Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
25 October 2017
“I took Johnny and Temple to Thomas’ concert. The C minor was never better performed. The boys know it well—thro’ mamma’s piano—and enjoyed it much. It is certainly far the first [sic?] of orchestral works.”
“Wagner and Beethoven were the shining lights at the Fourth Symphony Soiree on Saturday night. The extract from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ proved to be a striking and original composition, leading at its close to a clear, well-defined melody. It was received with applause and cheers mingling with hisses, and this reception may be the opening of a party contest between the Wagnerites and the anti-Wagnerites. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—one of the most enjoyable of the compositions of the great master—was performed with admirable precision and effect, and was more heartily applauded than is usually the case with symphonic works. Miss Phillips was the vocalist of the evening, and did her part well. Mr. Mills and Mr. Mason, pianists, also lent their aid in this excellent concert. There is no doubt that the Thomas Symphony soirees have been the best given in the city this season; and we presume that they will henceforth prove a regular and most welcome feature of our winter music.”
“Saturday was a hard day for the fiddlers, and eke the performers on wind instruments, among whom may be numbered several critics. At the early hour of ten the doors of the Academy were thrown open, and at eleven the opera commenced. When the cobbler had returned to his last, the Philharmonic Society took possession of the building and worried through their tenth rehearsal. In the evening a large concert was given at the same place, and over the way in Irving Hall Mr. Theodore Thomas gave his farewell symphonic soiree. After this final labor there was not a drop of lager-bier to be had in the adjacent neighborhood.
When Steinway's new hall is built, and it is to be commenced on the first fine day and finished by the 1st of September next, the Philharmonic will, we presume, give their concerts and rehearsals there. At present the Society is awkwardly situated. Mr. Maretzek's experiment of an early opera has succeeded, and hereafter he will, as a matter of course, preface the Society's laudable efforts with a matinée. The Academy mob, and the Philharmonic mob will come in conflict, which, to say the least, is disagreeable.
The idea of getting a large audience for a performance commencing at 11 did not impress any one has being particularly good; but it turned out to be precisely the thing that was wanted. So indeed we may conclude, for the Academy was so filled to its greatest capacity, notwithstanding the slush and the hour. Hereafter, then, it only remains for Mr. Maretzek to improve his opportunities. If an operatic performance and a Philharmonic concert can take place in one day, why not two operatic performances. We tremble at the probable consequences of that.
[One paragraph about Maretzek's recent and upcoming performances.]
Mr. Theodore Thomas’ programme opened with the ‘Manfred’ overture, one of Schumanns’ best, and in every way a work of interest. It was finely played. Miss Phillips sang an air from ‘Samson’ with excellent expression; but we listened in vain for the text, which, in oratorio music, should be heard with the greatest distinctness. Parepa was a model in this respect. She never wow-wowed. Miss Phillips’ second piece was Mozart’s delicious aria from the ‘Nozze di Figaro,’ which she sang exquisitely. Messrs. Mills and Mason played the concerto in E flat by the same master—heard for the first time at these concerts. The composition is in Mozart’s happiest vein, filled with exquisite melody, and displaying in every measure the most fertile and graceful invention. It was a favorite with the composer himself, and often played by him in the course of those unhappy wanderings which ended in the potter’s field. Moscheles has added a couple of cadenzas, one of them rather long, but both exhibiting an ingenious talent for preserving the character of Mozart’s ideas, while displaying the technical facility of the players. When a piece like this is rendered by two such players as Mills and Mason we can hardly help doubting if piano music, after all, has made much progress. It is so satisfying and delicious; so enjoyable and clear that we barely care for the increased capacity of an instrument which in a simpler form has been so grandly illustrated. Mozart’s compositions have been undeservedly neglected. We are glad to notice that our best artists are now returning to them. The modern school is astonishing. We listen to a Liszt fantasie with amazement. But for fullness and roundness of idea; purity of intention and unborrowed sources of inspiration, we must look to Beethoven and Mozart. The technical difficulties of the concerto, apart from the cadenzas are not great. It is anything but easy, however, to preserve the exact coloring required. This Messrs. Mills and Mason certainly did. We have never listened to a more enjoyable performance. Each gentleman’s touch was perfect and well balanced, and the rest was of course facile with them. Nothing could have been better. It was a pleasure to hear the audience—perhaps the most critical in New York—applaud this quiet and exquisitely music-like effort. Had Mozart been in the room, he would, we are sure, have done the same.
And, measurably, it was agreeable to find that Wagner’s music—it is a shame to use the word after speaking of Mozart—fell somewhat flatly. The introduction to ‘Tristan and Isolde,’ is not the sort of thing that a person takes to readily. As an introduction to a chivalric romance it is absolutely without significance. The thing is unintelligible to the eye and unmeaning to the ear. Stripped of orchestral color it would exhibit more puerility. In its present shape it is a huge palette on which every fragment has a place, but where it is useless to look for a design. That Wagner had some intention there can be no doubt, but the best of men sometimes fail in their intention, and Wagner is no exception to the rule. The pompous deliberation with which he says nothing is really ludicrous. The way in which he stalks from one position to another on the violin is amusing only because we can anticipate the progress with certainty; the gravity with which he bangs the drums, and puffs out the trombones; the solemn earnestness, indeed, with which he seems to regard everything is in the highest degree edifying—but nothing more. That Wagner was thrust out of Munich after the production of the opera of ‘Tristan and Isolde’ seems natural. No people could be expected to stand it. We have never joined in the silly cry against the ‘music of the future,’ nor have we madly extolled it. The overture to ‘Tannhauser’ is a magnificent work, and ‘Lohengrin’ is undoubtedly the best musical drama on the stage. But in the ‘Introduction’ now under discussion we see nothing but pretentiousness, and that tendency to over elaboration which always precedes decay. Mr. Thomas’ fine concert terminated with a good rendering of Beethoven’s immortal fifth symphony.”
“Theodore Thomas’s Symphony Soirees. We were unable to attend the Fourth Symphony Soiree, but we understand that the performance was most excellent throughout, the Schumann Overture and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony being specially mentioned in praise. Miss Adelaide Phillips sang too [sic] fine selections, and, as usual, made a profound sensation, each piece being vehemently redemanded—demands which Miss Phillips very properly declined to accede to. Messrs. Mills and Mason played Mozart’s piano concerto in E flat, with great accuracy, and were very generally admired. The pianos used were made by Messrs. Steinway & Sons.”
The event was well attended despite the wet weather.
The program was not as captivating as the one at the last concert, however, there were still some interesting choices. Schumann’s overture was gripping as usual. Mozart’s concerto was played well by Mills and Mason.
The audience did not seem very enthusiastic. At times there were even sounds of disapproval heard.
Mrs. Phillips performed Händel’s aria with skill. It was a good choice to conclude the concert with Beethoven’s 5th.