9 February 2013
“The last season concert of the Mendelssohn Union with Thomas’ orchestra assisting, will come off at Irving Hall on Thursday next, June 14. The ever welcome Lurline and Athalie will be the principal features in the bill.”
“A most formidable bill, consisting of the principal gems of Athalie and Lurline, was offered by this society at Irving Hall on Thursday evening. The audience was very large and the chorus and orchestra numbered one hundred and thirty artists. Mr. William Berge acted as conductor. It was very injudicious to present such an interminable programme so late in the season, especially as the soprano and alto solos in Athalie succeeding the opening chorus, ‘Heaven and the Earth Display,’ might have been conveniently left out. There is much in Athalie that possesses no Mendelssohnian traits, and in a concert all redundancies should be erased. The overture received little color from the orchestra, but was rendered in a spiritless, mechanical style. Now and then would surge up little passionate outbursts of the strings, as it were complaining of the preponderance of the brass instruments. The opening chorus was full of martial fire, and the occasional trumpet blast in it seemed to call together the tribes to resist the usurping murderess, Athalia. The soprano solos sung by Miss Simms were good, but the alto, Miss Mayer, was weak and ineffective. Miss Simms has a clear, fresh, young voice, which, with cultivation, dramatic power and abandon, might successfully essay the most difficult rôles in oratorio. Mr. Tolmin’s harp accompaniment to some of her solos formed a light and graceful wreath of arpeggios around them. The choruses were not well balanced, as the altos were completely overshadowed by the other voices. The second chorus was spoiled by being taken too slow. It became tedious, and dragged considerably towards the end. It would be much better to cut down such choruses in the concert hall rather than to give them complete. The wail of the faithful Israelites lamenting the impiety and scorn of the worshippers of Baal is a genuine outpouring of anguish and supplication. The War March of the Priests was the best rendered piece in the entire work. It has the ring of true warlike spirit about it, and the orchestra seemed to feel it. The second part of the concert (Lurline) opened with the dashing spirited chorus of the naiads and elves of the Rhine, ‘Sail on! Sail on!’ Then followed the female chorus, ‘From the Palace of Crystal,’ which received an enthusiastic encore; the beautiful ‘Ave Maria;’ the Hunting Chorus, that seems to carry the hearer along through woodland and dell with the hounds and quarry; and the finale to the second act, where Lurline implores forgiveness from Rhineberg for her lover, one of the most dramatic scenes we have in any English opera. They were all generally well sung, but the orchestra was too strong throughout. The Ave Maria sung by Rudolf’s comrades over his supposed grave beneath the fatal Loreleiberg would have been much improved if the chorus or orchestra had attended a little more to expression, or felt what the composer and occasion required. Such a work as Lurline placed on the Metropolitan stage with good painstaking artists, a large, well trained chorus and orchestra, good scenery, and, above all, a capable conductor, would have a longer and more successful run than a dozen such as the Rose of Castile or the Bohemian Girl. Wallace appeals more directly to the heart than to the musical knowledge of an audience, while Balfe seeks to parade his little patchwork stock of scherzo, fioriturá and other nonsense on every occasion. Such fantasies in the Italian opera are not only legitimate but necessary; but they are perfectly inadmissible in the English opera.”
“The Mendelssohn Union, under De Berge, gave its closing concert at Irving Hall with great éclat. Mr. Theodore Thomas’ orchestra assisted in interpreting Mendelssohn's ‘Athalie,’ and part of Wallace’s ‘Lurline.’It was the first time the latter work, with its rich instrumentation, has been heard with orchestra.
The house was crowded with an appreciative audience, which is always inspiring to artists, and not less so to the amateurs who came together on this occasion. The choruses were very well sung, two of which received hearty encores. The solos were satisfactory. Mr. Theodore Thomas received quite an ovation after playing a solo on themes from ‘Lucia.’ With rare good sense he declined to repeat his morceau, although recalled four times. He played with exquisite taste and delicacy on this occasion.”