Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
25 October 2017
Incorrectly says the first concert will be given on the second Wednesday of November. Includes programmes for all five “symphonic soirees.”
Erroneously gives date of soirée as “Saturday, November 21.”
“[S]ubscribers can now secure their seats by applying at the hall. We are glad to hear that the subscription list is filling up.”
“We lack space to refer at length to the many admirable points of the programme. We shall take an other opportunity of doing so.”
“Madame Fleury-Urban, a lady well known in the musical circles of New Orleans, the vocalist of the evening.”
“The programme is admirable, and our friends cannot do better than patronize it.”
“Thomas’ First Concert this ev’g. Not a full house. We heard Liszt’s hysterical ‘Mazeppa,’ Weber’s ‘Invitation to the Waltz,’ arranged for orchestra by Berlioz. The arrangement is effective, but wants something—delicacy—refinement--or elegance. Also Beethoven’s 4th Symphony. It has comparatively few salient points and takes away one’s breath only once or twice as for instance in the noble joyous trio. So it seems tame beside most of its eight sisters. But it is a grand work. It smells strongly of Mozart and of Haydn by turns. Only its first movement is at all characteristic of Beethoven. As a whole it reminds one of Haydn’s greatest Symphony (or rather the greatest of his symphonies that I have had the happiness to know)--that which the Philharmonic people have played twice or thrice--in F, I think. The sentiment of the two compositions is nearly the same, tho B. of course intensifies Haydn--this relationship between the two compositions seems especially visible in their 3rd movements.”
“Theodore Thomas gave his first symphonic soiree . . . before a fair but not overflowing attendance. A Beethoven symphony opened the programme. Liszt’s bold, noisy and original musical delineation of ‘Mazeppa’ was the most striking orchestral feature of the evening, while Weber’s ‘Invitation to the Dance,’ as instrumented by Berlioz, was the lightest, and, viewed in some respects, the most enjoyable. The vocalist of the evening, Madame Fleury Urban, from New Orleans, made a most favorable impression, and elicited the heartiest applause. She has a voice of extended compass, enabling her to sing contralto and soprano music with equal facility, while the peculiar quality of the organ is quite unlike anything heard here of late. The lady’s selections were also new and striking, and musical amateurs would be gratified to have an opportunity of hearing her again.”
“THEODORE THOMAS’S SYMPHONY SOIREE. The first Symphony Soirée of the second season took place at Irving Hall last Saturday evening. The audience was not large, but still the Hall was fairly filled by attentive and appreciative listeners. [The program follows] . . .
The grave opening of the symphony was thoughtfully read and finely played, and the following allegro, so charmingly colored by alternating masses of string and woodwind instruments, was carefully and brilliantly rendered. The subject of the adagio movement is extremely beautiful, and is treated in that broad, grand style which Beethoven so well understood, and worked out in a wonderful manner, constantly affording gleams of exquisite melody, which, despite its masterly elaboration, sustains the interest of the hearer to the close of the movement. It was delicately and artistically played, and if the drums had been properly tuned, would have been without a fault. The brilliant scherzo and the delicious trio were also well played, although the violins lacked somewhat in delicacy. The allegro finale is a rare example of how a common theme can be dignified and redeemed by masterly elaboration. The whole movement is a wonderful piece of writing and was brilliantly executed. Still, the performance, as a whole, was hardly up to the standard of Mr. Thomas’ direction. We know the difficulties with which he has had to contend, and recognize how much he has done under the circumstances.
Madame Fleury-Urban is a singer of the extreme French school, for which we have but little respect or sympathy; either in its system or its execution. Her style is highly dramatic, but it loses its force and effect from the nasal quality of her voice. Her lower tones are good, but her middle and upper registers are harsh in the extreme when forced. Study has not harmonized the registers, and the passage from one to the other betrays painful varieties of tone, especially perceptible in all passages of florid execution. Still, with all these difficulties to contend with, she shows good artistic training; she phrases well, pronounces exquisitely, and throws a large amount of passion and expression into her music. Her first aria was her most ambitious effort, and in this her success was very moderate, as it brought her worst points into prominence; but her second selection was better adapted to her powers, and she sang it charmingly, gaining a hearty and deserved encore.
Mr. William Mason interpreted Chopin’s Allegro de Concert in his usual tasteful manner. He delivered the opening subject with breadth of manner, his phrasing was well defined, and the characteristic and complicated passages which mark its close, were clearly and appreciatively rendered.
Liszt’s ‘Mazeppa’ grows on hearing, in breadth and strength. It is a work of marked imagination, descriptively accurate and orchestrated with brilliant skill in regard to effect. This was finely played, the working-up being a point in effect beyond its performance at the Philharmonic concert.
Weber’s pianoforte piece, the ‘Invitation to the Dance,’ instrumented by Berlioz so skillfully as not only to preserve every point, but also the exquisite tone of refined sentiment in all its integrity, was played with delicacy, spirit and tenderness. The tempo of the coda, however, was taken a trifle too fast, thereby rendering the brilliant passages for the wind and stringed instruments alternating a little indistinct.
The concert as a whole gave great satisfaction, charming the audience to their seats till its close, and calling forth repeated marks of approbation. Mr. Thomas should be gratified at the success of his first soirée.”
The attendance was not as high as usual for the Thomas concerts. Beethoven’s symphony was performed excellently. Mason played Chopin accurately yet with little emotion. Mme. Fleury Urban gave her debut and succeeded deservedly. She possesses a strong alto [sic] voice with an unusual range, which she uses skillfully. She was very well received.
“ . . . . We don’t need to mention that the performance of symphonies by Beethoven and the great German masters by [Thomas’s] orchestra is irreproachable. We heard, for the first time at this soirée, Mme Fleury-Urban, to whom Nature has made a present of a magnificent contralto voice and a rare musical instinct. Mme Fleury-Urban took on, for her first selection, the great aria from le Prophète: O Prêtres de Baal; there are phrases there of immense difficulty; the cry, for example: Que sur son front coupable éclat la colère!, and others. The young singer relieved herself of it worthily, and that’s saying a lot. She performed the passage: Mon pauvre enfant, mon biene-aimé! extremely well. In brief, the piece was interpreted well, and we joined the audience’s applause, but we see above all in Mme Fleury a hope and a promise: may she never deceive herself; she needs to work assiduously, principally on the high notes of her voice. She is richly endowed, she has dramatic expression; study will give her easily and in a short time what still remains for her to acquire. She has to aim at making her voice more flexible and take care of her vocalization above all.”
Thomas’s First Symphony Concert. We praise Thomas’s effort to present the audience with a diversity of compositions in his concerts. Thus, the audience has the opportunity to decide for themselves which styles they favor and also to develop a finer musical ear.
The role of ‘Fides’ is one of the most difficult pieces for alto [i.e. mezzo-soprano] voices, however, Mme. Fleury Urban, with her strong yet slightly ‘throaty’ voice, a very good education, and excellent understanding, performed formidably. She sang with dignity and strength, sensitivity, and an avoidance of vocal tremolo and coloratura ornamentation. This is a gift we can hardly find in other singers here. She also sang the second aria with sensitivity, taste, and vocal skill.
Unfortunately, she spoiled part of her favorable impression with the performance of the song she chose for the encore.
“Theodore Thomas' First Symphony Concert. –The first symphony concert . . . was eminently enjoyable and was attended by a highly critical and large audience, which proved the appreciation of the valuable efforts of Mr. Thomas for music in this city. [Program follows] . . . The first and last of these works have been so often performed in this city that we can dismiss them with the remark that they were excellently rendered and deservedly applauded. Of Liszt's Mazeppa, however, we may state that the performance was a decided improvement over that at the Philharmonic concert. Mr. Thomas, who some months ago had advertised that he would perform the work in his first concert, gave us a clearer insight into the composer’s intentions, and threw more passion into the work than was done before. He was also very happy in the climax and a more uniform and dramatic performance of the work.
Mr. Mason played Morgan's [sic, i.e., Chopin’s] ‘Allegro de Concert,’ a rather long and not too interesting piece, with all the polished gracefulness and clearness which characterizes this eminent pianist. We hope to enjoy the pleasure of hearing Mr. Mason in the concert room more repeatedly. Mme. Fleeng [sic] Urban, a lady of a remarkable and powerful voice, created a very favorable impression, although she is evidently affected from the French method of singing.”