23 September 2013
“Goldbeck’s Concert at Irving Hall on Saturday night was in many respects a grand musical entertainment. The orchestra was one of the largest ever gathered together here, and performed satisfactorily. Mr. Goldbeck’s ‘Victoria’ symphony is a full, sonorous composition, calling into requisition all the resources of the orchestra, and replete with bold and brilliant effects. By way of contrast, his other composition performed Saturday night—the ‘Idylle’ and ‘Scene de Chasse’—are very elegant and tasty works, in which the piano-forte and orchestra are happily combined. Mr. Goldbeck was heartily and deservedly applauded.
“—Mr. Robert Goldbeck who arrived, a youth in this country, several years since, has become quite Americanised since; and for some time has been naturally desirous to present the fruit of his studies in orchestral music to the public. We do not know what the Philharmonic Society is instituted for unless its office be equally to offer original American with originally European music; and to labor might and main, heart and soul, to put America abreast with Europe in the adequate, constant and liberal production of musical works suited to the concert room and especially to large orchestras. To see, as we do, seventy or eighty musical gentlemen composing the orchestra, apparently content to advertise year in and year out, pieces of foreign production, when equally good pieces can be and are written in this country, is a sorry sight. To overlook the great City of New York, to see it so snubbed is, &c., &c. We apprehend that no other country is so wanting in artistic pride; and that the Art in none can live at all unless as sedulously nursed as the mother nurses the child she loves. We say it with due respect and reverence for every man in Europe who seeks ‘to advance on chaos and the dark’ by aiming to strike out new forms in musical art, that we have heard nothing of orchestral music of the most recent production in Europe that should induce its performance here in preference to an equally ready and liberal performance of works written in this country. We think, therefore, that Mr. Robert Goldbeck, after the study and trouble of producing an orchestral work of pretension, should have been relieved of all anxiety in regard to its production, by the existence in this city of a Philharmonic Society, Directors, orchestra, and audience or subscribers, who would gladly seize the opportunity of performing it; and stimulating the author, as well as others, to similar undertakings.
But as Mr. Robert Goldbeck had to produce it at his own concert, the first thing that marked its performance was the evidence of its being imperfectly rehearsed. The title of the work is Victory: Peace, Struggle, and Triumph. The divisions of this subject musically must be very decided. The Peace—of a nation—includes all peaceful pursuits; omnibuses driving up and down Broadway; fire engines on duty; steamboats going safely or being blown up; railway trains, the same; the Titanic roar of the steam-impelled mill; and even tremendous thunder-storms in hot weather; cannon on the Fourth of July; and the climax of election-day in the Fourth Ward with dynamic episodes.
But musically, only the ideal of Peace—tranquillity, fluent softness—can be represented; otherwise peace becomes hurry, bustle, noise, and contestation in sound. The emotions which might be felt in standing on an eminence of the Kaatskill [sic] Mountains and surveying an expanse of country beneath of nearly one hundred miles; with the landscape, the cottages, the barns, the crops, the sunlight, the Hudson, all sublimely eloquent, yet silent, may successfully be assumed as the right ones with which the musical artist should paint Peace. Signor Rossini appears to have stood on an Alpine height, and so surveyed the calm expanse of the landscape, beneath, when he wrote his first idyllic chorus in Guillaume Tell. We expected some parallel idea in Mr. Goldbeck’s delineation of Peace. But we were disappointed. The first notes on the stringed instruments were firm, and murkily-colored from their low pitch, and were not descriptive of Peace; then began the contestatious, the struggles of musical counterpoints (whose very name, punta contra punta, indicates opposition); and next the resonance of a peroration in which the loudest brass instruments were in full action, enforced by the thunder of percussion. We thought we had heard a complete piece of music; and the only defect of a striking kind was the too muscular and darkly-toned draught of Peace. But we erred: we found that the whole was intended to represent Peace. The soft, the fast, the plain, the intricate, the loud, the loudest. There were two errors in such a delineation: in the first place, the idea of Peace was not conveyed at all; and in the second, the energy, resonance, roar, clang, hell, of victorious war, were anticipated. But in one sense that makes no odds: the musical vial may be labeled one thing and its contents may be another, and very good too. We think—of course from a hasty judgement on a single hearing—that Mr. Goldbeck has made a good piece of music, with a wrong name attached to it. There were, beside this Peace movement, two other movements, one agitated and intermized with recitative-wise trumpet calls to represent the ‘struggle;’ and a third, rounded off with a spieces of choral, to indicate triumph or victory. These were clearly stated and well instrumented, and as good as the recent orchestrally ideal works we have heard here, derived from Europe. There was a good audience present, and the applause was liberal.”
“Mr. Robert Goldbeck, a pianist of recognized ability, and of indomintable energy, gave a grand concert at Irving Hall, on Saturday evening. It was in all respects an entertainment of first-class proportions, and fully merited the generous applause that was bestowed on nearly all the morceaux of the programme. An orchestra of sixty interpreted the overture to ‘Egmont,’ by Beethoven; the overture to ‘Ruy Blas,’ by Mendelssohn, and two works by Mr. Goldbeck, namely, a new Symphony, called ‘Victoria,’ embodying the ideas of Peace, Struggle, and Triumph, and the well-known and delightful piece, called ‘Deux Morceaux Symphonique.’ The German Liederkranz also lent their assistance to the occasion; and Messrs. Mills, Mason and Thomas contributed as soloists. The interest of the evening was necessarily centred on Mr. Goldbeck’s latest and most ambitious work. In the Victoria Symphony, Mr. Goldbeck has clearly and purposely exceeded that moderation of a young writer, which he displays so gracefully in the ‘Deux Morceaux Symphonique,’ for orchestra and piano. He has taken a larger canvas, and has filled it with forms that are startling and colors that are gorgeous. We look in vain for the hand of an apprentice; except in an awkward figure for the flute, and an intricate and dangerous passage for the violins, it is a master who speaks to us. But in estimating the authority of that master there will, and ought to be, a great diversity of opinion. The search for mere sonority, however successfully pursued, is, at best, but a mechanical occupation. They who are the most vehement are usually the most empty; and certainly a sustained oration, whether in music or elocution, must possess repose as well as motion. This is the defect of Mr. Goldbeck’s work. It is overwrought and pretentious. In the first movement—(Peace)—instead of giving us the tranquil murmurings of streams and the sleepy hum of undisturbed nature, he depicts (at least, we suppose so) the turmoil of towns busy with activity, and of populations pushing the pursuits of industry to their extremest limits. This may be considered a picture of peace—as Donnybrook Fair may be, for that matter—but it can only be drawn in a confused way, and is for that reason objectionable. Moreover, the intensities of the succeeding movement (Struggle and Triumph) demand the nearest approach to repose that was attainable in the first section of the work. Of the part called ‘Struggle’ we can venture no opinion. It is unintelligible to the ear although perhaps logical to the musician of the future. It ends with a recurrence of a fine broad theme, first heard in ‘Peace,’ which is rapidly followed by an overwhelming Hymn of Triumph. There is but one pause in the work,—that which occurs between Peace and Struggle; with this exception it is a restless crash of instruments from beginning to end. The weariness that arises from this cause is only partly compensated by the occasional freshness, and even terseness of some of the themes. In avoiding commonplace Mr. Goldbeck has touched upon the extravagant, but in doing so he reveals so much knowledge of novel melodic form and orchestral coloring, that it is impossible not to be impressed with his facility. Briefly the Symphony is the manifestation of an intense musical nature that has not yet leant how to restrain itself. If it serve no other purpose, it cannot fail to place its composer at the head of American musicians in his branch of art. Mr. Goldbeck conducted the orchestra with singular ability.”
“New York, March 23.—The appearance of an original composition for the great orchestra, is an event of so rare an occurrence in the musical world of New York, that we hail with satisfaction the appearance of any work of the kind, provided that it rises even a little above the dead level of mediocrity; but when it displays talent and promise, we rejoice in the name of Art, and for the sake of the musical future of America, no matter whether the work in question be that of a native, or adopted composer.
Such an event was the production, at Mr. Robert Goldbeck’s orchestral concert, on last Saturday evening, of his new Symphony, ‘Victoria – embodying the ideas of peace, struggle, and triumph.’ It is difficult to analyze, and somewhat daring to judge such a work after one hearing only; our opinion, however, has at least the merit of candor.
On one hearing, then, Mr. Goldbeck’s work appears rather a ‘symphonic poem,’ than a Symphony; being free in form, consisting of but two distinct movements. The ideas of ‘peace, struggle, and triumph,’ are not so progressively worked out as we naturally expect; the first part seemed to combine all three—and then, in the second, we found ourselves somewhat astray—‘fishing for ideas.’—Neither in the handling of the idea or form, has Mr. Goldbeck sufficient plastic power as yet; we do not make this conclusion because his work was not throughout clear to us; that sometimes happens on the first hearing of even the highest instrumental works; but because it gave us the impression that the composer’s intention was not entirely clear to himself. His polyphonic treatment of the theme is also as yet imperfect. His melodies are tolerably original, save accidental Wagnerian tendencies, and a little motif in the first part, that very perseveringly reminded us of an old and dear friend, a certain ‘Pastoral Symphony;’ and yet let us give Mr. Goldbeck credit for not having reminded us of something less agreeable. In instrumentation, Mr. Goldbeck already displays considerable skill. Taken as a whole, the Symphony is effective, appealing, and sufficiently full of talent and promise to warrant its composer in pursuing his career as an orchestral writer to the attainment of further success.
Mr. Goldbeck also repeated his ‘Deux morceaux symphoniques,’ for orchestra and piano, ‘Idylle, et Scène du chasse,’ which we have already heard given by the Philharmonic orchestra in New York and Brooklyn. These smaller works are more completely satisfactory than the more ambitious symphony; the ‘Idylle,’ especially, is a charming little genre picture. The piano part was taken by Mr. S. B. Mills. We need hardly say that these new works were performed by the Philharmonic Society, with all that excellence which we expected as a matter of course, from the best orchestra on this side of the Atlantic.
The rest of the programme was also highly interesting; its eight numbers comprised, besides Mr. Goldbeck’s compositions, Beethoven’s noble ‘Egmont’ overture; that of Mendelssohn to ‘Ruy Blas;’ Robert Schumann’s lovely piano-forte variation, admirably played on two fine Steinway grands by Messrs. W. Mason and Mills; Tartini’s Violin Sonata, ‘Le trille du diable,’ fresh in spite of its age, a glorious, healthy composition, albeit abounding in the difficulties of virtuosity, smacking of the old Italian, yea, and the old English school—alas! that about that period English music stayed its original and contemporaneous march with that of Italy and Holldand!—why?—The Sonata was played by Mr. Theodore Thomas (who shared with Mr. Goldbeck the fatigues and honors of conductorship) in excellent taste, with good execution and expression. The German Liederkranz Society, under Mr. Paur’s direction, gave the Tannhäuser ‘Pilgrim’s chorus’ very well; but not so well, with uncertain intontation, Kreutzer’s chorus for male voices, ‘Die Markt.’ We were glad to see so fine a concert attended by a very large, intelligent audience, warm in testifying its appreciation of the good things set before it.”
“The concert given by Mr. Rob. Goldbeck on Satudray, the 21st, in which he brought out several original compositions for Orchestra, was one of the most interesting musical events of the season, attracting the artistic elite of the city, besides a numerous and appreciative audience. The programme was very well arranged and placed the original works in the best possible light.
The Symphony (or rather symphonic fantasia) as well as the smaller morceaux for Pianoforte and Orchestra give evidence of a decided musical talent and belong certainly to the best compositions for Orchestra that have been produced in this country,—but although they created a very favorable impression and were were received, we cannot acquiesce with the original principles of their conception and construction. Mr. G. seems to be too strongly influenced by the new German School,—especially by Liszt. Although we are always ready to allow the disciples of the new School their full share of credit, especially when they insist (one of their chief maxims) that each musical work shall bear in itself a decided poetic intention, we are far from following them in their more extravagant characteristics. Music, be it ever so peotic or full of esprit must above all things be musical. We demand that the poetic intention be clad in an appropriate musical idea, aesthetically constructed,—be it after the conventional pattern or any new original form; nor can we conceive the possibility of a work of large dimensions without a polyphonic treatment,—the work must have not its breadth alone, but also its depth.
G.’s music suffers much from the above mentioned faults. There is no lack of poetic intention, which however fails to find its adequate musical interpretation. It consists of a series of more or less happy musical thoughts, loosely strung together in a panoramic form; it is effective, not by the boldness of design,—not by the intensity and depth of melody,—not by the originality of harmonic treatment,—but rather by the more external means of broad, glaring coloring, in the manner of scene-painting.
The symphonic fantasia: ‘Victoria: Peace, Struggle, Triumph,’ commences with a quiet and promising motive in the stringed Quartet, which rises without increasing in intensity: the promise lacks fulfillment. A croacking, heavy Bass, which is caused by the use of the Contrabasso, independant [sic] of the Violincelli, mars the intended coloring of this opening phrase. This is followed by a second motive, reminding us of a similar one in the Pastoral Symphony, and is succeeded by a Cantilena of no great originality, rather effectively instrumeted, especially in its repetition, where it is accompanied by a piccicato of the second, contrasted with triplets of the first Violin. This first part is decidedly the best as a musical composition;—but why it should be headed ‘Peace’ we are at a loss to understand.
The second movement, which is connected with the third, is the least satisfactory. An occasional flourish of the trumpets, with now and then a deafening clamor of drums and cymbals conveyed but an outward impression of a struggle; a musical interpreatation of the idea—say musical thoughts in contest with each other—which one might naturally be led to expect, was not to be found. The last movement contains some effective but too noisy parts; but we were rather shocked at finding in the principal theme an old and dear acquaintance from the Manfred Overture of Schumann, which we must confess, is not improved by the new treatment, accompagnied [sic] as it is by a very common dance-Bass.
A closer analysis of the work is not practicable at present, as we are not in possession of the score; we would but mention the instrumentation which is generally noisy, sometimes effective often very coarse [sic], a continual application of brass in close harmony in the lower regions becomes very disagreeable, as also the overfree use of the instruments of percussion.
The morceaux for Piano and Orchestra are decidedly better, especially the ‘Idyl’ which has some charming effects; the ‘Chasse’ however is less felicitous in original ideas. These small forms suffer less from absence of thematic treatmens [sic].
In conclusion we are happy to greet the talented young composer in his higher aspirations, confident, that with a careful and conscientious search after the truthful in Art and a more intimate study of the great works of the Masters there is much to be hoped from him.
Of the other performances we will but mention Schumann’s Variations for two Pianofortes which played by Messrs. Mills and Mason brought out each of these gentlemen in his best light. The brilliant Variation belonged more especially to Mills, while the more delicate one with the syncopations was entirely Mason’s own.—The Tartini Sonata for Violin—one of our favorites—received its best interpretation at the hands of Mr. Thomas; the performance was large, broad and full of original strength. This kind of Music is Mr. Thomas’ speciality,—in it he stands unequaled here, and it were to be wished that he would oftener give us opportunities of hearing it. [Signed] K.K.”