Philharmonic Society of New-York Concert: 1st

Event Information

Academy of Music

Carl Bergmann

Price: $1.50 at door on day of concert

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
4 July 2015

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

05 Nov 1864, 8:00 PM

Program Details

U. S. premiere of Weber’s Polonaise Brillante.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Eroica symphony
Composer(s): Beethoven
aka op. 17; Grande polonaise; Grand polonaise
Composer(s): Liszt
Participants:  Sebastian Bach Mills
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
aka Preludes, Les
Composer(s): Liszt
Composer(s): Weber


Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 October 1864, 8.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 03 November 1864, 7.

Announcement: New York Herald, 04 November 1864, 7.

Announcement: New York Herald, 05 November 1864.

Announcement: New-York Times, 05 November 1864, 5.

Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 November 1864.

: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 05 November 1864.
“Heard the Eroica at rehearsal this morning & went to the concert at night. . . . Concert was good Berlioz Overture to Oberon, a concerto by Mendelssohn, and an elaborate overture—or something—by Liszt.  Not worth much, but brassy, showy, and highly seasoned.”
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 07 November 1864, 8.
“The seats of boxes and pit were filled.  The arrangement of the orchestra on the stage is bad for sound, as the scenes absorb so much of the tone, and it would require an orchestra twice the size placed as it is to fill effectively such a place. The first piece of the evening was Beethoven’s symphony in E flat—a work of immense and inordinate length—requiring, indeed, to be played as the composer indicated in the original or one of the earliest editions, at the beginning of a concert and not at the close, before the hearers were fatigued. It was well led by Mr. Bergman, and rendered by some seventy executants. But few persons are capable of understanding such contrapuntal works, and hence the applause was feeble—indeed small, every allowance being made for such an audience. [Brief description of the work.] The piece next after the symphony was a piano arrangement by Listz [sic] of passages from Von Weber’s Preciosa—admirably performed by Mr. Mills. It is a precious composition made from the ideas of the great romantic composer.
    The third was Mendelssohn’s admired concerto, played in a masterly manner by Herr Theodore Thomas.” Review concludes with praise for Weber’s Oberon overture.

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 07 November 1864.
The concert was not well attended, because people were distracted by the Presidential Election and the grandiose McClellan Torch Procession on Saturday night.  Beethoven’s ‘Sinfonie Eroica’ is a piece representing the new direction in music, descriptive, though not as regular program music.  Every performance of this extraordinary creation inspires new admiration for the composer, who has set an example in himself as a hero, although the work is dedicated to a hero of the masses.  The symphony was performed with vigor.  The beauty of this work carries one away easily.  For admirers of Liszt, this concert was a feast.  Not only were the preludes of the composer performed by the orchestra, but also the Weber’s Polonaise, Opus 72, E major. Mr. Mills skillfully played the latter piece on a fantastic sounding Steinway Grand Piano with elegance and confidence. Liszt’s orchestral arrangements were new to us.  The characteristics of the new direction, of which the composer is one of the early representatives, are present in this piece more than one would like, and it remains, despite some ingenious baroque parts, especially when the theme of the polonaise, is heard in alternation by the piano and the orchestra.  These parts are brilliantly arranged and inventively worked through.  The performance of Mr. Thomas in the following piece could have been warmer and more heartfelt, rather than virtuous, in the Allegro molto appassionato and the Andante, yet he played the third part of the concerto, the Allegro Vivace, splendidly and exactly as required.  The Oberon Overture was played in a fiery manner.  Bergmann’s hand governed all the instruments with its usual firmness, everything indicated, not overdone, as we are used to with him.
Review: New-York Times, 08 November 1864, 2.
“The attendance was good. We have long ceased to record those brilliant gatherings which, in former years, rendered a pilgrimage to the amphitheatre neither unusual or disagreeable. The lower portion of the Academy is now amply sufficient to accommodate the friends of the Society.  Remembering that the subscription has been raised from five to eight dollars, and that the management promises to be rather tamer this season than usual, we were surprised to see an attendance which, although not overwhelming, was, after all, more than the society deserves.  Fashion befriends this money-grubbing corporation; and, whilst such is the case, it is useless to grumble at the inertion of its numbers, or their greed for larger dividends.  It is worth while remembering, however, that the Brooklyn Philharmonic Society, with a picked orchestra of sixty performers, and a constant succession of first-class singers, charges but six dollars for the season.
    The programme opened with Beethoven’s Erioca Symphony, which was finely played, especially at the superb Marcia funebre.  The quick movements, however, were not always interpreted with clearness—the result, we suppose, of a very positive acceleration of time, and of a desire for new readings.  The overture to ‘Oberon’ was played deliciously.  Finally, ‘Les Preludes’ was heard once more, and played the audience out of the house.  The programme, it will be perceived, was not remarkable for its freshness.  It was received with nonchalance by the audience.  The soloists alone had the merit of arousing the listeners to a sense of their responsibility.  Mr. S. B. Mills played a charming polonaise by Weber, (opus 72 in E)—a work of no especial importance, perhaps, but exquisitely melodious and fanciful, and eminently popular.  We need scarcely say that Mr. Mills rendered it faultlessly, and was twice called out by a delighted audience.  The second solo was performed by Mr. Theodore Thomas, a worth[y] and prominent member of the Society, who, we are glad to find, is at length acknowledged to be able to play the fiddle.  The piece was Mendelssohn’s concerto (opus 64 in E,) and the three rather long movements were interpreted with great power and precision.  Mr. Thomas produces a fine tone, stops absolutely in tune, and plays without any affectation of sentiment.  He was completely successful.  Mr. Carl Bergmann conducted.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 12 November 1864, 343.
Includes program. “The first Concert of the Philharmonic Society took place Saturday evening at the Academy of Music, before a brilliant and appreciative audience.
    We find ourselves at once compelled to quarrel with the Society. Every musical connoiseur [sic] must confess that their programme was interesting in the highest degree; but at the same time must allow, that without great mental fatigue such works cannot be fully appreciated. We all know from experience that, a fine and cultivated human voice is always elevating. . . .We cannot understand why the Philharmonic Society does not strive to employ all the means in its power to place Song on a proper footing in its concerts. The neglect is unpardonably one sided. Of course this evil is not to be avoided by keeping in the path which the Society has so far made it its policy to follow; for it is absurd to even suppose, that good artists will be always ready to assist in these concerts merely for the honor of the thing. . . .Why not pay first-class singers for an assistance, that would be only due to the subscribers, and certainly prove pecuniarily [sic] beneficial to the Society? It is time that all narrow-minded views should be changed, and the Society awaken to a full knowledge of the noble task which it is in its power to fulfill.
    The Eroica was performed, on the whole, with care and èlan; the Sherzo [sic], however, was somewhat uncertain, and we could have wished for more refinement of shading in some parts. We did not altogether approve of the Tempo, in which the funeral march was taken; according to our idea, Carl Bergmann took it a trifle too slow; but the first movement left nothing to be wished for on the part of the conductor—with heroic calmness he led the many-colored mass. Mr. Mills played Weber’s Polonaise clearly and brilliantly. We cannot say that we like Liszt’s orchestral additions; they are not made with the tact we are accustomed to in many of his arrangements. . . .
Mr. Theodore Thomas did it [Mendelssohn, op. 64] justice in his performance. We have seldom heard it better played. His tone was clear, and he possesses the strength necessary for the Academy—so badly constructed as to acoustic effect. Neither did he fail to give it the requisite feeling. In listening to the playing of Mr. Thomas, we have sometimes fancied that it was as if he were afraid lest the his hearers might suspect that he also felt as a man feels—and ought to hide it—but on Saturday, as Beethoven was accustomed to say, he “knöpfte sich auf,” and in future his reserve will be useless, for now we know he is not made of stone. Save in one moment the orchestra accompanied him finely; and here we must render a tribute to the fine instinct, the carefulness, the precision with which Carl Bergmann leads all accompaniments to solo performances.
    Weber’s overture sounded finely. Liszt’s “Preludes” closed the evening. This composition of the “new school,” has won the popular favor here, and rightly so. It is a brilliant virtuoso piece. . . .” Review concludes with a brief assessment of Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner.

Review: Musical Review and World, 19 November 1864, 375.
 Includes program.  “The performance [of the “Eroica”] was rather dull and spiritless – it was entirely owing to this circumstance, that with the exception of the march, we had some difficulty to trace the “Heroical” in the work.
    Weber’s overture, and Liszt’s ‘Preludes,’ went off splendidly; the latter piece is now as familiar as household words to our amateurs.
    The Polonaise is by no means a very interesting composition, and the orchestral arrangement by Liszt has not added any particular charm to it. The time for this kind of Pianoforte music is happily behind us, which could be seen by the little sympathy it seemed to awaken, although Mr. Mills played it with his usual brilliancy and correctness.
    Mr. Theodore Thomas gave, as might be expected, a very creditable rendering of Mendelssohn’s concerto for violin; a composition which is flavored with too much of one sentiment, and this by no means a very vigorous and healthy one, to suit our taste.”