Beethoven Centennial Festival: Dwight's Journal of Music: General Advertisements, Announcements, Reviews, and Articles

Event Information

American Institute Coliseum

Carl Bergmann
Max Maretzek
George [tenor] Weeks
Carl Rosa
Patrick S. Gilmore
James Pech
William F. Sherwin
Carl Zerrahn

Performance Forces:
Instrumental, Vocal

Record Information


Last Updated:
1 November 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

13 Jun 1870

Program Details

General advertisements, announcements, articles, and reviews published in the Dwight's Journal of Music for the Beethoven Centennial Festival, a jubilee of eleven concerts beginning on June 13, 1870 (see separate event entries for concerts).

Performers and/or Works Performed


Article: Dwight's Journal of Music, 18 June 1870, 260.

How they do Honor to Beethoven in New York. The following, in all the newspapers, is worth preservation as a curiosity: [reproduces programmes for each night as advertised in most papers].” The magazine seems to try to tacitly make the point that there is hardly any Beethoven programmed.

Article: Dwight's Journal of Music, 18 June 1870, 262.

“This is ‘Jubilee’ season; and music having run its quiet, modest course in the usual way of Art, this summer month so far is given over to the noisy echoes, here and there, of last year’s great Peace Jubilee, Monster Concerts, Choral Festivals, Beethoven Centennial Celebration in New York (with Gilmore guns and anvils, Verdi Miserere, steam Calliope, and all the modern improvements which may be supposed to interest the great composer who had grown already deaf to his own music,—of which, however, one whole Symphony and extracts from others are included in the programme, to make it clear that this great splurge has anything to do with Beethoven!). The New York affair, we suppose, will be over by the time this appears; and we may then gather up the elements of some right impression of it after the smoke and dog-day heat and flurry have been cleared away. Meanwhile we copy on another page the ingeniously grandiloquent and swelling Programme of the week, which doubtless has been modified in some particulars We wonder if the words ‘Grand,’ ‘Complete Combined Grand,’ ‘Grand-Popular-Classical-Patriotic-National,’ &c. were ever reiterated so many times in one bill of fare! Such incense must be most acceptable to Beethoven, as well as such an array of Conductors representing widely separate spheres of music, and of Italian, German, English opera singers, good, bad and indifferent, all so distinguished for their deep sympathy with the spirit of Beethoven and high German Art!

But the explanation of it is, that the same restless, enterprising class of spirits who got up the Boston Jubilee, exists also in New York and in all the great commercial cities, always eager to be doing things on a stupendous scale; and they must needs imitate [sic], if possible surpass (which they will not do), the great example of a year ago. The Centennial year of Beethoven is only seized upon to give it color, and just enough of his music introduced to save appearances. The fact that this festival is not given at the season of the master’s birthday (December 17), is no fair ground of criticism; the celebrations in many of the German cities, even in his own Vienna, are announced for various weeks during the summer and autumn. For it is quite significant, perhaps even more so, to make a centennial year of it, letting the chorus of the world’s debt to the great Musician echo from land to land throughout the summer. Besides, the summer season is the most convenient for great gatherings; then distinguished artists are the most available. Doubtless all this will not prevent a great many less pretentious, more sincere and genuine musical commemorations on the actual centennial birthday next December.—The New York festival will be neither all bad, nor all good. In spite of much display of vanity and mutually jostling egotisms, there will be some fine manifestations of high, noble Art. The performance of Elijah by our Handel and Haydn Society, all armed and eager for the fray, can hardly fail to be a redeeming feature; for doubtless we shall hear that they have done their best, and under favorable conditions, as to solo artists, and especially the orchestral accompaniment. The giving of whole works—three Oratorios—is, so far, the taking of a higher ground than that of last year’s Jubilee,—of course only possible within more limited dimensions. And the great orchestra New York can furnish, with Carl Bergmann for Conductor, promises well for Symphony and Overture; while as to solo singing, is not Parepa in herself a host?”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 02 July 1870, 269.

“The So-Called Beethoven Centennial Festival.

(From the Nation, June 23.)

‘And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,

The trumpet to the cannoneer without,

The cannons to the heavens, heavens to earth.’

At last we, too, have had our jubilee. Now that the star-spangled banner [sic] has been furled and the smoke of the last cannon has been blown away, let us for a moment survey the field and see what it has profited us. Altogether it has been a very odd jubilee. If the true history of its tribulations, disasters, successes, strikes, broken promises, large expenditures, and small returns is ever written, it will be a most suggestive chapter for all future projectors of monster festivals to ponder over. Perhaps the most singular feature of this singular affair is that nobody seems to have known whose festival it was. Mr. Gilmore was the father of the Boston jubilee, and all his choral children knew him; but who fathers this one, and who were its sponsors? Beethoven’s name is the only one that has been prominently put forward. Alas, poor composer! He hated monster festivals, and fled from them as scenes of discord utterly apart from all true purposes of art. Now that he is dead it is hard to make him responsible for what he so disliked while living. His name has been taken for the sake of the few dollars that it was hoped might be coined from it; but even as Beethoven was poor and thriftless in life, so his shade has brought no gold to the pockets of the speculators.

The idea of having a festival in this city in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of Beethoven’s birth was first taken into consideration last December by a number of gentlemen of means and musical taste. Mr. Bryant was their president. They had various committees, the musical committee consisting of ten gentlemen of highest standing. Mr. Mould and Mr. Vaux designed a magnificent building, to cost some three hundred thousand dollars, and to be erected in Central Park. Sir Michael Costa was to be brought over from England to conduct. All the great living composers were to be asked to write something for the occasion. Every resource of art was to be taxed to make the affair one that should bring credit upon the city. But the trouble arose as to the question of authority on the part of the Commissioners of the Central Park to permit the erection of a building to which an admission fee was to be charged. It was found that the Legislature would have to be applied to for a special act. Then came the old political bugbear, and the thing was at an end. Unless they could have the Central Park the committee would have nothing, and as this was found impracticable, the gentlemen of the committee quietly lit their cigars with the plans and specifications of their Coliseum and went to their several homes. So ended in smoke the first plan for the jubilee.

Then came the Great Unknown, and filled the papers with flaming advertisements of the mighty things that he was to bring to pass. Among other impossibilities, he announced that Handel’s ‘Oratorio of the Creation’ would be performed—a piece of intelligence that must have made old Haydn turn over in his grave. However, if he had only heard how dreadfully at least it was performed, his perturbed spirit would have been quieted, and he would have been very willing to have had it accredited to Handel or to anybody else. The advertisements were full of the most monstrous promises, artfully designed to gull a confiding public. A supernaturally large chorus of miraculously gifted singers, gathered from every quarter of the globe, accompanied by a prodigious orchestra of the most eminent living artists, assisted by an organ of titanic size, whose tons should outpeal [sic] the thunder, were to sing all the greatest compositions of all the most famous composers, in a style that should appall the universe, while the clash of innumerable anvils, beaten by arms of herculean strength, and the roar of mammoth cannon, fired by the very lightning itself, should shake the round earth to its centre [sic], and cause it to quiver in sympathy with a shuddering, awe-stricken, but entranced, audience, more brilliant than the stars of heaven and more numerous than the sands of the sea.

We have condensed the programme a great deal, but we have hardly burlesqued it, and any one [sic] who read the earlier announcements will bear us witness that nothing could very much surpass their ridiculous and pretentious bombast. The managers of the affair certainly did bestir themselves to gather together all the people, good, bad and indifferent, from Parepa and Kellogg and the Handel and Haydn Society down to the man who was hired to play the steam calliope. Thanks be to Apollo, however, that dreadful engine was not used at last, for there was no steam. An army of conductors was enlisted in the affair—Bergmann, Zerrahn, Rosa, Maretzek, Gilmore, Pech, Sherwin, and others—enough to demoralize the best orchestra that ever played. As well have put the baton into the hands of Braireus at once.

Then the chorus was the queerest mixture of country choirs in for frolic, singing societies from little villages that no one ever heard of before, members of city choirs who came once to satisfy curiosity, and, strangest of all, the conservative old Boston Handel and Haydn Society. How these latter ever came to co-operate is a mystery to every one [sic], and most of all to themselves. It became, before the end, not only matter of mystery, but also of repentance. The innermost reason was, probably, that many of the members thought this was a capital chance to come on to New York, and stay for a week in the big city free of expense. Such is the nature of the thrifty New England minstrels. They came, but, if the reports that were written back to the Boston papers can be relied upon, they were not over-happy when they arrived. Those papers were quite a Book of Lamentations. It was a miserere chorus from these poor Trovatores, far more affecting than that of Verdi. Manrico and Leonora had their little hardships, but, at all events, they were never called upon to sleep ten in a room at the Park Avenue Hotel.

The society was further displeased because the ‘Elijah’ night was altered from Wednesday to Thursday without consultation with the society, also, because they were only permitted to sing a portion of that oratorio, after all; also, because they were requested to sing in the ‘Anvil Chorus.’ But the hardest to endure of all their woes was the leadership of Dr. Pech in the ‘Creation.’ This seems to have met with the unanimous and unqualified condemnation of the society. They certainly were not in a pleasant frame of mind.

But they were by no means the only discontented ones. The chorus benches thinned out after the first day, until a great deal more pine-board than broadcloth and muslin was visible. The orchestra, too, shrank down from its fine proportions of the first night to miserably small dimensions. The best players went away. Behind the stage and in the chorus and orchestra rooms all was disorganization. The programmes were made out without proper consultation with those who were to take part, and were very seldom adhered to. No special seats were assigned to the different societies. The chorus came and went as it felt inclined; it shifted like a musical quicksand. The rehearsals were slenderly attended, and general confusion prevailed. Of course, the Italian combined chorus selected this state of affairs as the proper moment for indulging in a strike for pay.

The audience was of the same shifting character with the chorus. The house was never really filled. Even at the most popular of the performances, which were those where there was most noise, long benches were vacant all about the edifice. The scale of prices had to be lowered. It was found that few were willing to pay the exorbitant sum at first demanded. As the expense of the undertaking had been very great, the loss was corresponding. The affair dragged along in this way through the week. On some days the attendance was quite large; on others it dwindled to a handful. Reviewing the whole matter, we cannot consider it other than a failure. Those who took part in it certainly so regarded it, and the public never seem to have given its confidence to the undertaking. There was an immense deal of hard, zealous work done by those in charge of the festival. They paid their money with a most liberal hand to get the best aid in their power, and certainly there was some good music given. The Handel and Haydn Society sang the ‘Elijah’ music most nobly. Parepa was splendidly good, and there were some other excellent features in the affair. The building was a peculiarly good one. It reached, we believe, the proper limit of size for the purpose. The Boston Coliseum was much too large; in this one, however, the acoustic properties were well-nigh perfect. But art has gained nothing by this festival, and no one has heard anything that he could not have heard to better advantage at a dozen concerts, during the winter, at Steinway Hall or the Academy of Music.

The drawbacks to success were principally these: The affair had no competent musical head; it was too hastily prepared; there was not sufficient money to carry it properly on—a vital want; it never had the confidence of chorus, orchestra, or public; the chorus was a helter-skelter, untrained, and crude body of singers, without proper rehearsal, organization, or discipline; the orchestra was of much the same character, and was badly balanced, being deficient in the reed instruments, and in all those elements for producing broad effects of which Berlioz has written so explicitly. Many of the singers sat facing each other and with profile towards the audience, instead of facing in the direction in which the sound was to go; their efforts neutralized each other, and half their force went for nothing. The organ was a feeble fraud; it filled up the space that should have been devoted to the chorus. There were no brains in the affair; it followed humbly along in the old Gilmore rut, without a single new or original idea of value. These certainly are sufficient reasons why the affair was not a success. It was a mushroom festival. It grew up in a day, and will be forgotten as quickly.

Let no one suppose, however, from the ill success that has attended this, that the future has nothing better in store. At some later day, not, we trust, too far distant, under some leader of genius, and with time sufficient for preparations, and money sufficient to provide the proper material, a musical festival may be given, with legitimate musical effects, such as Gilmore with his clap-trap anvils and blatant artillery practice has never dreamed of. When this occasion comes, the public will not be slow to lend it a hearty support.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 02 July 1870, 270.
“New York Jubilee.
If we are late in our report of this bombastical occasion, there is little lost. Most letters, they say, answer themselves, if one will only wait a little. So of this ‘Beethoven’ Festival, had we been, like the newspapers, in haste to write and talk about it, what waste of words it would have been upon a worthless subject! As it is, it has reported itself, confessedly a farce, a sham. The less said of it the better. For in truth it was in no sense one of Art’s occasions. What has Art to do with guns and anvils? What has Music in the sense of Beethoven to do with Verdi Misereres, ‘triple Nanices and five-barrelled Plunkets,’ and the magnified tom-fooleries of Gilmore?
We did enough, we think, in copying the swelling programme of the week. That showed the nature and complexion of the whole affair, how utterly without artistic motive, how governed and pervaded by mere mercenary speculation, aided by the spread-eagle kind of passion for excitement and ambition for display before great multitudes. If the ‘Peace Jubilee’ bore incidentally, as all large movements must, some good fruits, this was one of its logical, legitimate bad fruits. It was musical demoralization appealing to its own proper audience. By all the accounts, it seems, that the audiences, with one exception, were made up of the class who go for noise and Gilmore’s anvils; and so the presence of that irrepressible sensation organizer is uniformly credited with whatever modicum of success the whole thing met with. And still it was a failure, even in a money point of view; which is so far creditable to New York. For it is absurd to hold a city accountable for whatever folly foolish people may contrive in it. Nor could we look upon the constant flings made at it in our Boston papers, treating it like a ridiculous rival of the Boston Jubilee, as better than childish. It was no question of New York or Boston. It was simply a question of Art or charlatanry. Either city has its real music lovers who cherish Art for Art’s sake; and either city has its restless disturbers of the calm, pure sphere of Art by loud, ambitious, egotistic enterprises on a ‘stunning’ scale. The hope is that this kind of enterprise, eager to do bigger and bigger things, will erelong exhaust itself by the very magnitude of its gigantic operations; just as we hope that War will render itself impossible at last by the absolute destructiveness of the weapons it invents.
There was, as we predicted, one redeeming feature in this Festival; the singing of ‘Elijah’ by our Handel and Haydn Society. That drew the one cultivated audience of the week; and had they been allowed to sing the whole of the Oratorio, it would have been more acceptable than guns and Misereres. We rejoice in the artistic triumph of our old Society, although we do not think that they consulted their own artistic dignity quite sensitively enough, in being willing to lend themselves to a Festival with such a programme, or at least such clear forshadowing [sic] of very heterogeneous and questionable elements. More and more we feel, in all such matters, the responsibility which rests on artists; the artistic morale cannot guard itself too jealously; in these days, both through the aimable desire of popularity and love of money, artistic self-respect is tempted to compromise itself by far too readily. We wish we might oftener see in musical journals and criticisms such plain, honest truth told, as we find here in an editorial of the New York Weekly Review.
[The following quoted material is in a smaller font.] [‘]The conclusion of this huge farce was worthy of its beginning. It started under false pretences [sic], and it ended with the same colors, The whole thing was less a disgrace to New York than to those who participated in it. Schiller justly says: “Whenever art fails, it fails through the artist.” If the artists of New York had not given aid to this undertaking this charge could not in this instance have been made. If they had first inquired about the character of the speculation before lending their help, it is likely they would have abstained; at least we hope so, although it seems that the chief consideration with most artists is to make as much money as possible. There may be some excuse for this with some poor fellows, who would rather give up their scruples as artists than starve. But there is no excuse for those renowned and wealthy representatives of musical art, who chose to lend their talent and experience to an undertaking which, on its very face, showed total lack of artistic principles. There is certainly no glory for Mme. Parepa-Rosa to shout [the] “Star Spangled Banner” with heavy artillery accompaniment, or for Miss Kellogg to do something similar with the inspiring strains of “Viva l’America.” Neither was America, or its banner, much honored by such doings.
But, after all, let us be thankful that this festival was a total failure. It would have been a still greater disgrace if it had succeeded. The New York public can be proud of the result. It is due to its good sense, its taste and discrimination, that the humbug exploded. It would not sanction the sacrilege, and consequently it stayed away. Only once made the New York musical people its appearance at the rink; this was on the evening of the performance of the first part of “Elijah,” a just compliment to the well deserved repute of the distinguished Boston Handel and Haydn Society and its able conductor, Mr. Carl Zerrahn. On all other occasions it left the field to outsiders, who enjoy Mr. Gilmore and his nonsense. Verily, New York has not had as yet its Beethoven Festival, but we are happy to state that steps have already been taken to honor the great master next December in a truly dignified and artistic manner.[’]”
Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 02 July 1870, 272.

the so-called beethoven festival. That will be a brilliant page in the history of the music of this country, which will tell our children that we honored the great Beethoven by firing cannons, ringing bells, beating anvils, in short, making as much noise as possible. What a fine understanding of the duties such a festival involves; what a brilliant conception of the benefits the great master has left us. What an immense stride towards civilization! It is only remains for us to dance around the dead body of the master, burn it, and the recall of the great civilization of old will be complete. He has been sitting long enough on his throne like the Hindoo kings; it is time that we should slaughter him. Well, if nothing else, this at least has been achieved this week. The honor which he ought to have received has become a dishonor. For it is a dishonor to couple his name with such desecrations of the art, which have been committed on this occasion. It is a dishonor to place a Beethoven on the side of Flotow, Jullien, and the like. We have nothing against their music in a proper place, but at a Beethoven festival it is out of place. Only the highest, the best and purest his art has produced, should be heard on such an occasion, and if this had been done but for one day the memory of this festival would have been less a burning shame to all who assisted, either by participating in the performances or by listening to them.

Why could the first day not been devoted exclusively to the memory of the great master? There were splendid materials on hand to perform, for instance, his ninth symphony [sic]. Mme. Parepa-Rosa would have been more in her sphere to sing the soprano part of the quartet, than to join in the chorus of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ with obligato cannon firing. Instead of such a celebration, his symphony, in C minor, conducted by Mr. Carl Bergmann, and a lot of miscellaneous music were performed, in which the Stradella overture shone to such an extent as to elicit an encore from the enthusiastic and highly discriminative audience. This was, of course, meant as a compliment to the conductor, Mr. Gilmore, for the thing itself can be heard just as well in every beer garden, where it properly belongs.

On the second day, in the afternoon, some curious abridgements from various operas, with a host of distinguished artists, enlivened the not very large audience. Miss Kellogg distinguished herself by an exquisite and for once animated rendering of the Polacca from ‘Linda,’ and Signor Lefranc created an outburst of enthusiasm by his magnificent singing in the well known trio from ‘Tell.’ It was as good and inspiring as we have heard of any tenor. In the evening ‘The Creation,’ frightfully mutilated, was sung under the direction of Dr. James Pech. Mme. Parepa-Rosa as usual evinced her extraordinary powers of voice and method.

On Wednesday the anvils and the cannons did their duty, morning and night, to the intense satisfaction of the largest audiences yet assembled at the Rink. On Thursday afternoon the C minor symphony was repeated, Mr. Carl Bergmann conducting with that fine musical understanding for which he is justly famous. Unfortunately, the best conducting will not avail, if the orchestra is a poor one, and this was decidedly the case on this occasion, only a few of our best musicians forming part of it. The great feature of this concert was the singing of Mme. Anna Bishop, who again proved the truth of the old adage, ‘Life is short, but art is long.’ In the evening the first part of ‘Elijah’ was given, with the Boston Handel Society, and Mr. Carl Zerrahn as conductor. The success of this performance was complete.—N. Y. Weekly Review.”