Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
25 October 2017
“Mr. Theodore Thomas’ last concert, which, being supplemental, is in the nature of a benefit—takes place at Irving Hall on Monday evening next. The programme is in the highest degree interesting, and its interpretation will, we need scarcely add, be perfect. The whole of Beethoven’s music to ‘Egmont’ will be performed, and the connecting dialogue is to be recited by Miss Rose Eytinge. Ten years have elapsed since a similar opportunity was presented to the public.”
“We have heard [Petersilea] play [Henselt’s concerto] in private and can promise our New York friends some remarkable pianism.” Petersilea is from Boston, he just came back from a tour of Germany.
“The programme possesses unusual interest. It is, indeed, one of the most varied and interesting of the whole season. . . . This concert should attract all those who really love fine music.”
'Mr. Theodore Thomas' last grand concert takes place to-night at Irving Hall. So far as good and important music is concerned, it has hardly been surpassed. Mr. Thomas has worked bravely in the cause of art, and with the reward which generally attends this difficult species of labor, no recompense except self-content. The entertainment to-night is in the shape of a benefit, although not so announced, and it will, we hope, attract the attention of all Mr. Thomas' friends. For the rest there is ample provision. It is seldom, at any period of the season, so good a programme is placed before the public." Lists program and performers.
The concert was not well attended and did not fulfill our expectations. The venue was not large enough for the first number of Nicolai’s overture. The mighty sounds of the organ and orchestra overpowered the chorus. Beethoven’s music was well performed; however, the recitatives and singing should have been avoided. Mr. Petersilea proved to be a gifted pianist, who soon will be well-known in the United States as a concert pianist.
“Irving Hall.—Mr. Theodore Thomas’ concert on Monday evening was in very sense a success. The hall was filled with a fashionable and thoroughly critical audience. The programme was performed without the slightest hitch, and the audience expressed its satisfaction in repeated bursts of applause. These circumstances are pleasant to record. Mr. Thomas has pursued a thorny path for many years, and, we doubt not, could show his scars if howling were his habit and he needed sympathy. He has moved onward with a resolution we must all admire. Now that the season is over, it is very encouraging to find that his friends rally around him, and in a practical way show their appreciation of his efforts.
The programme opened with a festival overture by Nicolai, for orchestra, chorus and organ. The piece is new here, but has attained some popularity in German [sic]. As a composition it is open to the objection that the most massive effect is produced in the opening, instead of at the end. The chorale is splendidly harmonized, and after it is delivered there is really nothing but filling up for the orchestras until we once more return to it. The first impression is so powerful and strong that the elaboration seems tedious, and the culmination weak. Nevertheless, the piece has its special merits for popular use. Whether it comes first or last, effect is surely produced.
After the overture, Heuselt’s [sic] concerto was performed by Mr. Carlyle Petersilea. The selection was in every way injudicious. The gentleman is newly from his studies, but they have not carried him to the point which should justify him in essaying an important work before the public. To speak of Mr. Petersilea’s command of the instrument would be nonsense. Either from nervousness or other causes he skipped passages, struck wrong chords and hit false notes in a way that was perfectly astonishing, maintaining throughout an absolute indifference to phrasing, even where the orchestra hammers it into the performer, and renders his density on the point unpardonable. The performance was almost ludicrous. In the second part Mr. Petersilea played one of Liszt’s worst transcriptions, that of Schubert’s ‘Erl King.’ From this, bunglingly played as it was, we infer that he has a free wrist, and so far as the right hand is concerned, a tolerable touch. The latter quality was still better demonstrated in the encore piece—Chopin’s ‘Berceuse.’ But the whole performance was amateurish, and beneath the level of ordinary concert playing.
Beethoven’s superb, but somewhat lengthy music to ‘Egmont’ was rendered faultlessly by the orchestra. The connecting poem was recited by Miss Rose Eytinge with exquisite feeling and sentiment. The applause of the evening was bestowed entirely on the lady—a compliment which was certainly due to her ability and not to the doggerel which she was called upon to recite. Dr. Mosengeil is undoubtedly a worthy man, but his blank verse is depressing, and many, perhaps, would prefer suicide. To lift it from its leaden profundity was no light task, and this Miss Eytinge accomplished with singular felicity. The two incidental songs were sung prettily by Miss Brainard [sic], who also gave us a scena from Mozart. The ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ and the March from the ‘Ruins of Athens’ as also the Festival Overture referred to above, exhibited the training of the Mendelssohn Union and the very fine quality of the voices that belong to it. Mr. Wm. Berge assisted Mr. Thomas is the task of conducting, and we have only to add that their combined efforts were in every respect acceptable.”
(…) Why Nicolai’s overture on the choral: “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott” is called an overture, we do not know. A chorus and an organ are usually not used for overtures. Although the arranging of the piece was characteristic and strong, it was still not evenly done. A choral piece should never be arranged, at least not by changing the melody.
The main interest of this concert was certainly Beethoven’s music for Goethe’s “Egmont”, which was played for the first time in the United States. The vocal presentation was unfortunately not satisfactory and thus took away from the beauty of the music.
Petersilia was notably nervous; however, it was still obvious he is well trained and has quite some potential. What he lacks is confidence and individuality. “America is the only country that can give him both”.
“Mr. Carlyle Petersilea, the young pianist, made his first appearance on this occasion before an American audience. We could not attend this concert early enough to hear the Henselt Concert, but have heard it played in private by Mr. Petersilea, besides many things by Beethoven, Bach, Schumann, and Chopin. We were then convinced that the young artist possessed a fine touch, and very great technical facility, as well as a musician-like understanding of the different pieces he performed. Mr. Petersilea is still very young, and fresh from study; it would be therefore unfair to expect perfection from him. The young artist is still wanting in routine before the public, of course; nor does he yet play with individual freedom; but in spite of this, we recognize originality already in Mr. Petersilea’s style of playing, while in his phrasing, and coloring or passages, he displays much power of contrast, without being unconscientious towards the composer. His left hand is at present somewhat unequal, a defect that may be soon remedied. We understand that Mr. Petersilea’s success with the Henselt Concerto was somewhat marred by the amiable embarrassment of youth, as well as by the uncertainty of the orchestra; but in the extremely difficult but ungrateful Liszt transcription, (an injudicious selection, made for, not by the young artist, we hear), he displayed his power of endurance. The Chopin Berceuse, which he gave on an encore, we have never heard more exquisitely played.
We feel assured Mr. Carlyle Petersilea has a fine future before him, and that it will not he long before he disputes the palm with the first. But to attain the highest results, he must continue on his at present right path.
Beethoven’s ‘Ruins of Athens’ chorus was sung by the Mendelssohn Union, but we have never heard the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus given more indifferently. M. Berge took the tempo much too slow at first, and towards the close indulged in rubatos and stressos, utterly contradictory to the spirit of the chorus.”