Beethoven Centennial Festival: Concert: 1st

Event Information

American Institute Coliseum

Carl Bergmann
Max Maretzek
Carl Rosa
Patrick S. Gilmore
James Pech
William F. Sherwin
Carl Zerrahn

Event Type:
Band, Choral, Opera, Orchestral

Record Information


Last Updated:
1 November 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

13 Jun 1870, 8:00 PM

Program Details

“Grand Inaugural Programme.”

Music in Gotham lists programs and performers based solely on the reviews, as most of the announcements and advertisements published in advance of the festival are riddled with errors. (The anonymous, overly ambitious, and disorganized management failed to deliver on its promises, a shortcoming heavily criticized in the reviews.)

The size of the orchestra varied from piece to piece, as indicated in the advertisements.

From New York Tribune review: “The famous aria from Samson, ‘Let the Bright Seraphim,’ was to have been given by Madame Parepa-Rosa, with the cornet obligato by Mr. Arbuckle of Boston, but it was omitted.”

For general press and reviews about the festival, see separate event entries of June 13, 1870. See also separate event entries between June 1, 1870 and June 17, 1870 for rehearsals (fourteen in total).

Performers and/or Works Performed

Conductor: Bergmann, Carl
Composer(s): Beethoven
Conductor: Sherwin, William F.
Composer(s): Ford
Conductor: Pech, James
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Conductor: Gilmore, Patrick S.
Composer(s): Flotow
Participants:  Gilmore's Band
Conductor: Rosa, Carl
Composer(s): Weber
aka Voices of spring; First day of spring
Conductor: Sherwin, William F.
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy


Advertisement: New York Herald, 10 June 1870, 9.

“The above programme, selected as the inaugural programme, presents all the conductors—the Great Choral Organization and the Great Orchestra—with a fitting Patriotic Finale.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 12 June 1870, 7.

“American Institute Coliseum…Situated on 3d-av., with five minutes’ walk of the Central Park, and covers the entire block between 63d and 64th sts. Methods of reaching it by all lines of City cars—9th, 8th, 7th, 6th avs. And Broadway connect with the belt line, which runs to the Coliseum. 3d and 2d ave. cars pass the doors at either end.” Lists program.

Announcement: New York Herald, 13 June 1870, 8.

“The Coliseum is now ready for its noble work, and the arrangements for performers and audience are complete. There is every reason to expect not only a grand, but also artistic celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the greatest musical genius that ever the world saw.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 13 June 1870, 4.

“It seems hardly necessary, after the space devoted to recording the preparations for the Beethoven Festival, to call for renewed attention to the first concert of the series to-night. Let us note, however, that the programme (printed yesterday) is an admirable one, and that the soloist—Mme. Parepa-Rosa—and the several conductors having charge of the immense orchestra and chorus, are altogether too well known for their talent and experience to allow of any doubts as to their fitness to interpret it. The Symphony in C Minor, we are requested to state, will be commenced punctually at 8 o’clock.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 June 1870, 7.

Multiple cards on this page related to the festival. “No more season seats or season admissions for sale. Sale of seats for THIS (Monday) EVENING are now on sale at [list of places, list of ticket prices].”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 June 1870, 7.

Directions for coaches that will drop off attendees that night.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 13 June 1870, 4.

“The mysteries of the great festival, about which so much has been said and so little has been known, are to be revealed to-night. We have no doubt there will be an immense attendance, and not much doubt that there will be a fine performance. With respect to the numbers concerned in it, our information is somewhat vague and not of necessity authentic, but we expect to hear at least 1,200 or 1,500 singers and 300 or 400 instruments. The Handel and Hadyn [sic] Society will not arrive until to-morrow. The opening piece to-night is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C minor—that grand composition in one movement of which he is said to convey the idea of ‘Fate knocking at the door’ The Philharmonic Society produced it last March, and Mr. Bergmann (who conducts it to-night) brough it out afterward in Brooklyn. In fact, it is familiar to all our resident players, and the 350 who are announced as composing the orchestra on this occasion ought to be capable of giving it very well. Next comes Rossini’s ‘Inflammatus,’ with Madame Parepa Rosa for the solo part, combined societies for the chorus, and Max Maretzek conducting. At the Boston Jubilee this was one of the most effective of all the miscellaneous selections, and the grand crescendo at the end, with the solo voice ringing so wonderfully above the mighty roar of the chorus, was literally sublime. A strong contrast to this piece will be afforded by the next on the list.

The New-Jersey Harmonic Society is to give Ford’s exquisite little madrigal ‘Since first I saw your face,’ unquestionably one of the finest in the whole collection of this quaint kind of music; and to follow it later in the evening with a lovely four-part song of Mendelssohn’s, called in the programme ‘Voice of Spring,’ but better known we believe as the ‘First Day of Spring.’ Both these selections are somewhat familiar. There is some conflict in the various announcements of the other pieces on the programme; but we add a few words about those which are not in doubt.

The second part is to be introduced by Mr. Carl Rosa with the ever fresh overture to ‘Oberon,’ performed, as they say, by 550 musicians. Parepa will give another of her great sensation pieces, the famous aria from Handel’s ‘Samson,’ ‘Let the Bright Seraphim,’ Mr. Arbuckle, the celebrated Boston virtuoso, playing the cornet obbligato. The Hallelujah chorus from ‘The Messiah,’ led by Dr. Pech, will call out the full strength of the singing societies; and, finally, Mr. P. S. Gilmore will bring on the grand patriotic crash with which in Boston he nearly eclipsed the glories of the Anvil Chorus. This is ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ given in the American Eagle’s very loudest and most impassioned style. All hands will be piped on deck for the chorus Parepa will take one or two verses solo; and at last will come in the full orchestra, the military bands, the peal of the organ, the rattle of the drum corps, and the fire of artillery. This will be a superb climax—and the wonderful thing about it is that over all that final din you will hear the trumpet voice of Parepa.

Here is an excellent programme, combining classical and popular features, and suited to a great variety of tastes. Lest in spite of so many attractions, any of the curious multitude should loiter in the highways, we are informed that the managers have placed a steam calliope outside, and if that don’t drive them in nothing will. As Daniel in the Lion’s Den sat up all night looking at the show without its costing him a cent, so 40,000 thrifty New-Englanders last year got the Boston Jubilee for nothing by standing in the streets outside the building. But managers can’t be fooled that way in New-York.”

Announcement: New York Post, 13 June 1870, 2.

“…All this morning the orchestral congress under Mr. Bergmann have been rehearsing at the Coliseum, and the united choruses, volunteer and professional, are there this afternoon.” Lists program.

Review: New York Post, 13 June 1870, 3.

Review of the morning’s activities at the Coliseum before the start of the performance. “‘The Coliseum,’ as the great skating rink on Third avenue, near Sixty-third street, is now called, had a look of very hasty preparation this morning. The third avenue approach displayed a common board fence, with an arched entrance.

Within doors all was confusion—a mixed multitude of carpenters, policemen, overseers and chorus-managers. On the left of the entrance is the common ‘saloon.’ On the right is that for ‘ladies and gentlemen.’ One can observe in the general tone of the place the effect of the great preponderance of the German element in that neighborhood. The outlook from the southern windows is over a dreary reach of open lots, full of rubbish and city cars.

At ten o’clock this morning carpenters were finishing the plain pine seats—that occupy all that part of the building lying inside of the starting point of the arches which support the roof. The low-roofed spices outside of the arches are as yet vacant, the settees which were to occupy this part being clustered at the rear ends.

The seats in the central part—the part near the orchestra being called ‘orchestra seats’—and the remainder ‘dress parterre’—are numbered 1A, 1B, and so on. A gallery has been created covering the space between the arches as one enters in front, for a distance of fifty feet. About a hundred policemen were spread in elegant case over the benches of this gallery, preserving excellent order—among themselves.

The steam organ that was displayed at the fair of the American Institute is still in its place by the front window. Lying on the floor of the gallery were the large pictures, prepared at a few days’ notice by Mr. Voegtlin, chief artist of Niblo’s. They will be set up on the rear wall; Mozart, represented as a colossal white statue on a reddish ground, immediately next to the organ on the left. Next on the left, Schubert, a large portrait in black coat; next Liszt, in the same guise. On the right of the organ will appear first Beethoven, a statue similar to Mozart; then Mendelssohn and Verdi, the same as Schubert and Liszt.

A young man of an acrobatic turn was perilously clambering overhead through the skeleton arches, suspending from them by ropes, at appropriate points, white signs, black lettered, with the names ‘Orchestra A,’ ‘Dress Parterre B,’ &c., to designate to the most confused and perturbed mind the seat that corresponds to that printed on his or her ticket.

Between every two arches is the coat of arms of one of the United States, draped with three flags gracefully hung upon gilt-pointed spears. Centrally on each side, at an elevation of ten feet, is a flag-draped private box each capable of seating some twenty persons. These are for the invited guests.

The seats for the singers slope up backward, from a point about fifty feet from the rear wall. A good-sized organ stands in a central position here.

A rehearsal was in progress this morning, with a full attendance of performers. Very noticeable was the preliminary tuning up of the hundreds of violins, viols, &c.

There was first chaotic whining and groaning, little removed from dumb, blank despair. Then arose an occasional clear prophetic voice of hope, on which came jarringly the [illeg.], gloomy, inconsolable groan of the hopeless basso. But the voice of hope came ever clearer and stronger, as the point of perfect tunefulness was neared.

At last came the angel of order and deliverance in the person of the orchestra leader. His first glance over the company, as he took his place, was the signal for a prolonged cry of hopeful preparation from all the tuneful ‘spirits in prison.’ Yet there was withal an under tone of doubt—doubtless attributable to the unbelieving bassos.

Then at the signal of the vivacious maestro, in wonderful unison, the prisoners told their mournful tale of suffering, oppression and degradation—told it in those pleading tones that run through the best German music.

But to return to the text—the hundreds of workmen were so badly and systematically engaged in arranging seats, placarding divisions and sub-divisions, hanging flags and arranging the thousand and one little odd details here and there that none but an experienced eye can deduct, and provide for, that the promise was fair that everything will be in complete order by five o’clock for the grand opening of the [illeg.] sight.”

Announcement: New York Post, 13 June 1870, 4.

Announcements regarding different singing societies leaving their respective hometowns for the Festival, including what times they departed.

Announcement: New York Sun, 13 June 1870, 2.

“The great Beethoven jubilee begins tonight. The majority of the singers have arrived. Several batteries of artillery have been drawn to the Rink, a hundred anvils have been secured, and it is said that the Hon. Andy Garvey’s big bell has been engaged. The preparations are complete; but we are sorry to learn that the managers of this musical earthquake have met with some difficulty in procuring men to beat the anvils. An effort has been made to engage among others fifty members of the old Fire Department, to pound the anvils during the singing of the Anvil Chorus. We hope this effort will prove successful. It would certainly add to the charm of the chorus to see such men as Zopher Mills, Ockershausen the sugar-house man, Judge Brennan, Emauel B. Hart, John S. Giles, Alderman Coman, ex-Alderman McGinness, and last and most potent of all, the noble Boss Tweed, Great Chieftain of glorious Big Six, all clad in red shirts and old-fashioned fire-hats, swinging immense sledge-hammers, and pounding out music for the million, with the thermometer at 96 degrees. Let the managers trot out these men at once, and the success of the festival will be doubly assured.”

In a different column on the same page: “…The artillery will be used this evening in the closing piece—the frequently-alluded-to Star Spangled Banner. The effect of artillery with music was found at Boston to be very good. It was not loud or stunning, as most persons expected, but really made the patriotic choruses very martial and inspiring. It is not a new idea—Handel himself made use of it.

One difficulty that we anticipate in regard to this festival is that of getting back and forth. The Third avenue cars are overcrowded at the best of times, and how will the ten thousand extra find room on them? Some special vehicles to run—say between Fourteenth street and the Coliseum for this week, would be a special blessing.”

Review: New York Herald, 14 June 1870, 7.

“THE BEETHOVEN JUBILEE. First Concert and Success of the Enterprise. The Audience and the Performers. The Great Composer Orchestrally and Chorally Honored.

Wonderful as was the energy displayed in completing the preliminary arrangements for the Beethoven festival, the success which attended the opening last night was far more surprising. Beyond question it was a grand musical triumph, and it is no exaggeration to say that the first programme was splendidly rendered and hailed with enthusiasm by an appreciative multitude. All things considered, no comparison can fairly be made between the Beethoven festival and the peace jubilee held in Boston. The former was gotten up with the most astonishing rapidity, and it would be unjust to the managers not to give them the greatest credit for the zeal, spirit and enterprise displayed by them in the gigantic undertaking. At Boston there was perfection itself; but it must be borne in mind that the time for preparation was long, and the most ample opportunity was afforded for the minutest details of the jubilee[.] Altogether the Beethoven festival was a splendid success, and clearly proved that musical triumphs in this city are not by any means impossibilities. And what a noble subject was the grand basis of the undertaking! How many composers of memorable works pale before the glorious name of Beethoven! Admittedly the greatest that the present century has produced, his memory will live in whatever part of the globe true music is appreciated. One hundred years ago he first saw the light. [Very brief biographical sketch of Beethoven.]

the appearance of the coliseum

was very impressive and looked to the best advantage. The lights burned brightly, and towards eight o’clock the crowds began to fill the building with great rapidity. Gradually the different societies took their respective places on the stage, and in a short space of time there was not a vacant seat on either side of the massive organ. And now the interior of the Coliseum presented a scene to be remembered, brilliant and imposing as it was. As the conductor appeared a long, continued round of approbation arose from all sides. A general feeling of anxiety prevailed. It was known that everything had been hurridly [sic] organized, and few anticipated the triumph that was at hand. The baton fell and a burst of harmony resounded through the building like the thundering roar of the tide washing high upon the beach. Soon the audience felt the thrill, and when the programme was fairly under way gratification was universally apparent. By the request of the several conductors the decorations throughout the entire building were very limited, owing to their interference with the harmony, but those displayed were unostentatious and appropriate. For the short space allowed for the completion of the details in connection with the interior of the Coliseum the managers deserve much commendation. As the evening advanced the audience increased, and at half-past eight o’clock over thirteen thousand persons were comfortably seated.

the stage

was crowded to the walls. In the centre [sic] was the organ, and on either side and extending to the extreme end of the stage were the different societies. The orchestra was composed as follows:—First violins, fifty-six; second violins, fifty-six; violas, thirty; celli, forty; bassi, forty; flauti, twelve; oboi, twelve; clarionetti, twelve; fagotti, eight; horns, sixteen; trumpets, six; trombones, eighteen; saxtuba, six; kettle drums, four, making altogether about three hundred and twenty-five performers. The grand chorus was composed of about two thousand five hundred persons. The balcony over the main entrance was particularly crowded, but the acoustic properties of the building generally were excellent.

the concert.

The programme was as follows:—[lists program with performers and conductors for each piece].

Bergmann was the conductor of the symphony and proved himself incapable of grasping larger masses than the one hundred instruments of the Philharmonic Society. Twice that number were under this baton last night in Beethoven’s charming work, but the effect was incommensurate with the material used. Passing over the first movement, which had sufficient allegro about it, but very little brio, we come to the delicious andante. What a querulous, complaining theme is chosen in this movement! There is nothing positive about it except its impatient utterances. It is semi tempo di Marcia, but a capricious spirit ever and anon leads the mind away to alternate complaints, threats, entreaties and tears, which crowd on the ear of the listener like importunate cries of obstinate petitioners. The wonderful pianissimo passages, in which the suppressed murmur of strings, reeds and brassese [sic] express a sort of wrestling in the spirit or an undertone argument which results in an unanimous outburst which makes the very soul swell with gladness and triumph, were completely inaudible to three-fourths of the audience. The solo parts should have been trebled or quadrupled, and then every one would have had a chance of hearing and appreciating them. The finale of this andante movement exhibits that grand characteristic of Beethoven. No matter how far his fancy may lead him into the regions of Fairyland, he never forgets where his starting point has been and he invariably returns to it. How those wonderful double bass passages tell in the commencement of the third movement! But last night they were utterly indistinct. Mr. Bergmann probably forgot the important part they play in this movement. They announce the theme with as much dignity and emphasis as ever did preacher his text. The finale is simplicity and grandeur itself, the march theme dropping now and then into unexpected little episodes, which are, however, never obtrusive. Here the acme of counterpoint is reached in which the one simple subject is colored, as if we gazed at it through a kaleidoscope. We hear the closing chords, as it were, of the movement, but suddenly an aboe [sic], clarionet, bassoon or violin, like a musical Jack o’ Lantern, leads us off into some delicious scene, where we are fanned by a string tremolo, breathed softly upon by a horn zephyr, or stirred to our inmost soul by a struggle in the basses. We blame the conductor particularly for the extreme weakness of the string staccati in this movement. The last part is full of earnest joy and childlike vivacity, but the nuances, which entrance every musician, never reached us in the auditorium. Next came that sublime work, the

‘inflammatus’ (stabat mater),

the grandest music that ever Rossini wrote. The glorious voice of Parepa-Rosa rang like the tone of a trumpet through the vast space, and clear above the chorus came out that high C, the climax of vocal power. The New Jersey Harmonic Society next sang a madrigal of Thomas Ford in a very commendable manner, but their voices were too weak to produce any effect. But the success of the concert was when, under

gilmore’s baton,

the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ with full chorus, orchestra and artillery accompaniment, supplemented by Madame Parepa-Rosa’s telling voice, was performed. No matter what prurient prudes in music may say about such a performance, as beneath the dignity of true music, we must certainly say that in point of effect it is indescribably soul inspiring. Dr. James Pech made Mendelssohn’s magnificent work,

‘thanks be to god,’

a feature of the performance. In spite of the difficulty of ever getting a large chorus to give the peculiar snap and unanimity required for this superb chorus we must say that last night it went much better than in Boston, when Zerrahn rushed like a musical Don Quixotte [sic] among the chorus, brandishing his baton as if it was the lance of a Crusader among the Saracens.

weber’s ‘oberon overture’

went like clockwork under Carl Rosa’s baton, and Gilmore’s unrivaled band performed the ‘Stradella Overture’ in a manner that would have caused Flotow himself to clap his hands or Bateman-like drum with his blackthorn on the floor in enthusiastic applause. The

‘hallelujah chorus’

was the truest, finest and most artistic rendering of a choral work that we have heard in this city. It was a genuine pæen of joy, and very different from the requiem style in which that burlesque of societies, the Harmonic, has given it to our public. On the whole, in recapitulation, we must say that the concert last night surprised everybody by the excellent manner in which everything was performed, considering the short time in which the affair was arranged. But to P. S. Gilmore, whose enthusiasm and spirit must be felt in every musical festival in which he takes part, much of the success last night was due.” Provides programs for the following day’s performances.

Review: New-York Times, 14 June 1870, 4.

Begins with quite a long biography of Beethoven.

“The Inauguration Yesterday.

The pecuniary and artistic success of the inaugural concert was complete. The Coliseum has already been described as being eminently fitted for the festival, and the scene it presented when lighted up, and almost filled by an audience of 12,000 persons, did not betray the most sanguine expectations of the advance visitors by day. About 1,500 of the spectators occupied the gallery constructed at the extremity of the Coliseum facing the stage, and the remainder of the assemblage tenanted the seats on the floor and the standing room on the sides of the structure. By mysterious but very satisfactory processes of ventilation, the temperature was most pleasant. No confusion whatever marked the entrance or the egress of the crowd.


The vast stage was wholly taken up with the choral masses and the instrumentalists. The latter included an admirable orchestra, 350 strong, and Gilmore’s Boston Band. The vocal aid in concerted pieces was supplied by the organizations, the names of which follow: Brooklyn Choral Union; Beethoven Choral Society; Brooklyn, E.D.; New-York Mendelssohn Union, [sic, switches from semicolons to commas] the Associated Choirs of New-York, Plainfield Harmonic Union, Waterbury Mendelssohn, New-Haven Harmonic Society, Bridgeport Choral Union, Bernardstone [sic] Choral Society, Springfield Mendelssohn Union, Hartford Beethoven Society, Worcester Choral Union and visiting chorus, New-Jersey Harmonic Society.


Beethoven’s contribution to the first concert of the Festival was his Fifth Symphony, in C minor. Viewed in the light of its perfect rendering yesterday, Hoffmann’s estimate of its worth and appreciation of its significance will not be unwelcome in print. ‘Of all Beethoven’s works,’ he thinks, ‘perhaps none displays in a higher degree the unity and proportion of his instrumental compositions. How this wondrous production carries the imagination with ever-increasing mystery and grandeur into the unknown spirit-world. Nothing can be simpler than the leading idea of the allegro which consists merely of two bars, and begins with a unisonal [sic] phrase, while the key in which it is written remains at first a mystery. Oppressed and harassed with forebodings of some dire catastrophe, it would seem to denote one venting his anguish in sharp cries; but soon a bright image appears and illuminates the gloom—the exquisite theme in G major, first indicated by the horn…’ [Quotes further at length.] The hand which penned these words is now in the dust, but the teachings of the mind that directed it are proving more and more fruitful, and to the delight of thousands.


After the showing of Beethoven’s contribution was ended, the rendering of the miscellaneous programme was commenced. This programme, albeit varied, was neither classical enough to outshine the purely classical bills proposed ere the close of the week, or so popular as to make one overlook the grand announcement for this afternoon. The single solo vocalist was Mme. Parepa-Rosa, who renewed the triumph she achieved in Boston, by the display of a voice unequaled in range, volume and quality, and used with an experience of the most tried order. The familiar ‘Inflammatus’ from Rossini’s ‘Stabat Mater,’ was Mme. Rosa’s first piece, and was given with so much fervor and power as to exact a call for a repeat as enthusiastic as the demonstration of welcome which marked the artist’s appearance on the platform. After the fresh rehearsal of the ‘Inflammatus’ the New-Jersey Harmonic Society, directed by Mr. W. F. Sherwin, sang Thomas Ford’s madrigal, ‘Since First I saw your Face,’ with sufficient precision and sentiment to justify the encore following. The subsequent piece afforded a most promising earnest of the excellence of the recitations of religious music during the Festival, the execution of the chorale ‘Thanks be to God’ from ‘Elijah,’ with Dr. James Pech at the conductor’s desk, and the full choral force bestowing its utmost significance on Mendelssohn’s music. The overture to ‘Stradella’ was next played by Gilmore’s Band, under the direction of Mr. P. S. Gilmore himself, whom an ovation of the most cheering character awaited, and no doubt gratified. The overture, embodying the well-known prayer, was given an effect so great as to create a call for a repeat, obedience to which brought to a brilliant termination the first part of the programme. In the second section the general opinion no doubt inclined to the impressiveness of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ The result, at all events, was most conclusive as to the quality of latent enthusiasm among the audience. Mme. Rosa sang grandly the three verses of the national song, the orchestra, organ and chorus joining with unisonal intentions, and the cannon lending its voice—sometimes, we are bound to say, at inappropriate moments—with unerring potency. The orchestra, now under the guidance of Mr. Carl Rosa, supplied as a sedative the ever fresh overture to ‘Oberon,’ and the New-Jersey Harmonic Society again pleased the lovers of part-songs with a performance of Mendelssohn’s ‘Voice of Spring.’ The Hallelujah Chorus from ‘The Messiah’ capped with becoming climax the first evening’s entertainment. The broad Coliseum was emptied of its contents without the slightest delay, and the doubting—a very numerous class on this occasion—probably had verbal proof from witnesses, a few hours later, that the initial concert had been, in all respects, successful.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 14 June 1870, 4.

“We must frankly confess at the outset that the first concert of the festival week last night, if it was not all that one might have desired, exceeded our expectations and held out fair promises for the remaining days. The transformed, enlarged, illuminated, and decorated Rink makes a very fair coliseum, pleasant to the eye and very well adapted for sound, and although it is only a quarter as big as the famous edifice in Boston, it was quite big enough to hold a tremendous audience, and afford ample room and verge enough for the largest chorus we are likely to collect. Its advertised capacity—22,000—is of course an absurd exaggeration, but we dare say it will contain 12,000 people beside the chorus and orchestra, and perhaps three-quarters or four-fifths of that number were present last night. The glories of the illuminated approach past a board fence lined with gorgeous posters and decorated with lanterns, under the glare of calcium lights and policemen, and between rows of sentries with red silk badges of office, we need not stop to describe. The interior is tastefully and rather simply adorned. Canvas coats of arms of the different States hang between the arches on either side. Stripes of patriotic bunting over the back, and against them are suspended portraits, not by the old masters, of various distinguished musicians to whose identity we decline to commit ourselves. But the true ornament of such a place, after all, must be the people who fill it. The chorus rise in banks of seats, forming three sides of a square. From the midst of the back row of singers rises the organ, an instrument which boasts of a fine front of gilt pipes, but is not remarkable for volume of voice. We dare say there were 1,500 or perhaps 2,000 singers in their places; we accept without any difficulty the announcement that 350 musicians played in the orchestra. The audience at the beginning of the concert looked emaciated. A dense fringe of the economical surrounded the body of the hall, but the reserved places were not half filled. After the first piece, however, everybody was allowed to go everywhere, and the seats immediately filled up.

The merit of the opening performance ought not to be gauged by the strictest rules of art. The New-York Jubilee to be sure has laid itself open to severer criticism than could properly be given to the great festival in Boston, first by its extravagant, not to say bombastic, pretensions; and next by the fact that its dimensions are such as to bring it fairly within the range of close critical judgment. When ten thousand men and women sing together in a room capable of holding 50,000, we know that the fine artistic effects must necessarily be lost, and we are well satisfied if the 10,000 only keep in tune and in time. The laws of acoustic sand other inevitable physical conditions forbid us to expect anything more. It is well established, however, that 2,000 or even 3,000 can sing together without the drawbacks which attend the performance of a larger chorus, and with proper voice sand proper training can accurately interpret the most delicate as well as the grandest of a composer’s conceptions. Though the number of voices in last night’s chorus was just about that from which the richest tones might have been produced, we must remember, however, that there has been little opportunity for rehearsal. The band is made up of a great number of societies, who have been drilled under different leaders, and never came together until yesterday or the day before. The whole festival has moreover been prepared in great haste, and as the haste was unavoidable it ought to dispose us to a lenient judgment. Moreover, we all know that on jubilee occasions of this kind the singers rarely do themselves justice the first day. In Boston the first day was far from satisfactory; the glory of the jubilee, such as it was, came later.

The programme of last night, as it finally stood after numerous changes, was as follows: [lists program].

The first of these pieces was undeniably a failure. Mr. Bergmann probably never conducted a symphony before with such an utterly pitiful result. We lay no blame upon him, for he is certainly the finest symphony leader in the country, but his 350 men evidently lacked in rehearsals, and the contrast between their performance and the rendering of the same work by Mr. Bergmann’s 100 players at a recent Philharmonic concert was decidedly painful. There was some noble music, however, in the second piece, where Madame Parepa-Rosa gave the ‘Inflammatus’ solo with magnificently telling effect, though the chorus hardly warmed to its work, and for its numbers was not very telling. The chorus from ‘Elijah’ is a very hard one for such a large body of singers to render, and went only pretty well; it was stronger than the ‘Inflammatus,’ but rather blurred and ragged. The madrigal and the part song by the New-Jersey Harmonic Society were both bad, decidedly bad. The execution was very crude, and the conception of the madrigal entirely at fault. The three perfectly satisfactory and inspiriting pieces of the evening were ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ the overture to ‘Oberon,’ and the overture to ‘Stradella.’ We warned our readers yesterday that the first of these would give them a full opportunity for the manifestation of their patriotism, and it was just as we said. The chorus was magnificent, the artillery, despite an inconvenient echo, had a fine effect, and far above the din of all rang Parepa’s voice with a power and sweetness that stirred the audience more than anything else in the course of the evening. People jumped from their seats, waved their hats and handkerchiefs, went as crazy in fact as the Jubilee crowd in Boston, and of course demanded it over again—and got it too. Mr. Gilmore conducted this piece with his usual electrical energy, and received a good share of the applause. He had already introduced himself to New-York with the overture to ‘Stradella,’ performed by his own band of 50 pieces, entirely reeds and brass, and had been greeted with most emphatic and (for New-York) unusual honors. He has the best military band we ever heard, and the overture was exquisite. Mr. Carl Rosa also had a welcoming round of applause when he came forward to conduct the ‘Oberon’ overture. This is a composition of so much delicacy that we were fully prepared for a failure in that large hall and with that large orchestra, but it was rendered to perfection. That and the ‘Stradella’ were the instrumental successes of the evening.

The famous aria from Samson, ‘Let the Bright Seraphim,’ was to have been given by Madame Parepa-Rosa, with the cornet obligato by Mr. Arbuckle of Boston, but it was omitted, and the concert closed with the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus, in the midst of which at least half of the audience took the opportunity to go out. It was excellently done, however—far better than any of the other choruses—and those who went away without hearing it made a great mistake.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 14 June 1870, 4.


Nobody knew how many somebodies were there. Gentlemen of wild and hurried aspect darted aft each other with irritating guesses of ‘1,500’ to ‘10,000,’ wilted but indomitable policemen observed with energy, ‘Ask the man at the door.’ The man at the door said he didn’t know nothin’ about it; whereupon the unassisted judgment concluded that there were 8,000 to 9,000 patriots present. The immense building, bare and ugly with its unpainted boards and rafters, gained much of freshness and gayety from the draping flags, and globes of light that perched everywhere, but it was bare and ugly nevertheless. Upon the hard, unpainted seats sat an uncomfortable but enthusiastic crowd, a black and brown, and occasionally pink and blue crowd; a crowd with Star-Spangled Banner written in its countenance and Hail Columbia scribbled all over it; an amiable crowd, a crowd of delectable expectation. James was there with his Jemima—he all tenderness and Star-Spangled Banner, she all gush and Hail Columbia. The musical gentleman who wasn’t asked to be conductor was there, slightly cynical, but still patriotic. Everybody was there, beamingly approbative of everything from Parepa to the cannon. Upon the stage sat the 3,000 performers, a pretty mass of color eddying around the great golden-piped organ. The orchestra grouped itself in front, seeming with uplifted bows and horns an assemblage of angrily persevering bees. Tier upon tier, at the back of the stage, rose the black-coated gentlemen of the chorus, while a feminine bloom of gayety perched itself beneath. All the young gentlemen were observed to be attentive in the matter of scores and fans, and all the young ladies looked pretty and patriotic as hard as they could. The crowd split [illeg.] and yelled over the large and lovely Parepa; but when Gilmore, the immortal Gilmore, Gilmore, the dapper and sprightly, in all the braveries of white kids and [illeg.] on end, darted to the front and twinkled his slender legs upon the conductor’s stand, it actually grew red in the face with Star-Spangled enthusiasm. And when he made a human baton of himself, and became during the singing of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ a wild conglomeration of white gloves, artillery, and [illeg., breath?]-lessness, everybody hey! hey’d! and roared and whistled as much from pure admiration of Gilmore the Immortal as to relieve their overflowing patriotism. And when, at its close, he struck an attitude a la Jullien, looking the picture of grace and exhaustion, what renewed applause incited him to another season of bang and breathlessness! ‘Splendid!’ said James to Jemimia, ‘but you ought to hear the Anvil Chorus! That is a noise, you’d better believe!’ One glowing soul remarked that it would have been perfectly contented had there been an oration, with [illeg.] for orator. Enthusiasm, white kids, and the Stars and Stripes rendered the evening an inexpressible joy to everybody (including Gilmore), and when the crowd, merrily careening forth from the Rink-Coliseum-Institute-Jubilee found half a dozen immature youths prancing about on a whirligig under the pensive gleams of a calcium, their happiness was complete. The Star-Spangled Banner and whirligigs! Calcium and Cannon! Beethoven wasn’t mentioned, but Gilmore was there. It might not have been the highest art, but it was thorough good humor that animated the [illeg.] crowd.”

Review: New York Post, 14 June 1870, 3.

“With the vast array of experienced conductors and accomplished artists engaged in the work of the Beethoven Centennial it would be next to impossible that it should fall short of success. In the bright lexicon of Gilmore, Bergmann, Rosa, Pech, Maretzek and Parepa, there is no such word as fail. The opening performance last night was then a happy prologue to an imperial theme. There were a few drawbacks that will not occur in the succeeding performances. The chorus singers were somewhat crowded, and in the necessary confusion all were not provided with books. There was all the nervous excitement inevitable on the inauguration of such an enterprise; and there were a number of singers present who had failed to attend the previous rehearsals. Yet, despite all this, everything passed off with wonderful smoothness and precision.

[Describes the appearance of the Coliseum with focus on lighting.]


Owing to the distance of the Coliseum from the abodes of human men, the audience was rather late in coming; and after the first piece showed a highly independent disregard of the rights of reserved seats, crowding in them in numbers. There was, however, no disorder during the evening, and the only confusion was that inseparable to the first night of such a prodigious undertaking. The programme, as performed, was as follows: [lists program].

Madame Parepa was also announced to sing Handel’s aria, ‘Let the bright Seraphim,’ with Mr. Arbuckel’s trumpet accompaniment, but this interesting number was omitted.


As the festival is emphatically a choral one, the choral music demands the first notice. The number of singers was immense, completely filling the stage, and including a few who had no right to be there. In this vast mass there was a timidity which will disappear on subsequent performances. The position was novel to most of them; and all precedents in this kind of enterprise show that choristers need familiarity with their location and with their conductors to do themselves full justice. Therefore, the mere body of tune was not as immense as might at first sight have been expected. But the precision was admirable. Not a voice of that vast company was heard at the wrong place. The only defect was probably in the attack by the basses in the first phrase of Mendelssohn’s ‘Thanks be to God,’ which is preceded by but one bar of orchestral accompaniment, and for which all the singers were not ready. When once fairly engaged in the chorus, the parts were taken up with vigor and well sustained to the end.

The Hallelujah chorus, with which the concert closed, was given better than ever before in this city, but the audience showed great disrespect by leaving before it was over, thus bringing infinite discredit on themselves, and seriously interfering with the good effect of the music. A noisy orchestral march should form the close of each programme, for orchestral players are accustomed to ‘playing people out.’

There was some superb chorus singing in the ‘Inflammatus,’ especially in that magnificent harmonic phrase near the close where the tenors take a high G.

The patriotic hymn ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ was so cut up with solo and chorus, and so interlarded with drums and cannon that it would be difficult to classify it musically. The effect was certainly very fine, and it aroused the audience to the highest pitch of enthusiasm. Of course, it was repeated and with still better effect—the discharges of artillery coming in with truer precision than the first time.


The only soloist of the occasion was Madame Parepa Rosa, who sang the ‘Inflammatus’ in superb style, her high C being clearly heard over the magnificent din of the orchestra and chorus. In the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ she was also effective, adding certain high notes to the music which made it more telling.

The favorite prima donna received most cordial applause. She was most elegantly dressed, and seemed in all respects to fill the arduous requirements of her position.


Beyond all question, the greatest popular success in the line of instrumental music was the superb interpretation by Gilmore’s band of the admired overture to ‘Stradella.’ The band is composed entirely of wind instruments, clarionets and piccolos taking the place of violins. The effect is clear, crisp, resonant and telling. No military band ever heard in this city approaches this of Gilmore’s. Flotow’s melodious overture never before won warmer applause or a heartier encore.

Artistically speaking it was not equal to the performance of the ‘Oberon’ overture, by the regular orchestra led by Mr. Carl Rosa. Weber’s masterly composition received a superb interpretation, though many of its finer points were lost in the vast size of the building. Mr. Bergmann must have shed bitter tears over the sad lack of attention manifested towards the performance of Beethoven’s C minor symphony, with which the programme opened. Certainly the great musician in whose nominal honor the Festival is given, should be treated more kindly by an audience, and should have a more prominent and more suitable place in the evening’s performance.


for leaving the Coliseum were very good. The Third Avenue company had a very large force of cars on hand, and though they were naturally crowded, there were enough to convey all the visitors away in safety.”

Review: New York Sun, 14 June 1870, 1.


Last evening the much-talked-of Musical Festival was begun in the Coliseum. There has been a great deal of doubt in the public mind as to what sort of an affair Mr. Grover was going to give us. A ‘monster concert’ was promised; but in the minds of the people at large it was thought that it would be a monster failure. The programmes were highly colored; there was a good deal of vermillion about them; everything was grand. It was the grand organ and grand chorus and grand orchestra at the grand Coliseum. The mind was appalled at the outset with the promised grandeur of the affair.

One thing that threatened disaster was the way in which our New York singing societies held back, considered, reconsidered, and flatly refused to take part.

It was not, therefore, without much misgiving that the audience assembled last evening at the inauguration of this festival. Whatever doubt there was, however, as to whether it would succeed was quickly dispelled. The performance both of chorus and orchestra was eminently good, and the general feeling on the part of those in attendance was that the result more than equalled [sic] expectation. There had been almost no opportunity for rehearsal, and yet the large chorus held firmly together even in the most difficult passages.

The building is admirably adapted for the purpose. Its acoustical qualities are very fine. The chorus seats were full, and the auditorium was nearly full. It is very difficult to state the numbers present in so large a gathering. Upon careful estimate, and allowing the most generous figures, we should say that in the entire house there were collected some nine thousand people. Of these, about sixteen hundred were the chorus, three hundred in the orchestra, including the military band, and some six or seven thousand in the audience.

A great assembly such as this, gathered under one roof, is of itself imposing. The very presence of so many of one’s fellow men is an element of excitement. When spirited music and the roar of cannon is added the popular pulse easily runs up to fever heat. It was so last evening. When Madame Parepa-Rosa, a queen who fitly finds her realm at such festivals, sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ with the accessories of chorus, orchestra, organ, and cannon, the audience rent the air with their cheers, and flaunted handkerchiefs, and behaved generally in a wild and irresponsible fashion.

Contrasted with the Boston Peace Jubilee, this present one is a very small affair. Neither in the size of the building, the strength of the orchestra, the power of the organ, the number of the chorus, the amount of preparations, or the general interest of those participating in it is there any comparison. And yet ours has this very decided advantage over that affair—it is more manageable. The difficulty about the Boston Jubilee was that it was too big. It was ponderous, colossal, unwieldy. Everything was too large, building and chorus and audience included. The limit of the best effects was very far overpassed. Here was more compactness and unity and precision, and even with poorer material, can produce better effects. There the orchestra tried symphonies, and they sounded confused and jumbled, and in some parts of the house were inaudible, but last evening the Beethoven C minor Symphony was well played. The reed parts were insufficient, and it was on too large a scale for the finest enjoyment, but still it was excellently given, so were the choruses; and to-day, with the assistance of the Handel and Haydn Society, we anticipated even better things. There were different conductors for every piece—a very dangerous way by the way of treating chorus and orchestra. Mr. Gilmore, on his appearance, was received with acclamation. Mr. Sherwin conducted the madrigals. He has taught his Society to sing Ford’s beautiful madrigal ‘Since first I saw your face,’ in an exceedingly disagreeable way. Making staccato passages where they should be sung legato, and drawing out rallentandos were [sic] none such are marked by the composer, and where the effect of putting them in is painful.

Much boasting has been done on behalf of the organ, but it has been entirely uncalled for, for the instrument is in no respect remarkable, except it be in falling so far short of what was promised for and expected from it in point of power.”