound to confess that our attention was somewhat distracted by it from the choice musical banquet which was intended to be the evening’s principal feature. The performances were under the direction of James Pech, Mus. Doc., Oxon, and we are happy in all candor to congratulate Dr. Pech upon the industry with which the numbers were prepared and the éclat with which they passed off. Appended is the programme: [see above].
“Meyerbeer’s overture was finely rendered, and the incidental choruses did credit to the talent and assiduity of the ladies and gentlemen engaged, as well as to the thorough training of their eminent instructor. Praise is likewise due to the orchestra for a delicacy and accord that are rarely equaled, and which lent a finish and elegance to the performance that were very enjoyable. Haydn’s noble Mass received appreciative treatment, although exception might be taken to the handling of some parts. The same remarks are applicable to the Lobgesang. Both selections were, however, received with apparently unqualified delight by a public naturally disposed towards their friends who participated in them. The solo artists of the occasion were Mme. Salvotti, Mrs. Jenny Kempton, Mrs. Mixsell, Mr. William S. Leggat, Mr. W. J. Hill and Mr. Joseph Jewett, all of whom acquitted themselves to general satisfaction. Dr. James Pech and the Society have abundant reason to felicitate themselves on the prosperity that has attended their efforts in so excellent a cause, and we doubt not that the future will bear witness to their judicious selection of means by a happy consummation of ends.”
“This is an organization founded by some wealthy and liberal-minded lovers of music in this city for the purpose of giving a series of concerts in which the selections, both vocal and instrumental, should be of the highest order and the audience of an equal standard in point of respectability and fashion. In order to maintain these desirable ends the services of Dr. James Pech and Brown, the pillar of Grace Church, were enlisted in the service. The second concert of the season took place at Steinway Hall on Tuesday night. There was one orchestral piece, Meyerbeer’s lovely overture, ‘Le Pardon de Ploermel,’ which received all the justice it deserved at the hands of Dr. Pech’s well-trained body of instrumentalists. They seemed to be moved by a single spirit, and all the nuances of the charming work were brought out in faultless style. A well selected chorus, with Madame Salo[v]otti, Mrs. Mixsel, Mrs. Jenny Kempton, and Messrs. Leggatt, Hill, and Jewett for the solo parts, sang Haydn’s Mass, No. 16, and Mendelssohn’s ‘Hymn of Praise.’ The chorus showed evidence of long and thorough training, and were as faultless in accord as the orchestra. Both works have been frequently described in these columns. Therefore it is only necessary to say that the rendition of them on Tuesday night was marked with fewer blemishes than one might expect. The soloists, nearly all of whom are members of the Berge Choral Union, acquitted themselves satisfactorily.”
“(From Watson's Art Journal, New York, March 5.) The second concert of the first season the Church Music Association took place at Steinway Hall on Tuesday evening, March 1. Contrary to the expectations of many, who believed that the interest in this association would die out after the first concert, the attendance was much larger and still more brilliant on this occasion; and it was evidently esteemed as a society affair, in the success of which every one present was interested. An audience of such sterling worth, and of such high social standing, has not been gathered together within the walls of an opera house or concert-hall for many years past, and we accept this demonstration as an indication of the advance which music and musicians have made, in point of influence and social standing, in this community. We do not lay particular stress upon the mere wealth of those who originated and those who sustain the Church Music Association, for wealth is not necessarily allied to education and intelligence; but in this instance, the promoters of this association are found among the oldest and most influential families in the city—among those bred up amidst the luxuries and refinements of life, both mental and physical, whose tastes have been cultivated and matured by travel, and refined by habits of education and association, and who would naturally be the promoters and the fosterers of art in every department.
“That such an association should have sprung up from such a source, cannot but be a subject of solid satisfaction to all who have the interest of music earnestly at heart; for it is an admitted fact that where the intelligent and the wealthy evince an active interest on some subject, whatever it may be, the thousands recognize in it, at once, something worthy of especial consideration; something to be admired and cultivated; in short, something to be followed. Like superior apes, the instinct of imitation which prompts our first tottering footsteps clings to us through life, giving direction to our aspirations for the better or the worse, according to the circumstances of education or home surroundings. May we not hope, then, that the example afforded by the success of the Church Music Association will be followed in other directions? That in other classes of society similar societies will be established, less expensive in the details of their public performances, but having the same end in view; the promotion and the extension of a love and appreciation of the true and beautiful in music.
“What a rebuke to our existing choral societies is the career of this five-month-old Church Music Association! Green, inexperienced, practically entirely ignorant of the class of music they were called upon to perform they, the members, by their energy, earnestness, enthusiasm, and intelligence, and by their good faith in attending rehearsals and concerts, have accomplished more in their brief association life, than the others have achieved in ten or fifteen years. There is much, to be sure, in thorough breeding--blood and brain will tell. There is a great deal in having a conductor as earnest, enthusiastic, uncompromising, and as conscientious as Dr. James Pech has proved himself to be; still without good faith on the part of the society, his individual efforts, however strenuous, would have failed in achieving such a result as the performance of Tuesday evening presented. This result must have an influence upon society at large, and we do not think that we are over-sanguine in believing that the influence will be for good.
“The programme of the second concert comprised Meyerbeer’s overture to ‘Dinorah,’Haydn’s Sixteenth Mass, and Mendelssohn’s exquisite symphonic cantata ‘The Hymn of Praise.’
“The overture to ‘Dinorah’ is very difficult to play, from its fragmentary character and the constant changes in the tempo; in addition to which the violin passages, though practicable, are excessively awkward and crabbed. Very delicate and sure manipulation is required in the execution; less than great excellence would produce the most terrible discord. Though with but two rehearsals, this work was rendered admirably. A little roughness was observable here and there, but in promptness of attack, general delicacy, and nice attention to light and shade, it was a performance of great excellence. The chorus, which bears an important part in the overture, commenced with some uncertainty of intonation, but it speedily recovered itself, and sustained its part well. The voices are admirably balanced, and the freshness and purity of their quality and their fine graduations in power, render[ed] the performance both effective and impressive. It was a brilliant opening to a very successful concert.
“Haydn’s Sixteenth Mass, though less showy and popular then Mozart’s Twelfth, is a work of rare beauty, and in feeling is far more in keeping with the text. The religious sentiment is more predominant, and the aim seems to have been rather to preserve the pure devotional element, than to produce scientific music, as indicated by elaborate fugues, &c. Its chief charms are its spontaneity and its earnest utterance of a devotional spirit. The choruses are more difficult to execute than their lack of pretension would seem to indicate; they require great delicacy of utterance, promptness of attack, and decision in taking up points, frequently occurring upon difficult intervals, These requisites, in almost every case, were fulfilled by the association, only one or two instances of a momentary hesitancy occurring during the whole Mass. The soprani and tenori were particularly effective in each number of the Mass, not from their predominance, but from the rare purity of the quality of tone produced. When they came out in their power, the body of tone was beautiful in the extreme. Among the movements the ‘Kyrie Eleison,’ a portion of the ‘Gloria in Excelsis,’ ‘Laudamus te,’ and the fugue, ‘Et Vitam Venturi,’ were specially admirable in point of clear, vigorous and effective execution.
“The solo parts were sustained by Mme. Salvotti, who has a voice of rare beauty throughout the whole scale, excepting when she forces the lower tones, when they become hollow and disagreeable; Mrs. Jenny Kempton, Mr. William S. Leggatt, and Mr. Joseph Jewett. While we are compelled to observe that, as a whole, the solo singing was not on an equality with the choral and instrumental department, still some of the movements were admirably sung. We might instance the ‘Kyrie,’ the ‘Quoniam Tu Solus,’ the ‘Et Incarnatus est,’ and the ‘Benedictus,’ as the movements most successfully executed. The whole would probably have been more successful, had the position of the singers been more favorable; as it was, the quartet was separated, and could not see the conductor. Under such circumstances, a perfect rapport could hardly be expected, more especially as in several movements the solo parts are so catchily interwoven with the choral parts.
“The original score of this Mass is exceedingly meagre, and needed to be filled in, to give proper balance to the orchestra. This delicate task was undertaken by Dr. Pech, and was very ably accomplished. Haydn’s instrumentation was strictly preserved, Dr. Pech simply adding the necessary wood and brass wind instruments to give richness, shading and coloring to the beautiful outlines. He effected this in masterly manner, and with so nice an appreciation of the original, that we believe Haydn himself would have approved of the traditions.
“Mendelssohn’s immortal ‘Hymn of Praise’ formed the second part of the concert, and it is to be regretted that, from the length of the programme, some portions of that exquisite work were necessarily omitted, and the regret was more keenly felt from the fact, that that which was given was so admirably performed. Of the symphonic movement the third number—the adagio religioso—was omitted, but the other two movements were superbly played, The first, maestoso allegro, presented no points for criticism; it was read in the true spirit of the author and was executed without a blemish. The second movement, allegretto un poco agitato, was taken, almost for the first time in this city, since its first performance, twenty years ago, in the right time. It is usually taken too fast, which robs the subject of its pathos, and the episodical chorale of its dignity. On this occasion both had their due weight, and with the exception of a want of sufficient emphasis in the delivery of the theme, the whole movement was exquisitely interpreted. It was a tone poem, as eloquent in its expression as any passage delivered by an inspired orator. It was loudly applauded, and the general sentiment was a desire for its repetition.
“The difficult opening chorus and the still more difficult final chorus, were sung with admirable promptness, force, and vigor. There was no feeling the way, and bursting forth when confident; but the points were up taken upon the beat, with boldness of attack and solidity of tone. After the first chorus, we felt no anxiety for the rest; it was evident that every faculty of the singers was intent upon the work, and that the conductor had got them thoroughly in his hand—that they were mutually reliant. The result justified our faith, for no hesitation or wavering was observable from the first to the last. We have rarely heard finer shading or more delicate singing than in the beautiful chorus, ‘All ye that cried unto the Lord,’ and the chorus to the duet, ’I Waited for the Lord.’ They were rendered to perfection. The conductor gave the true reading to the chorus, ‘All ye that cried,’ which is usually taken too slow, and to the air, ‘Sing ye praises,’ which is always taken too fast, and by so doing secured a fine artistic contrast. These tempi will be disputed by some, but to our mind they are clearly indicated by the character of the music, and they are certainly justified by the result.
“The calm beauty of this music is not suited to the style of Mrs. Mixsell, neither is its simplicity calculated to display her voice to advantage. She, however, attacked it with earnestness, and evidenced a desire to do it justice. In the exquisite duet ‘I waited for the Lord,’ the voices of Mrs. Mixsell and Mme. Salvotti by no means harmonized, but the work was sung correctly.
“The instrumental accompaniments, so full of grandeur, and abounding with countless points of beauty, were finely executed. The orchestra was, in truth, a splendid one, and followed the conductor’s thought as with one impulse. Too much praise cannot be awarded them. Chorally and orchestrally the concert was a marked and brilliant success, and we doubt if there is another man in the country who, like Dr. Peck, could, on the one hand, wield the comparatively raw vocal material, and, on the other hand, control the splendid orchestral resources, with two rehearsals, with so truly admirable a result. He has proved himself master of the situation, and has vindicated his claim to the position we awarded him from the first, as one of the ablest conductors in America.” [Reprinted in Dwight’s Journal of Music, 03/12/70, p. 208-09]
“The second concert of this newly organized musical association was given on Tuesday evening. Socially speaking it was unqualified and brilliant in its success. Musically considered it was interesting and enjoyable, though imperfect in almost all its details. And this we say without the least desire to disparage, for as every one knows who has any musical experience, a good chorus is not a thing that can be gathered together on a day’s notice, but is the result of long drilling and much patient labor on the part of conductor and singers. Dr, Pech has the elements of an admirable choral force, and if they will work and pay more attention to his beat and less to their books, and if the incompetent members, of whom we speak advisedly when we say there are many, are sternly weeded out, there may yet be a chorus of which New York may be proud. The basses seemed weak in numbers, and in power—their voices lacked resonance, especially in the passages for basses alone. Some of them also constantly waited for others to begin, and in this way the points were not attacked vigorously. This was true, indeed, of the whole chorus. The short notes, too, were not usually sung short enough, but semiquavers were dragged out to quavers, and a blurred effect thus given to the singing. What was lacking was boldness and promptitude in taking up the parts, courage to sing out, a more careful attention to the rests and the length of the notes, and an implicit following of the beat. If the members of the Church Music Association flatter themselves that they have resolved themselves at once into a chorus that is really of a high order of merit, they are thoroughly mistaken; but they certainly have it in their power to do noble work. There is, however, no royal road to that result but a constant drilling that will test their utmost patience. They have already greatly improved. So has their leader, Dr. Pech. A great deal of his extravagance of action was left off; the red box in which he had encased himself at the first concert was happily done away with; and although he still found it necessary very often to beat the time audibly upon his music stand, yet on the whole there was much more ease and calmness on his part than on the former occasion, and consequently more steadiness on the part of his singers. For nothing flusters a chorus so much as a flustered, nervous, and demonstrative leader, and nothing gives it so much confidence as a composed one. The machinery of leadership ought to be kept out of sight as much as possible. If the chorus could only sing without any conductor, the effect would be immeasurably better, but since it must needs be that conductors shall distract the eye, while the ear is the only organ that should be addressed, let them at least do it as little and as quietly as possible. Dr. Pech’s prefatory comments on the programme upon Meyerbeer’s Dinorah overture, Haydn’s Sixteenth Mass and Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise, which were the pieces performed, were in excellent taste, instructive, temperate, wise and just, and doubtless added much to the pleasure with which those to whom the works were new listened to them. The Mass was much better sung than the Hymn of Praise. In fact in the latter, the singing of the well-known and supremely beautiful duet and chorus, ’I waited for the Lord,’ was not only bad but positively painful; the chorus was all astray. It was evident that the rehearsals had been too few to enable them to master the work laid out for them. Some of the solo singing was very good. Mrs. Davison whose name was on the programme, did not appear. Mme. Salvotti, a lady of whom we hope to hear more in the concert room, sang exceedingly well, in a sweet, clear, round and sympathetic voice, and with excellent method. The efforts of Mr. Leggart, Mr. W. J. Hill, and Mr. Jewett were also artistic and praiseworthy. The audience complied almost unanimously with the suggestion of ‘evening dress,’ printed on the tickets, and the consequence was that Steinway Hall shone more resplendent than ever a hall or theatre did in this city at any public concert. The next concert is to be given on the 18th of May. The easier of Beethoven’s masses, that in C, is to be performed, and also the second part of Oberon. Mr. Pech makes his programmes too long. He was obliged to cut nearly half of the Hymn of Praise at this last concert. And his audience, otherwise well-behaved, have a most impolite and vicious habit of walking out in great numbers during the performance of the latter part of the programme. By so doing they selfishly mar the pleasure of all who remain to the end.” [Reprinted, DJM 03/12/70, p. 208]