National Conservatory of Music Concert

Event Information

Irving Hall

Performance Forces:
Instrumental, Vocal

Record Information


Last Updated:
7 June 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

03 Mar 1866, Evening

Program Details

Performers included 32 students. Beethoven: Piano sonata, no. 8, op. 13, C minor (Pathétique), arranged for 64 hands on 16 Weber pianos played by conservatory students and Mr. Weber himself [R: NYP 03/05/66, p.2].

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Pathétique sonata; Pathetique sonata
Composer(s): Beethoven
aka Titus
Composer(s): Mozart
aka Grand duet on the violin
Composer(s): Paganini
aka Flucht von indianischen Kriegern
Composer(s): Mollenhauer [viola-vn]
Composer(s): Verdi
Composer(s): Flotow
Composer(s): Mercadante
Text Author: Rossi
Participants:  Bine de Rossi


Advertisement: New-York Times, 10 February 1866.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 11 February 1866.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 27 February 1866.
Announcement: New York Post, 28 February 1866, 4.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 01 March 1866, 4.
Announcement: New York Post, 02 March 1866, 3.

“[W]e would not like to predict when our musical public can hear again sixteen Weber piano-fortes, played upon simultaneously by thirty-two performers or sixty-four hands.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 03 March 1866, 4.

“The announcement [of the 64-hand Beethoven], although alarming, is interesting.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 03 March 1866, 12.
Review: New York Herald, 04 March 1866.

“There is not a more deserving musical institution in America than this admirable school, founded by Mr. Edward Mollenhauer, and the concert at Irving Hall last night gave incontestable proof of its efficiency and superior training. Of all of Beethoven’s sublime works for piano, there is none that appeals more powerfully to the soul than his Sonata Pathetique, oprea [sic] 13. Mr. Mollenhauer selected it as an opening piece. Now, submitting it to the mercies of sixty-four hands, where, of course, neither proper phrasing nor rhythmical expression could be expected, struck us as a desecration of this noble temple of music, and led us to expect puerility instead of sublimity in the rendition of it. As a test of the powers of execution and precision of touch on the part of the fair pianists, the fragment of the sonata which they played was a success. The sixteen Weber pianos spoke as one, and, the most critical ear could not detect a single discord in time or an incorrect note in the primo or secondo parts. The same may be said of Mozart’s overture to Titus, a portion of which was also given by Mr. Mollenhauer’s pupils. Of course there was a predominance of the most formidable kind of forte throughout; but there was at least complete unanimity and no unevenness of execution between the performers. Still, a less startling array than six hundred and forty delicate fingers and sixty-four sparkling eyes would be more enjoyable and more intelligible. In the concerts of the Paris Conservatory the programme is varied by duets, trios, quartets, &c., and a more pleasing test given of the proficiency of the pupils. Mr. E. Mollenhauer played a fantasia entitled the ‘Flight of the Indian Warrior’ and to explain which a large number of verses in the programme was devoted. This piece is rather of a mosaic pattern as a whole, but it contains some beautiful ideas. If it is intended as a musical translation of the aforesaid verses, it is a very meager one. It is more properly a string of pretty, if not grand, ideas, which may have a reference to a Maori, Ferras or Ashantee, as well as a ‘brave Camanche warrior.’ Mr. Mollenhauer played Paganini’s celebrated duet for one violin, which, however it may seem like a bull, is a genuine two part piece. His tone and execution are those of an artist who stands highest in his profession. The trio for two violins and violoncello was well rendered by Messrs. Mollenhauer, Alexander and Bernhard; but the piece is a very unmeaning affair. Of the vocal part of the programme the less said the better.  It was barely redeemed from utter failure by the splendid voice of Signor Antonucci, who sang a cavatine from Verdi’s Attila and a brindisi from Martha in a truly Lablache style. We shall charitably ascribe the sad fate which Mercadante’s Guiramento met with at the hands of the soprano to nervousness. There were, however, some painful but abortive attempts to trill and to give the final passages—something like a drowning person catching at straws. The tenor is remarkable only for piercing shrillness in the upper notes and a complete lack of sympathetic expression in the lower. His voice is one of the alarming kind, as it comes out at irregular intervals, in a style which made a nervous old lady near us scream. It seemed as if the voice in its passage from the chest had but a very narrow outlet in the throat, like some of the reed pipes on an organ, and became suddenly shorn of its dimensions. When it went above A it in a measure cut through the air like a knife, and was attended with a grating tone which set the teeth on edge. With the exception of these unavoidable drawbacks, the concert was a signal triumph for the Conservatory of Music. All hail to an institution which will give us American artists, and enable us to dispense with the services of wandering minstrels from the other side of the Atlantic! For which consummation all true lovers of music will devoutly pray.”

Review: New York Post, 05 March 1866, 2.

“A miscellaneous concert of considerable interest was given . . . under the auspices of the Conservatory of Music, over which Mr. Mollenhauer presides. About a dozen of the pupils of the conservatory—blooming young ladies, as graceful as they are accomplished—assisted in the piano-forte performances, which formed the most novel and striking feature of the entertainment. On the platform were placed no less than sixteen of the Weber piano-fortes, and two players were allotted to each instrument. The selections were the Symphony Pathetique of Beethoven and Mozart’s ‘Titus’ Overture, and they were given with remarkable precision and success, forming a sonorous and telling effect almost orchestral. Among the performers was Mr. Weber himself—the first instance of a practical piano-forte-maker playing his own piano-fortes, and thus combining the artist and the mechanic. Mr. Weber also played in admirable style the accompaniment to a violin piece by Mollenhauer.

    The other attraction of the evening included the brilliant violin playing of Edward Mollenhauer, who was enthusiastically received; the violoncello playing of another of the Mollenhauer brothers; the excellent cornet performance of Mr. Schreiber, who is not heard in the concert room as often as he should be; and the vocalisation of Signora Rossi, Signor Massamiliani and Signor Antonucci. The latter made the hit of the evening, singing in superb style a dramatic scena from ‘Attila,’ and the drinking song in ‘Martha,’ receiving tumultuous encores for each. The entire concert was well received by a large audience. ”

Review: New-York Times, 05 March 1866, 5.

“The National Conservatory of Music gave a fine concert at Irving Hall . . . before a crowded audience. The institution, we hear, is prosperous, and in a limited way affords musical instruction at a very moderate rate. Thirty-two pupils from the piano classes took part in the exercises. They played Beethoven's sonate pathetique with sixty-four hands—which, indeed, were all the hands they had about them. The piece as thus interpreted was more than pathetic. Subsequently the overture to ‘Titus’ was played. Titus as we all know was the pride and delight of the human race, ‘amor et delicia humani generis,’ but we prefer encountering him in history. In music he is rather overwhelming. The Emperor, it will be remembered, was murdered. So, too, was the overture. It was, however, creditable to the Conservatory, which has had but a brief existence, that it could produce thirty-two pupils sufficiently advanced even to attempt to play in public. The pianos used were from the factory of Mr. Weber, and as will be perceived very much from the factory. Mr. Weber (who is an excellent musician) enjoyed the felicity of playing on one of his own instruments. Mr. Edward Mollenhauer, Musical Director of the Conservatory, executed a short piece for the fiddle (about a hundred and fifty pages) with remarkable brilliancy and skill. It was called the ‘Flight of the Indian Warrior,’ but the ‘worn Camanche’ lingered so long that it was more like an occupation than a flight, and it was a wonder that he did not get scalped. Mr. Schreiber played a solo on the cornet with his usual refinement of style and delicacy of execution. The vocal department was entrusted to Signora De Rossi, Signor Massimiliani and Signor Antonucci, who sang their pieces with effect. The concert indeed gave abundant satisfaction to the audience.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 05 March 1866, 4.

“The Grand Concert . . . was given at Irving Hall . . . The hall was crowded to overflowing there being only standing room long before the performance began. Over 300 were refused at the door.

    The design of the concert was, we presume, to exhibit the proficiency of the pupils of the Conservatory, but if such was the design the object was certainly not achieved, for the only exhibitions in which the pupils took part were two concerted pieces, in which 32 young ladies, including Albert Weber, performed on 16 of the Weber square pianos, which are the instruments used exclusively by the Conservatory of Music. Considering how exceedingly unsatisfactory such exhibitions usually are, we expected but little and were not disappointed.  The pieces were played in good time, with average correctness, the pupils were well together, and the effect was pretty loud. The Weber pianos stood the test well. They are most excellent instruments, pure and rich in quality, with much power and brilliance. In the solo accompaniments the Weber square told out in that large hall quite effectively.

    Of the singers, the only one we care to hear again in a concert room, was Antonucci. He sang most admirably: with fine taste, spirit and expression, and won tumultuous encores. His rich and beautiful voice filled Irving Hall with a flood of vocal sonority. Signora de Rossi and Signor Massimiliani acquitted themselves very indifferently upon this occasion. They sang very much out of tune, and failed to reach the pitch, even by shouting. From two such excellent artists the exhibition was really painful.

    Mr. Edward Mollenhauer is a very fine violinist; he has plenty of tone, breadth of manner, and very brilliant execution, but his selections are often of questionable taste. On this occasion he gave us a musical description of the birth, parentage, youth, love, marriage, fights, flights, dances, captivity, freedom, midnights and mornings, the lying down and the getting up of the great Camanche Nation, to say nothing of their praying in peace and their snoring to a mellifluous lullaby. This subject may be considered rather diffident to treat as a violin solo, but Mr. Mollenhauer accomplished it entirely, apparently, to his own satisfaction, and we are content to know that it resembled the subject chosen as nearly as anything else.  As a piece of historical imagination it is without a parallel, and will, probably, remain the sole representative of its class. Mr. Mollenhauer’s playing of this fantasy and Paganini’s duo well deserved the loud applause which greeted it.

    For what purpose the Conservatory gave this concert, excepting to show off the Weber pianos, which it did successfully, we cannot imagine. It proved nothing in favor of the Institution, but rather displayed the poverty of its resources, in advanced pupils in any branch of the musical art. It will be well to have something to show in the way of presentable pupils, before another concert is given in the name of the New-York Conservatory of Music.”
K: Gender

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 March 1866, 8.

This fine performance questions a recently published article in a German newspaper, saying, “America would be the grave of classical music, because humbug is spreading even into the more serious genres of music”. The performance reviewed here did not support this statement at all. The performances of “Weber piano” pieces of one of the greatest violinists’ and composers’, Ed. Mollenhauer, the “Pathétique” and the “Titus overture” were examples of very promising young students, playing with accuracy and confidence.

The concert was exceptionally well attended.

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 12 March 1866, 129.

Unfortunately events such as this one often are more business oriented than they would be in Europe.
The young girls who played Beethoven’s “Pathetique” with 64 hands probably did not understand the work at all. Otherwise they would not have performed a piece, meant to be played in a rather intimate setting, in this fashion.

The same 64 hands played the Titus overture at the end of the concert; however, it was not very good.  

The concert hall was over-crowded and the concert obviously did very well economically. We wish it would offer a higher artistic value.