Academy of Music
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5 August 2015
Notice of postponement. “In consequence of the great calamity which has befallen the Nation by the sudden death of its Chief Magistrate, the President of the United States, the Board of Directors deem it but proper in accordance with the sentiment of the whole community, to postpone the last concert of the season, from Saturday, April 22 (the regular day of the concert) to Saturday, April 29.
The general morning rehearsal will take place at the Academy, also on Saturday, April 29, at 10 o’clock. Wm. Scharfenberg, President.”
“It opened with the noble funeral march from the Eroica B in memoriam [to the late President]. The final movement (the Song of Joy) of the Ninth Symphony was omitted. The first three might have been better played, but I enjoyed them thoroughly, the 3rd and the 2nd especially. The whole symphony (barring the eccentricities of the finale) is a prodigiously great work.”
“The members of the Philharmonic Society of New-York gave their fifth and last concert at the Academy of Music, on Saturday evening, under the direction of Mr. Theodore Eisfeld. It is unnecessary to add that it rained in torrents, but we may protest against the closing of the umbrella stand. A Philharmonic Society, if it learn wisdom by experience, should assuredly be sumptuously provided in this particular. Taking it for granted that no member would think of dodging the rain, it may yet be conceded that he desires to part with the parapluie that shelters him from it as soon as he enters the sacred precincts of his favorite amusement. The umbrella is a flower that expands rapidly ’neath the nourishing showers of heavens, but its perfume when closed is not agreeable.
The programme opened, very appropriately, in view of our recent calamity, with the Funeral March from the ‘Eroica’ Symphony—written in honor of the death of a great man. There are few compositions more solemn or suggestive. Woven in the rhythm of the march are the lamentations of the mourners. . . . We have heard the march better performed, but it was played on an emergency, and without the benefit of the usual number of rehearsals. The last part, too, even under these circumstances, was very delicately rendered.
The promised and intended treat of the concert was to have been Beethoven’s ninth symphony entire, owing, however, to the same calamity which suggested the performance of the ‘Funeral March’ we were deprived of this pleasant realization. Only the first part was given. The second part is constructed on a Hymn of Joy which it would have been manifestly improper to have performed. Whilst lamenting the cause of the postponement, we are not altogether sorry that it took place. A colossal work like the ninth symphony—presenting, as it does, unusual and not easily remembered mechanical difficulties—cannot be produced creditably with an ordinary number of rehearsals. We believe that Mr. Eisfeld has had one or two extra rehearsals. The affect was still imperfect, notwithstanding the conductor’s watchfulness and care. The second movement (Scherzo; Molto vivace) was perhaps the best. It was consistent and well-sustained. The adagio of the next movement was also finely rendered, but the subsequent cantabile lacked clearness and character. It is only right to add that this symphony was not of Mr. Eisfeld’s choosing. He volunteered, at considerable disadvantage, to conduct it in the absence of Mr. Bergmann. The principal feature of the second part was Schumann’s ‘Overture, Scherso [sic] e Finale,”—a work of decided but unequal merit—which was excellently rendered.”
The second tribute was presented by the Philharmonic Society. In their last concert, which took place last Saturday evening, the march from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony was played. Composed in memory of a hero, this march made a powerful impression. It was proper on this occasion to omit the “Ode to Joy” as it is expressed in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in spite of its performance having been already planned. For this reason, it was also improper to play the previous movements of that symphony, which work as equally well as an idolization of joy as the last movement. The division of the program was completely unsuccessful. The finale of the first act of Mendelssohn’s “Loreley” should have come at the end. Closing with an instrumental movement preceded by a longer chorus evokes a false impression. The finale of “Loreley” is often sung and discussed. From this one example used to close the concert, we still believe today that opera was not Mendelssohn’s strength. Under the direction of Mr. Paur, the Liederkranz performed that work. Unfortunately, Mr. Perring, who was advertised as the singer of Handel’s aria from the “Messiah” “Comfort Ye My People,” did not appear because of illness; in his stead, the Liederkranz performed.
“New York, May 8.—Our concerts and other public musical performances, necessarily suspended during the recent period of national calamity, have re-commenced, and succeed each other so frequently and numerously that we are afflicted with ‘L’embarras du choix’ every night. But although our artists are all anxious to be heard again before the close of the season, the public seems less anxious to listen, for everywhere we find audiences of smaller numbers than we have been accustomed to meet at places of amusement. One of the first entertainments presented to us after the sad, although brief season of public mourning, was the closing concert of the Philharmonic Society. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was promised, and looked forward to, during the whole winter, by subscribers, as the bonne bouche of the season; but instead of giving us this great monument of human genius in its completeness, the Society performed the three first parts alone; thus cutting off Beethoven’s sublime idea at the very point where it reaches its culmination. It was difficult for the audience assembled to accept the excuse given on the programme, that the vocal part of the Symphony was omitted out of respect to the memory of our lamented president, as a very general knowledge had got abroad that there had been difficulties in regard to obtaining an efficient chorus and solo singers; but we would be more willing to take the latter excuse as a reason for the omission, than the former. For, looking beyond and above the unlooked for tragedy of his mortal end, what could be more in keeping with the genial, humane, benevolent, and liberal character of the good man, the great work of whose life was the liberation of all races, than the words of Schiller’s deep and beautiful ‘Ode to Joy’—a joy not superficial, but of the soul, glorified with such strains as only Beethoven could, in his highest inspiration, imagine?
The orchestra played at this concert, as an opening piece, and very appropriately, the Funeral March from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and Schumann’s beautiful Overture, Scherzo and Finale, op. 52, at the close. Besides this, the Liederkranz sang a chorus for men’s voices by Schubert, and Mendelssohn’s ‘Loreley’ Finale. How far this finale—if we except the greater facilities its presents to the chorus—as more appropriate to the spirit of the times than that of Beethoven’s Symphony, we leave to be decided by more profound intellects than our own, for the praiseworthy Philharmonic Committee wrapped itself in cloudy darkness on the subject.”