Review: Dwight's Journal of Music
, 08 August 1863, 80.
Program. “[A] performance which, for the extraordinary bad taste showed in the selection of pieces, deserves notice. It was a Grand Organ Exhibition and Concert, gotten up for the express purpose of showing off an extremely fine organ, just built by Messrs. Odell Bros. of this city. . . .
To notice first the ‘Organ Overture by Rossini.’ this was played by Mr. Wm. A. King, a gentleman well known in New York and much favored by the people generally, for his emphatically sweet style of organ playing.
We would in charity suppose that it was merely for the purpose of showing off the fine qualities of the instrument (its quickness of speech, smooth and equable voicing, lightness and evenness of touch, &c.,) that this Overture was played, did not the rest of the programme forbid such a supposition. In the statement that the piece was an Overture, and moreover one by Rossini, everything that need be said with regard to its unfitness for the organ is contained. . . . Whether the Messrs. Tucker here mentioned were any connections of the celebrated Dan Tucker who ‘sang for his supper,’ does not appear. Certainly if Dan sang no better than these gentlemen, he deserved to be sent supperless to bed. . . . [A]s we could not hear Mrs. Jones, we can say nothing of her. . . . I will only say of [the Quartet] that its first three bars were the first three bars of ‘No one to love,’ note for note, both melody and harmony, and that this strain was repeated again and again to the most sacred words.
Next came a ‘Grand Sacred Organ Fuge’ (we are not responsible for the spelling), with an introduction in C sharp major. As far as we could discern, it was all introduction. We looked carefully for the fugue, but had a very unsuccessful search. Once we thought we had it. Something was played that sounded like a thesis, but the antithesis was not forthcoming. Like chaos, the whole production was without form and void. This wonderful effusion was encored. The organist responded by playing something, the commencement of which put us violently in mind of the air with which Agouste and Caron did all sorts of wonderful and impossible tricks with their violins at Jane English’s theatrte lately. . . . This enchanting introduction led into ‘Home, sweet Home,’ with a staccato accompaniment and Thalbergian variations; not that Thalberg wrote them; they were miserable imitations of his style.
The Ballad which followed was a very neat composition, in true ballad style, with a very pretty though rather hacknied sequence founded on the seventh, in the middle of it. It was very nearly spoilt by the accompaniment being played on the organ.
In place of an intended ‘Improvised Prelude and Fugue in the style of Bach,’ willfully miscalled on both sets of programmes ‘Organ Variations’ (which miscalling, we are credibly informed was the reason why Mr. Robjohn withdrew his name), we had a Voluntary, occupying about 7 minutes, from a Mr. J. Wesley Pickering, which, if improvised, contained some rather ingenious imitations reflecting great honor on him. This, being really good, was suffered to fall on the ground with scarcely a simple mark of applause. During the performance of this voluntary, Mr. Pickering produced a novel though by no means agreeable effect by pulling the Twelfth without the Fifteenth, thereby giving us a series of consecutive fifths anything but pleasant to an educated ear. This was probably a mistake, as the offending stop was stopped off after a very short period of torture.
The next thing on the Programme was a Soprano Solo composed by Mr. King. A fearfully secular composition; containing one passage that was much like the often murdered, ‘Hear me, Norma,’ and several others that seemed to have been tenderly pruned from various operas, and carefully grafted on to this unfortunate solo. This Solo finished the first part and ourselves both at the same time; for we could bear no more and consequently left the building in disgust.
We had wanted to hear what sort of work Miss Colman would make of the ‘Rejoice greatly’ from the ‘Messiah,’ which, as all your subscribers must know, is an immensely florid and trying solo. On looking back—mentally—we are not sure that it was not just as well that we came away; as from her rendering of the Quartet—or rather her part in it—and solo above-mentioned, we think that our absence saved us a considerable amount of internal swearing.
. . . Don’t you think our musical constitution here in New York needs attending to; when out of a concert of 13 pieces only one among them is good?”