German Saengerfest: Grand Reception Concert

Event Information

Academy of Music

Carl Bergmann

Price: $.50 amphitheatre; $1.00; $1.50 balcony reserved seats; $8.00 first tier boxes (4)

Event Type:
Choral, Orchestral

Record Information


Last Updated:
14 June 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

16 Jul 1865, 8:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Preludes, Les
Composer(s): Liszt
Composer(s): Klein
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Text Author: Goethe


Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 July 1865, 7.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 14 July 1865, 7.

Lists prices for the concert.

Announcement: New York Post, 15 July 1865.

Includes the program for the Monday evening concert and a list of officers and delegates for the festival.  “A general programme of the festival was printed in our Second Edition.  The following is the

    Programme for Sunday and Monday.

    Sunday Night.

1. Les Preludes of Liszt.
2. Psalm for orchestra and chorus, by C. Klein.
3. Double chorus of the Saxons and Normans, from the opera of Ivanhoe, by Marschner.
4. Walpurgis Night, by Mendelssohn.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 16 July 1865, 7.

Lists program, performers, prices, and time.

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 July 1865, 8.
Review: New York Herald, 17 July 1865, 5.

     “The Germans are essentially a musical people.  Far removed from the enthusiast, a character entirely opposed to Teutonic stolidity, they are the most earnest devotees of the deity presiding over music.  With them there are no two opinions as to the relative merit of Apollo and Pan, and we imagine had Midas been a German he would never have had his ears elongated to the assinine [sic] standard in consequence of his want [of taste?] in giving old Pan with his reed the preference to Apollo with his lyre.  From the German’s infancy the art of music is laid before him as the highest of all arts.  Before the days of spoon-feeding are over he is expected to be fully acquainted with the theory of sound, and long ere his infantile limbs have attained the perambulating faculty his hands have been taught to finger the fugues of Mendelssohn and the cantatas of Haydn.  Even the crying of the German baby is harmonious and its chubby fist in anger is shaken in common time.  Before the mysteries of the alphabet are unfolded to his youthful mind he is initiated into the reading of quavers, semiquavers and demisemiquavers, understands the meaning of staccato, allegro, and other terms, and can write a ‘score’ before he can ‘pothooks and hangers’ [bad handwriting].  Educated after this manner it is but natural to expect him to be adept at a very early age, and to form a valuable acquisition to the sangerbund of which he becomes a member before he begins his scholastic career.  The musical records of the age prove this to be correct, and the concert last night set the seal on the assertion.

Monster Concerts.

     Monster concerts are only of comparatively recent introduction into America.  The ‘Hub’ lays claim to its superiority in their carrying out, although their success was almost entirely due to the presence of New York musicians.  New York itself now contests the palm, and points to a demonstration of much vaster proportions, with considerably less preparation and no blowing, its undoubted superior.  There was no jangling of elements, no confusion of choristers, absence of soloists, affectation of conductors or failure of effect at the Academy of Music last night.  All passed off evenly and with éclat.

The Appearance of the Scene.

     Never on Sunday, and seldom at any time, did the Academy present so striking an appearance as last evening.  From amphitheater to parquet every seat was occupied, not with the haut ton—the upper ten—who, thinking a sacred concert on the Sabbath a desecration, remain at home to sip chablis [sic] and play euchre, the gentlemen; or go to church to criticize [sic] the dresses of their neighbors, talk scandal and sleep through a somniferous discourse—but with the earnest, honest, devout music-lovers of our city.  In listening to the compositions of a Mendelssohn, a Mozart, or a Meyerbeer the mind is filled necessarily with a feeling of gratitude to God for the most beneficent of man’s talents—that of music.  There is no opportunity for the display of the evil feelings of man’s nature while listening to music.  All the good, noble, heavenly sentiments are brought into play, and he is much more benefited than those of the elite, who ‘would not think of going to a concert on Sunday.’  There was little of the talking and carelessness which generally take place at concerts and operas.  Every one seemed absorbed in listening, and the only thing which at all interrupted the stillness was a solo taken up independently by a baby in the audience, which probably was confused by the sound of the kettle drum.” 

Review: New York Post, 17 July 1865.

     “The eastern part of the city yesterday was quite denationalized.  From many houses in the Bowery and neighboring streets the German flag was flying, varied occasionally by that of Switzerland and of the various individual German states.

     Last night the first evening concert took place at the Academy of Music, which was crowded with our German citizens.  The Superintendent of the Police permitted this concert to take place on the plea of its being a performance of ‘sacred music.’  The following was the so-called ‘sacred’ programme:

1. Les Preludes of Liszt.
2. Psalm for orchestra and chorus, by C. Klein.
3. Double chorus of the Saxons and Normans, from the opera of Ivanhoe, by Marschner.
4. Walpurgis Night, by Mendelssohn.

     The performance was really very grand, the orchestra of eighty performers and the chorus of five hundred voices giving an effect to the concluding oratorio – the ‘Walpurgis Night’ of Mendelssohn – which brought out new beauties in that remarkable composition.  But few Americans were present, and, indeed, had they wished to come there would have been no room for them.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 17 July 1865.

Very well attended, very well received. The opening concert’s program was kept short as usual at these events to make certain there is sufficient time left for hosts and guests to socialize. Only four pieces were performed and they were well chosen. Opening with Liszt’s “Preludes” was wise, because although of the modern style, preludes in general are easy to understand without any explanations or background knowledge. (Analysis of Preludes in general and a detailed description of Liszt’s “Preludes” follows – not translated) The following “Psalm” for orchestra and chorus stood in complete contrast to the “Preludes”: strictly classical and serious. The next piece sounded stronger and more martial than usual : Marschner”s Ivanhoe: Prayer of Saxons and the Normans, performed by a double-chorus. We are delighted to hear this chorus (name not mentioned) again which is appreciated for its youthful and energetic spirit (…). The highlight of the program, though, was the finale: Mendelsohn’s Walpurgisnacht, Grand Oratorio, with its poetic and romantic style (description of musical images of this composition – not translated). The piece was performed splendidly including the solo vocals. The introduction into the piece was beautifully performed. The following tenor solo and the women’s chorus were very well done. Unfortunately the alto voices were hardly heard, because of the bad acoustics. Apart from the imperfect acoustics it was also the disadvantageous positioning of the singers that took away from the quality of the sound. Nevertheless, the event was deservedly successful.

The first “Wächterchor” with its subtle vocal modulations was very pleasing to listen to. The big challenge of the second “Wächterchor” with its difficult tempo was skillfully mastered. The second chorus of the “Druiden und des Volkes” with its difficult entrances was also performed well in a lively, fresh fashion. The highlight of the evening in the baritone solo and chorus was the enchantingly beautiful third “Wächter- und Volkschor”: “Doch ist es Tag” and the first entrance of the finale: “Dein Licht, wer will es rauben?” was interrupted by thundering applause.

The soli were in the hands of Mme. Zimmermann and the gentlemen Bernhard, Steins and Trost who were highly appreciated by singers and audience. Mr. Bauer conducted the “Walpurgisnacht” with attention and energy as well as the Klein’s “Psalm” and the chorus out of “Der Templer und die Jüdin” (Ivanhoe).  Unfortunately the chorus of the Saxons was too fast in the “Schlachtgesang”. One can say that the disharmonious, war-like tension between the Saxons and the Normans unintentionally reflected musically.

Mr. Bergmann conducted the “Preludes’ with the sensitivity and delicacy which is required by this work. Bergmann and Bauer were warmly applauded when they appeared on stage together before the concert began. EJ

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 18 July 1865, 5.

“The Festival has commenced, some 2,000 singers having arrived from neighboring and distant cities.  The first concert was given at the Academy of Music on Sunday evening.  The weather was most unpropitious, the rain coming down very heavily, which will account for the very slim audience present on the occasion.  The parquet was not half filled, the second tier was literally empty, the family circle and gallery were partially filled, and the balcony alone was tolerably crowded.  It is to be regretted that anything should have occurred to throw a damp upon the opening of this great musical gathering.  The importance of this Festival, in a musical point of view, cannot be over-estimated.  It will direct the attention of our citizens to the fact that music is a great element in aid of civilization, and that, at least among one portion of our population, it is cultivated generally as a means of social enjoyment, and no one will doubt its genial and harmonizing effects when the habitual conduct of our German fellow-citizens is duly considered.  Their social meetings everywhere are marked by musical exercises, and excesses rarely if ever occur.  Music is peaceful, friendly and genial in its influence, and the more its cultivation is extended the more graceful and harmonious will be the amenities of social intercourse.  This Festival will also show that the practice of music is not incompatible with business habits.  Here are 3,000 business men, and all hard workers, who work none the worse for being able to sing, but who, when their labor is over, have a solace and an amusement which no change of fortune can rob them of.  This is a point well worthy of earnest consideration.   
    This Festival still further shows that the great city of New-York – the Metropolitan City, as we delight to call it in our pardonable arrogance – has no public building capable of accommodating a chorus of a thousand voices – that this city is not fitted for the holding of a great festival, as its means are far inferior to Boston, and in every way insufficient.  It is a blot upon our reputation for enterprise, and in more ways than one it is a positive loss to the city, for great musical occasions cannot be attempted in face of the fact that there is no hall in which they could be celebrated.

    The programme of the first grand concert was as follows:
1. Les Preludes (by the Orchestra)……………………………………….Fr. Liszt
2. Psalm (for Chorus and Orchestra)……………………………………..C. Klein
3. Grand Chorus from the Opera ‘Der Templer und
die Juedin’ (The United Singers).…………………………………...Marschner
4. Walpurgisnacht (for full Chorus and Orchestra)…………………Mendelssohn

        Mad. Zimmerman and Messrs. Bernhard, Steins and Trost.

    The orchestra which was directed by Carl Bergmann performed Liszt’s Preludes, in a manner worthy of all praise.  Promptitude, precision, delicacy and brilliancy characterized this performance; the players felt the masters’ hand, and followed its lead with utter faithfulness.  We have rarely heard more delicate shading, or more poetic coloring than this performance exhibited.  It is a pity that so much excellence in execution was wasted upon a work which is memorable only as a masterly piece of orchestration.  

    The chorus, which numbered perhaps 600 or 800, were behind the band, and filled the stage up to the back wall.  The greater portion of them stood on the stage, and sang right into the back of the heads of those who stood before them.  Undoubtedly two-thirds of the power was lost by this means.  The impression of all who heard the first chorus was that of disappointment at the absence of the expected granduer [sic] and sonority which so large a body of singers was expected to produce.  But the multiplication of voices does not bring a corresponding increase of out-spoken power.  The sound emitted by 1,000 voices; although it is more massive, is scarcely louder than that to be obtained from 500 voices.  Besides, male voices are not penetrating in their quality, one-half the number of mixed voices, male and female, would produce double the tone.   As the concert proceeded, however, the real power of that mass of voices was appreciated, and the grandeur of the massive swelling harmony was felt by all.  The voices are well trained and are of good quality; the general intonation is good, and the promptitude in execution remarkably excellent.  The light and shade in the compositions were well observed, and the crescendos were most effectively executed.  

    The Psalm by Klein and the grand chorus from Marschner’s ‘Der Templer’ were admirably sung, the latter especially, and were received with loud and most cordial applause.  

    The Walpurgisnacht, by Mendelssohn, was the crowning excellence of the performance.  It is a work of rare beauty, full of exquisite fancy, and rich in strength of passion.  The orchestration is replete with figures of rare beauty and of singular variety, so that the attention and interest of the hearer are retained to the closing note.  The subjects are fresh and vigorous; some of the choruses can hardly be excelled in fancy and spiritual beauty.  In this composition the female chorus is employed, and the soprano voices lighting or lifting up the mass of male voices seemed to quadruple its power.  The work was finely performed throughout; the pianos were strictly observed, the fortes were grandly sonorous, and the most delicate shades of color added a charm while they fully revealed the thought and intention of the composer.  The solos were most creditably executed.  The performance was loudly applauded throughout, and most enthusiastically at the close.  It must be considered, both as to selection and execution, a decided success.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 22 July 1865, 70.

     Includes the complete review of the performance from the New York Tribune, 07/18/65, p. 5.