Academy of Music
14 April 2016
“The Academy of Music was crowded last night with the admirers of this popular organization, and at eight o’clock scarcely a seat in the auditorium was unoccupied. . . . Schumann’s Symphony in E flat convinced us of the composer’s want of technical skill in orchestration, which in the third movement was painfully visible. His lighter works are the nearest approach to the immortal Beethoven which any disciple of that great soul has ever made, but in the symphony his ideas are clogged. There is a sensible heaviness and dragging languor in many of the tutti passages. Richard Wagner had quite an ovation, as his Introduction to Tristan and Isolde was received with enthusiasm. The delicious, wave-like harmony of the first part was rendered by the immense orchestra with the utmost precision, and colored with every shade of expression. The eighty instruments followed the baton of Mr. Bergmann with promptness and docility, which we rarely find in the orchestras of this city; and the careful, painstaking rehearsals of the last few weeks were apparent in the rendition of some of the most trying parts that instrumentalists could be subjected to. Mr. Richard Hoffman played Mendelssohn’s concerto in G minor on a Chickering grand. There are three parts to this charming relic of the author of Elijah, 1 Molto allegro con fuoco. 2. Andante. 3. Presto, molto allegro, vivace. From the first to the last it is a gem of unspotted loveliness and tender imaginings. The finale is an animated torrent of exultation, which for continued and energetic brilliancy, has scarcely a parallel. Mr. Hoffman was a fitting interpreter of such a theme. The tones of the noble instrument sprang forth beneath his touch with a clear, ringing crispness and distinctness that Mozart, Handel and Bach sighed after, when seated before their clumsy harpsichords. The airy and romantic themes of Mendelssohn can never be mistaken and this concerto is a thoroughly characteristic work. Senorita Carmellina [sic] Poch sung ‘O, Mio Fernando,’ from Favorita, ‘Selva Opaca,’ William Tell, and a Spanish song. This lady possesses a fresh, pleasing voice, of moderate power, and she sung the above mentioned pieces very fairly. The vast mausoleum of Fourteenth street is not a favorable place to judge of the voice of any cantatrice, as she might well sing from the steps of the City Hall as from the stage, as far as acoustics are concerned; but the senorita sang with taste and entire absence of frivolous efforts at ostentatious display. There is not, however, the slightest quality of the prima donna in her voice. The success which has attended the production of poor Wagner’s proscribed music in this city by the Philharmonic Society, will enable us to hear another of his characteristic works at the next concert, April 21. He has met with a better and more deserving fate in New York than at the hands of the people of Munich.”
“The fourth concert of the Philharmonic Society . . . was an entire success as regards attendance, and, to a good extent, as a performance. The execution of Schumann’s third symphony was unequal, and in some parts inadequate. This is the more to be regretted, as we should desire to see the works of such authors as Schumann so well interpreted as to win for them a more general appreciation by our public than they now have. Many passages in his compositions, that are conveniently disposed of by some critics as vague and unsuited to instrumental effect, might be rendered by our Philharmonic so as to take away the edge of this sort of criticism. Had this symphony been as well given as was Wagner’s introduction to ‘Tristan and Isolde,’ it would have been quite differently received.
Mr. Hoffman’s piano solo was the most finished, perfect, and satisfactory portion of the programme. Senorita Poch displayed her conceded vocal powers to rather less advantage than she has done previously. She has a clear, beautiful voice, of considerable range, but of moderate power and pathos. As a whole Saturday evening’s concert was somewhat below the reputation of the Philharmonic, but still well worth attending.”
“The fourth concert . . . took place . . . on Saturday evening. The programme was miscellaneous, but not fresh. There is nothing to be said of Schumann’s third symphony, beyond what has already been said; except that it displays a superb but irrelevant mind, and a knowledge of music not always equal to the desire for instrumental effect. The first movement—called Allegro con brio—was taken in an extraordinary tempo, which we neither think pleasing nor appropriate. The intermezzo where liberties are permissible was better. So too with the Adagio, which was rendered in some respects finely. We cannot say the same for the Largo-Solenelle—a trivial and weak number which was rendered grossly by the entire orchestra; the brass instruments taking the lead in badness. The finale was respectable, and no more. A worse performance of a well-known work has probably never been heard in New-York. The only movement which can be recalled with satisfaction was the Adagio. This, at least, was rendered with some approach to the composer’s meaning. The rest appeared to be an incomplete and ill-rehearsed vagary of the conductor. The regular rehearsals, we presume, have been bestowed upon Wagner's introduction to ‘Tristan and Isolde,’ which was finely performed. The too numerous harmonic changes were marked with clearness, and the great technical skill of the composer was amply illustrated. We have never heard this piece better played—and we speak with recollections of a Vienna orchestra, which was considered perfect. Of our estimate of the merits of the composition we have already spoken. The other instrumental piece was the overture to ‘Euryanthe,’ a work of imperishable beauty, and played on this occasion with remarkable spirit.
The soloists were Mlle. Poch, who did justice to herself at the rehearsal but not at the concert. The lady has a superb voice, but evidently needs the stage for its proper delivery. The romanza from ‘William Tell’ ought not to have found a place on a Philharmonic Concert programme; but if there, it should have had the name of the composer—Rossini—after it. Mr. Richard Hoffman was the piano soloist; and although the piece played by him was threadbare—the G minor concerto of Mendelssohn—he succeeded by exquisite phrasing, by absolute perfection of touch, by clear, quiet, intelligent understanding of what he was doing, in making it once more fresh and delightful. We have always to scold Mr. Hoffman. He is either too modest or too indolent to place himself rightly before the public. An artist of his ability ought not to appear once or twice a season. We—of the outer world—want him as often as possible. Mr. Hoffman was encored; tried to dodge it (the rule being against encores) but couldn’t. He was compelled to play again, and played an étude by Stephen Heller in a way that was simply perfect. The pieces selected by Mr. Hoffman, it will be seen, were not entirely fresh; but his performance of them was so fine, delicate, well studied and perfect, that we think of them as the principal charm of a concert which was otherwise not satisfactory.”
The performance was well attended. Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and Weber’s Euryanthe overtures were performed flawlessly. Richard Hoffmann played Mendelssohn with accuracy and understanding on a splendid-sounding Steinway grand piano.
“Music in New York. (From an Occasional Correspondent)
March 13. As I perceive, Mr. Dwight, that your regular supplies from New York have lately fallen short, perhaps the result of a little predatory warfare in the field of criticism may not be altogether unacceptable from a volunteer.
To begin at the end, the last musical event up to the date was the Fourth concert of the Philharmonic Society, on Saturday evening last. The orchestra performed Schumann’s beautiful and (here at least) little understood third Symphony in a less perfect manner than we are accustomed to from this experienced body of performers; besides Weber’s ‘Euryanthe’ overture, and Wagner’s introduction to his ‘Tristam [sic] and Isolde.’ For the latter highly suggestive and poetic work, which has been already performed here at Mr. Theodore Thomas’s last Symphony Concert, we confess a more than common admiration. Mr. Richard Hoffman played Mendelssohn’s G-minor Concerto in a perfectly blameless manner; with finish, grace, ease, clearness, and intelligence, to which his unaffected manner adds another charm. The vocal portion of the programme was less happy; Senorita Poch, a lately débuted mezzo-soprano belonging to the Italian opera troupe, sang the hacknied ‘O mio Fernando’ and ‘Selva opaca’ (the latter from Rossini’s ‘Tell’) in a pleasing yet mediocre style; and, on a ‘claque’ encore, a coarse Spanish song, which, however in place it might be in the lemon alleys of Granada, or the wild passes of the Sierra Morena, was altogether out of place in a Philharmonic concert.”
Schumann’s E-Flat Symphony is his weakest and not very popular with the audience. (…) Richard Hoffmann impressed with his measured and accurate performance of Mendelssohn’s G- minor piano concerto, whereas Ms. Poch’s performance was much less impressive. Without the scenery and the dramatic action of the stage, the weaknesses in her voice are more apparent.