Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
5 May 2013
“The Philharmonic concert on Saturday night was unusually well attended, and the programme was interpreted with full acceptation [lists program]. The Liederkranz Society furnished the vocal music, and Mr. Bergner, one of the most accomplished of violoncellists, gave a solo performance on his instrument, of a concerto composed by Ritter.”
“The second concert of the Philharmonic Society of New-York took place at the Academy of Music on Saturday. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the attendance was more than ordinarily good. The programme was most excellently interpreted by the orchestra, under Mr. Theodore Eisfeld, and by the members of the German Leiderkranz [sic], under Mr. Paur. We do not remember, in fact, to have ever attended a more artistically creditable performance. What was lacking in the way of novelty was more than made up in the matter of precision. Mendelssohn’s well-known Scotch Symphony was the principal instrumental attraction, and its graceful fancies and quaint reflection of Scotch themes and rhythms were never more completely presented. The “Scherzo,” as usual, was most enjoyed by the audience, but the grand finale, with its majestic subject and vigorous handling, was heartily applauded. Two overtures were also given—that to the “Magic Flute,” by Mozart, and that to “King Lear,” by Berlioz—the latter one of the best and clearest productions of its author’s pen. Mr. Bergner was the only instrumental soloist, and played with much ability a concerto for the violincello by Mr. F. L. Ritter, a resident composer. Mr. Bergner’s technical skill and large style are well known to the public, and were strikingly exhibited in the performance of this difficult and eccentric work. The concerto has, we believe, been shortened, and perhaps it has lost some of its form by the operation. It certainly possesses but little of this quality in its present shape. Still it is an effective show-piece, and is filled with scraps of almost every kind of musical knowledge. The orchestral partition is especially well treated. A pretty chorus for male voices by F. Abt, called “Die stille Wasserrose,” was most charmingly sung by the members of the German Liederkranz, and—less successfully—Mendelssohn’s “Festgesang an die Künstler.”
“The second concert of the Philharmonic Society took place last Saturday evening at the Academy of Music, which was filled with one of the largest and most brilliant audiences of the season. [Gives program.] These were all well and effectively performed—the symphony, especially, with great clearness and decision. The “King Lear” overture is less thoroughly familiar to New-York amateurs than the others. It is a composition of broad and vigorous design, as the subject would indicate, but, like many of the writer’s most exhaustively ambitious productions, it fails to realize the intended purpose. . . .The German Liederkranz, under the direction of Mr. Pauer, contributed a four-part chorus by Abt, a quartet and chorus, with orchestra, by Mendelssohn [sic]. The performances were accurate and mainly tasteful. There is now-a-days a fault, however, in the singing of all German musical societies, from which the members of the Liederkranz are not free. Their effects are, if we may so express it, too antithetical. Their methods of conveying expression are sudden and frequent transitions from loudness to comparative inaudibility. The performance is too apt to be all alternate roar and whisper. Regular sustained crescendo or diminuendo progressions are seldom attempted by them. These violent changes in force and volume of sound may be made vastly effective if used with discretion, and not too uninterruptedly, but when they appear the principal stock in trade of a singing society, they soon become monotonous and lose their charm. With regard to the precision, the promptness and the thorough training of the Liederkranz, it is easy to speak in high praise. The soloist of the evening was Mr. F. Bergner. He played a violincello concerto composed for him by F. L. Ritter—a conventionally good composition, displaying, according to the usual manner, the strong qualities of the instrument, and introducing the accustomed, mechanical difficulties to attest the dexterity of the performer. If there is one instrument which above all others should be spared the torturing of tours de force, it is the violincello. Its characteristics are supreme nobleness and dignity. Its tone is all sadness and pathos. Whenever it is turned to any frivolous use, or when it is made the medium of dashing bravura effects, its nature is entirely perverted. And yet it is almost impossible to find a violoncello player who is not eager to win applause by mimicry of the rattling brilliancy of the violin. Rapid ear-tickling treble cadences, dizzy chromatics, swift blendings of successive thirds and sixths, unquestionably prove immense mechanical adroitness; but they also prove a want of confidence in the best and truest resources of the instrument. Mr. Bergner, who is the most accomplished violincellist we have, played the concerto with admirable accuracy. In the more serious passages he showed the finest feeling; and if rare precision in execution could have made the volatile fancy-work at the close interesting, it would have become so in his hands. He was heartily applauded.”
“The second concert of the Philharmonic Society, which took place last Saturday at the Academy of Music, garnered much interest, due to the participation of the German Liederkranz. The Academy was better attended than at the Society’s first concert this year. In the first part of the concert, the Liederkranz sang Abt’s meaningful and deeply stirring song, ‘Die stille Wasserrose.’ The song, which is fully realized only through very delicate handling of its dynamic levels, was sung excellently. We have seldom heard anything more beautiful than the gradually fading piano which finally diminished into a pianissimo at the end of the piece. The piece was requested da capo by a storm. However, the audience’s wish could not be fulfilled because the Philharmonic Society’s praiseworthy and very commendable custom is not to perform anything da capo. In Mendelssohn’s ‘Festgesang an die Künstler,’ the tenors, at the expense of the other voices, made themselves too prominent with entrances that were too sharp and harsh. For every singing club, it is most agreeable to have good first tenors, but they should not try to push the other voices into the background, unless the composer so specifies. The realm of music is a grand republic, in which each voice and instrument is granted equal rights, as far as the special abilities of those parts allow.
Mr. F. Bergner played a concerto for violoncello, composed for and dedicated to him by F. L. Ritter. Bergner’s playing is equally noble and beautiful; even when he is just having fun improvising on the cello, for instance with flageolet technique his tone is round and sonorous.
The only type of orchestra pieces the second concert presented us with were old, but beloved ones, namely ‘The Magic Flute’ overture, Mendelssohn’s delicately constructed, melodic Scottish Symphony, and the so-called descriptive overture, ‘King Lear’ by Berlioz. These pieces were executed with assuredness under the direction of Mr. Theodor Eisfeld. The latter piece was conducted with passion.
The Liederkranz was under the prudent direction of its tried-and-tested director, Agricol Paur.
The third Philharmonic concert will take place on January 28th.”
Gives program. “It is so long since we have had a Mendelssohn Symphony on the programme, that the fine ‘Scotch’ one seemed to us almost a novelty—and a very acceptable one. The performance of the orchestra was hardly so careful and refined in some of its shadings as this symphony requires; still the execution was, on the whole, creditable. Strange to say, the lovely ‘Magic Flute’ overture, the marvel of melody and science, was received with almost perfect indifference by the audience. But the sentimental chorus for male voices, by Abt, (well sung, however, by the Liederkranz) was re-demanded. Can it be possible that twenty-three years of Philharmonic concertizing has not yet raised the taste of the New York public above such a standpoint? If this be the rule, and not the exception, then the society must feel but little encouraged in its efforts. Mr. Bergner played the violincello Concerto finely. His tone is clear, pure, and full, and he possesses much power of expression, with a rare mastery over his instrument,--and, what is rarer still, a truly earnest and artistic spirit. Berlioz’s overture to ‘King Lear’ closed the concert. We like the work much; it opens with a grandiose theme, which, variously treated, leads into a spirited Allegro; the principal motive of this is contrasted with a somewhat tame cantilena, to which, however, much interest is lent by the fine instrumental coloring which is one of Berlioz’s peculiar characteristics.”
“Among the ‘novelties’ of the season, there was one in the last concert, which deserves more than the passing notice of your regular correspondent. I mean the Concerto for Violincello, by Mr. F. L. Ritter.
It is a composition of no common merit. He has given us a work, which, while it is pleasing and adapted to the capabilities of a mixed audience, is still a work of art; it possesses that substantiality which satisfies the thinking musician. It has nothing of that hollow emptiness of a gaudy bravura, laden with flimsy ornaments, or that sickly sentimentality of the salon-piece, that catching after effects by means of musical monstrosities, which only violate the better feeling. There is an earnestness, a certain dignity in the natural flow of the melodies, true to the character of the instrument, interspersed just sufficiently with passages to give life and brilliancy. The conception is modern, the elaboration is that of compact solidity of by-gone days, with rich harmonies, and an instrumentation sometimes really exquisite. There is musical logic in it. Clear, digested, matured, it shows that mastery of the technics of composition, which is the result of deep study and intimate acquaintance with the masters. We miss that in our composers here, and miss it sadly. A happy idea, sketched on paper, is not yet a work of art. One flash of bright imagination shows the chaos only to be still—void and without form. It is the composer’s business to make the idea of his soul a reality, and that requires work, artistic work. Mr. R. showed in the Concerto that he understood himself, and knew how to handle his ideas. The fine nose of the critic may ‘smell the oil of the nocturnal lamp;’ when the morning mists disperse, his eye must see order, symmetry and beauty, those eternal principles which, like adamantine columns, support the arch that the builder in sound rears heavenward.
Mr. R. has solved his problem well. We do not mean to eulogize him; but in justice we are bound to acknowledge, that there is musical form, musical workmanship in his composition. And that is his merit.
It is a great gain, a decided progress in the growth of music, to have this fact once acknowledged and appreciated. It will lead further. It will induce the student to look closer at works hitherto neglected; the player, to select more carefully and delight in a better class of compositions; and even the musical public, to demand a higher style, which, in the end, will give more real satisfaction, and a higher enjoyment than they ever had before.
We only hope that Mr. R. will follow up the course he has begun, and that we, at no distant day, shall hear again from him, and see him supported by the friends of music in raising the standard of art. Effemez.