Formes Brothers Concert: 1st

Event Information

Irving Hall

Wilhelm Groschel [tenor and conductor]

Price: $1.00; $1.50 reserved

Event Type:
Chamber (includes Solo)

Performance Forces:

Record Information


Last Updated:
20 September 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

30 Oct 1865, Evening

Program Details

Theodore Formes did not sing due to illness. He was scheduled to sing Weber: Euryanthe, unidentified aria; Lutter: “Im dunkler Nacht”; Esser: “Schildwache, Die.”

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Mozart
Participants:  Karl Johann Formes
Composer(s): Schubert
Participants:  Karl Johann Formes
Composer(s): Mills
Participants:  Sebastian Bach Mills
Composer(s): Mills
Participants:  Sebastian Bach Mills
aka aria for soprano
Composer(s): Mozart
Participants:  Wilhelm Formes
aka Fisherman’s salute
Composer(s): Fuchs
Text Author: Prechtler
Participants:  Wilhelm Formes
aka grand trio
Composer(s): Rossini
aka Merry Wives of Windsor; Merry Wives of Windsor, The
Composer(s): Nicolai


Announcement: New-York Times, 24 October 1865, 5.

“We are all acquainted with Herr Carl Formes.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 October 1865.

“The grand abilities of Carl Formes are well known. . . . It is rarely that three such great artists are found in one family, still more rarely that they should represent the three male registers in so eminent degree of excellence.”

Announcement: New York Herald, 25 October 1865, 5.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 25 October 1865, 7.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 25 October 1865.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 26 October 1865.
Announcement: New York Herald, 27 October 1865.

All three are superb singers.

Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 28 October 1865.


Article: Courrier des États-Unis, 30 October 1865.

“. . . The Formes brothers give a soiree this evening with a large orchestra, at Irving Hall. Who among us hasn’t heard of Carl, Theodore and Wilhelm Formes? Who doesn’t recall the magnificent bass voice of the first [of them], and the magisterial way in which he interpreted the role of Bertram in Robert, and that of Marcel in the Huguenots? The program of this evening’s concert is magnificently put together, since Flotow, Nicolai, Spontini, Schubert, Weber, Rossini, Meyerbeer and Mozart bear the expense of it. Waltzes, insipid romances, irritating warbles of nightingales are absolutely banished. A well-done concert like this is worth a night at the opera.”

Announcement: New York Post, 30 October 1865, 2.
Review: New York Herald, 31 October 1865, 4.

The Formes Brothers Concert.—There was a large audience present on the occasion of the first concert of the three brothers Formes, but they were doomed to disappointment from the outset. In the first place the grand orchestra was dispensed with, as the members had made a strike for eight dollars per night instead of five dollars—an addition to the expenses which the artists did not feel warranted in incurring. This was not the only disappointment, however, for before the concert commenced an apology was made to the effect that Mr. Theodore Formes had a very bad cold and could not sing, and that those who were dissatisfied could exchange their tickets for the concert on Friday evening. The audience took the disappointment very good naturedly, and but very few persons availed themselves of the privilege. Carl Formes opened the concert by singing a song from the Magic Flute; but the annoyance had evidently unnerved him, for he sang in a very unsteady and wavering manner. Mr. S. B Miller [sic], played a transcription from Faust and his own TarantelleWilhelm Formes has a baritone voice of good compass and large power. He sings smoothly, but he misses many fine effects by neglecting the light and shade which alone give color to the composition. Still we expect better things on his next appearance, when circumstances will be more favorable. Carl Formes sang the Wonder [sic], by Schubert, with much of the old fire and expression, and he threw into it so much pathos and produced such a breadth of effect that it gained a unanimous encore. His voice was in better order the rest of the evening. It is possible that circumstances will be entirely favorable on Friday evening.” 

Review: New York Post, 31 October 1865, 2.

“The Formes concert at Irving Hall last night was a concert without form and void.  It was nearer to a failure than any musical entertainment that has been given here for years. The chief vocal attraction, Theodore Formes, the new tenor, was sick, and could not sing.  Carl Formes, the basso, was so annoyed by the inauspicious circumstances of the evening, that he did not do justice to his reputation.  Wilhelm Formes, the baritone, sang fairly, and was warmly received.  The promised orchestra was not on hand at all.  Mr. Mills played the piano in his usual style. 

            An announcement was made to the audience which induced a few of the very large audience to leave, deterring their concert evening till Friday, when it is expected that Theodore will be well. We hope then to record a thorough success for the Formes brothers.”

Review: New-York Times, 31 October 1865, 6.

Irving Hall.—The absence of Theodore Formes last evening did not prevent the Formes concert from taking place. An apology was made for the absence of the celebrated tenor, and the two brothers exerted themselves to make his non-appearance less felt. But it sorely deranged the programme and deprived it of what little lightness and variety it ever possessed.  Herr Carl Formes was in good voice, and was especially clear and steady in the lower tones, which he has rarely delivered to greater advantage. He sang several pieces with marked approbation. Herr Wilhelm Formes, who made his debut on this occasion, possesses a fair baritone voice and uses it with spirit. He was well received by the audience. Mr. Mills played a couple of pieces in his usual brilliant style, and was an acceptable substitute for the orchestra—which, however, should not have been announced so persistently up to the last moment.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 31 October 1865.

“Everything promised favorably for the undertaking of these artists; the weather was fine, a vast number of tickets had been sold, and public curiosity was strongly aroused to hear the singular combination of the three brothers, all artists of note, at thie concert at Irving Hall last night. But other circumstances worked against them. First, the gentlemen who were to have composed the grand orchestra announced, struck for higher wages, demanding $8 per night, instead of $5. Concerts, at the best, are but poorly paying affairs in New-York, very few yielding more than the expenses, and the majority entailing a loss, so it may well be imagined that an extra hundred dollars added to the cost of such a doubtful undertaking might well make an artist pause. The Formes paused, and dispensed with the orchestra altogether, at which, we grieve to report, the public seemed to be in no way sorrowful.

             The second and serious disappointment was the illness of Theodore Formes, the famous tenor robusto, who being advised by his physician to take a Russian bath, caught a cold there from which literally strangled his voice, so that it was impossible for him to appear. This caused great disappointment for hundreds had come for the express purpose of hearing him. The offer was made to all who were dissatisfied to exchange their tickets for next Friday evening, when Theodore Formes would positively appear. Some hundred and fifty persons availed themselves of the proposition, but the rest of the large audience remained.

            The annoyance consequent upon those untoward events had doubtless an unfavorable effect upon the other brothers, which was exhibited in their voices during the first part these untoward events had doubtless an unfavorable effect upon the other brothers, which was exhibited in their voices during the first part of the concert.  It was especially visible in Carl’s voice in his first aria, from ‘Il Flauto Magico,’ for although he sang like a true artist his voice was quite unmanageable. In his next solo, ‘The Wanderer,’ he had recovered himself a little, and sang with fine feeling and admirable effect, winning a hearty encore.

            Wilhelm Formes has a fine baritone voice, which he uses skillfully.  It is well educated and he sings with taste and feeling, but like most Germans he attends but little to the fine coloring which gives vitality to a composition. Dramatic conception does not mean one grade of power, and that the loudest, but rather that blending of light and shade, from which is derived variety, expression and effect. It is probable, however, that circumstances may have had a disturbing influence upon his nervous system, and that we may have heard him to a disadvantage, and that he can do much more with the noble organ with which nature has endowed him and which art has done so much to improve. A second hearing will enable us to judge better.

             Mr. S. B. Mills played with more than his usual fluency, accuracy and force.  The performance of his brilliant and very clever transcription from Faust was admirable in every respect. He gave out his themes, which, by the bye, are most felicitously selected, with breadth, tenderness and force, and dashed through the variations, or entourage of his subjects with a brio that we have rarely heard excelled. It was a splendid performance, and both artist and composition fully deserved the admiring applause which they received. Mr. Mills is probably not aware of the strides he has made in important artistic points within the last few months.  In his compositions his improvement is remarkable not only in construction but in tone of thought and method of working out his subjects tactfully and artistically.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 04 November 1865, 258.

Due to the absence of Theodore Formes because of illness, there was a lot of confusion in the program. Therefore we will hold off with a review until the second concert.