Academy of Music
1 February 2016
“The third Philharmonic concert, on Saturday night, was unusually well attended, the audience rising even to the amphitheatre. Mr. Theodore Eisfeld conducted and imparted a vigorous and excellent interpretation to a programme which did not contain a single novelty. Schumann’s first symphony No. 1, in B flat, opus 38, was the principal work. The overtures were to Iphegenie in Aulis, by Gluck, and to Egmont, by Beethoven. One of the most agreeable features of the evening was Schubert’s fantasia for piano, (orchestra part added by Liszt,) most deliciously performed by Mr. Wm. Mason, whose rich and beautiful touch is heard to particular advantage in this charming but over long-work. Mme. Camille [sic] Urso, the lady violin player, played a couple of fantasies almost faultlessly. The lady’s skill will bear favorable comparison with any soloists now before the public. Mme. Varian was the vocalist of the occasion.”
“The programme was unexceptionable in the classical level of its selections. . . . Mr. William Mason played Franz Schubert’s piano Fantasia in c, op. 15 with orchestral accompaniments by Liszt. It is not a large, but it is an agreeable work. Mr. William Mason but very rarely plays before the great public, his specialty is chamber music, and of that department he is an able exponent. On the occasion he did not do himself justice. While he gave out the subjects with fine taste and expression, his general execution was neither accurate nor clean. We well know the high character of his musical abilities, both mental and executive, and shall only remark that the art of playing in public is dependent upon certain physical endowments, without which the utmost perfection of technique is almost valueless. Coolness of intellect, strength of nerve, and perfect self-confidence, are the imperative necessities for a successful public performer, without them the best and most intelligent efforts will fail to make an impression upon the public.
Madame Varian has a charming voice, and sings the ordinary class of concert-music pleasingly and with effect; but Beethoven’s ‘Adelaida’ is beyond either her comprehension or her execution. She did not understand its wonderfully-varied expression nor its profound passion. Her performance was exceedingly tame and ineffective.”
The concert offered Schumann’s B major symphony, one of his first orchestral creations and, in many ways, his best. It is fresher, livelier and more original than any of his later symphonies.
Schubert’s Fantasy, which Mason had presented to the New York audience before, was chosen again for this evening. Although this work became more interesting with the orchestral arrangements by Liszt, the original and more complicated version has not gained in clarity with Liszt’s additions. However, Schubert’s song “Der Wanderer” is without question more powerful in its original version. Camilla Urso played the violin with the usual skill, yet without warmth and life. A female singer [Mme. Varian] sang Beethoven’s “Adelaide,” which did not fit into this Philharmonic program.
“The [Schumann] Symphony through its melodic charm, its rhythmic and harmonic richness, its perfect form in every movement—the whole enhanced by a masterly use of orchestral means—at once placed the immense audience in a happy mood, and gave a wholesome lesson to those hardened sinners against Schumann’s genius, who, from their own intellectual poverty, are unable to discover anything in him but melodic deficiencies an abstruse harmonies. Let us hope the lesson may not escape their memory in the future. The orchestra played the noble work with pleasure, apparently; although here and there a finer shading of this or that passage, a more distinct bringing out of a movie, and decidedly a slower tempo in the first movement, which would have made the swift passages, and sudden modulations of the leading motive clearer, were desirable. Still we have to thank both director and orchestra for the manner in which the whole was performed. The overtures, glorious favorites, long naturalized in the hearts of all true artists and lovers of art, were played with the right.
William Mason performed Schubert’s piano forte Fantasie in C major, Op. 15, with Liszt’s instrumentation. Liszt, by his effective and finely worked out orchestral accompaniment, has raised this fine fantasie to a first rank among concert pieces. In this peculiar gift of transcription of orchestral or vocal pieces for the piano, and of added orchestration to the works of distinguished masters, Liszt is truly great; he seems to have the faculty of penetration into the most secret corners of such works, and of translating and re-echoing their true sense with the very spirit of the composer whose creations he takes in hand, while his coloring is so rich, that it rarely spoils the original intention. Mr. Mason has once before delighted us with his artistic interpretation of this work. If, on this occasion, he was scarcely himself, yet we could not but wonder that he found it possible to play in the manner he did; for he was ill and lame, and only carried his task to an end by means of great mental exertion.
Madame Camille [sic] Urso played two salon pieces with orchestral accompaniment: ‘Souvenirs de Mozart,’ by Alard, Vieuxtemps’ Fantasie Caprice. Mme. Urso is well-known as a technically correct violin player; her trills staccato, harmonies, passages, and all the rest of the witchery of a violinist, she carries to an uncommon degree of perfection; that her delicately feminine tone, her soulful expression, are always sure to delight the public, we need not say. But we only recognize in her as yet an interpreter of virtuoso violin music, such as soon fatigues the attention; and we cannot but regret that so much talent is never used in the interpretation of composition of a high degree of value.
Mme. Varian sang Beethoven’s ‘Adelaide;’ an unfortunate choice on the part of the lady, as this noble song can only be given with its true effect by the voice (tenor) for which it was intended.”