Philharmonic Society of New York Concert: 1st

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Carl Bergmann

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
15 October 2015

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

15 Dec 1866, 8:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Beethoven
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Participants:  Camilla Urso
aka Overture to Lohengrin; Introduction to Lohengrin; Prelude to Lohengrin
Composer(s): Wagner
aka Ballade et polonaise brilliante
Composer(s): Vieuxtemps
Participants:  Camilla Urso
aka Roman Carnival overture
Composer(s): Berlioz


Announcement: New-York Times, 19 November 1866, 5.
Announcement: New York Herald, 10 December 1866, 4.
Announcement: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 12 December 1866, 296.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 15 December 1866.
Review: New York Herald, 15 December 1866, 5.

“The second Philharmonic concert of the twenty-fifth season took place at Steinway Hall last evening. [Lists program.] Camilla Urso played the concerto with exquisite delicacy and finish, and fully sustained the high reputation she won by her former success here and in Europe. The pianist played fairly, but not in the style we would expect at a philharmonic concert. The concerto is not of sufficient caliber for such programmes as this time honored society generally furnishes. We understand that the great Hensell [sic] concerto will be brought out at the next concert in January. The orchestral pieces were all rendered with the admirable precision, expression and attention to every detail that such an orchestra, under such a leader as Mr. Bergmann, might well be expected to produce. Of the symphony we have spoken at length before. The charming music of Lohengrin is almost sufficient to excuse Wagner’s frequent extravagances and to make him popular. In the Philharmonic Society it found able interpreters.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 15 December 1866, 4.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 15 December 1866, 7.
Review: New-York Times, 17 December 1866, 4.

"Saturday was a field-day in Fourteenth-street and the immediate vicinity. The musical forced assembled at an early hour and did not disperse until late at night. [Lists concerts.]

To hesitate is to be lost. We begin, therefore, with the Philharmonic Society, whose hundred and sixth concert was well, but not greatly attended. It was given in Messrs. STEINWAY & SON’S splendid hall—splendid, not in the glitter of ornamentation, but in solid qualities of proportion and sound. The programme opened with BEETHOVEN’S fourth symphony in B flat—a work whose merits we need hardly discuss. It were easier, indeed, to dwell on the usefulness of the multiplication table than to reiterate the ordinary beauties of BEETHOVEN. The great master wrote nine symphonies, and the fourth is one of the best. With these brief words of wisdom, not too positive, we trust, in the opinion they express, we proceed. The introduction to the opera of ‘Lohengrin,’ by WAGNER, and the overture, ‘Le Canaval Romain’ by BERLIOZ, were the remaining orchestral pieces. To the mess of the world these works are simply exhibitions of color, with very little distinctness of form. A good orchestra can hammer them into you agreeably. The ear is favored with a ‘surprise party’ of sounds, and grins and bears it. Under Mr. BERGMANN the orchestral peculiarities were sufficiently but not too prominently illustrated. For this kind of music Mr. BERGMANN possesses unusual capacity—as indeed he does for every kind of music. He could put a fringe round chaos and make it look tidy. The soloists on Saturday were Mlle. CAMILLE URSO, (violin,) and Mlle. SOPHIE GROSCHEL, (piano.) Both were eminently successful. Of CAMILLE URSO we have had recent occasion to speak, and need was played with exquisite dash [sic], spirit and clearness, only add now that Mendelssohn’s well-known concerto [sic]. The lady is unquestionably one of the most brilliant violinists now before the public. Her reception from the orchestra was quite as hearty as from the audience. Small favors from such people are highly prized. Mlle. GROSCHEL is a young lady who has recently completed her studies at the Conservatory of Stuttgart. Her talent is unquestionable, and was not, we venture to say, overtaxed by MOZART’S D minor concerto. The reading of the part was excellent, and its execution thoroughly finished and well balanced. In the cadenza the lady had an opportunity of displaying somewhat more of her technical skill. The passages were brilliant, and the various themes as they turned up were dwelt upon tenderly before being submerged in the general flood of notes. Mlle. GROSCHEL’S touch is firm, yet free; and it is particularly elastic from the wrist, although in octave passages there was a noticeable tendency toward hardness. It may be added, too, that her style is a little hard—the result, we doubt not, of close and conscientious study. Without a question the lady possesses rare acquirements, and will speedily become a favorite with the public.”  

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 17 December 1866, 5.

Portions difficult to read. “The second Concert of the twenty-fifth season of the New-York Philharmonic society was given on Saturday evening at Steinway Hall, before a large, fashionable, and highly critical audience. The programme was well designed and very interesting and passed off without weariness, notwithstanding that it contained no vocal selections.

     The Concert commenced with Beethoven’s masterly Symphony No. 4, Op. 60, in B flat. It is a work of rare beauty, [illeg.] clearness of its design, in the variety of its sentiments, in its contrasts of grave and brilliant feeling and fancy [illeg.] treatment of orchestral resources in changeful and beautiful tone-coloring, utterly throws into shade the fantastic, [illeg.], soulless compositions which, intended for a future generation, are prematurely born for our especial mortification and intellectual degradation. Each movement has its characteristic beauty and all are clear and sequential in their working out, whether the grave and thoughtful Adagio, with which it opens, the Andante, so simple in its first thought and as tender in its sentiment, or the brilliant Allegro with which it concludes.

The performance of the Symphony was admirable in every respect; there was a unanimity in each department of the orchestra, which gave a sense of perfect unity to the whole. In the [illeg.] nuances, which so few orchestras exhibit, the Philharmonic on this occasion revealed a marked proficiency, and in the solid [illeg.] of power, in the finest pianissimos, in phrasing and in general points of emphasis, accentuation and refined [illeg.], it was well worthy of admiration and praise. Altogether it was a performance which would reflect credit upon any orchestral association.

     The ‘Lohengrin’ Introduction was finely rendered, and the Overture ‘Le Carnaval Romain,’ by Berlioz, was congenially and splendidly interpreted. Mr. Bergmann has thoroughly studied its characteristics, has learned the key to its design and in his performance presented a clear and comprehensive tone picture, which is remarkable for its dramatic and fanciful coloring. As a composition it possesses unquestionable merit, and it [illeg.] full justice at the hands of Mr. Bergmann and his orchestra.

     Mme. Camilla Urso, whose genius has always been cordially recognized in New York, was received on this occasion with the warmest expressions of friendly recognition.  The task she had undertaken was a difficult one, but in its accomplishment she [illeg.] herself admirably. Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in E is his masterwork, and takes a master hand to interpret it in its true power and spirit. The first movement is immensely passionate and needs the wrist of a man to give it the emphatic force it requires. Mme. Urso played it clearly, purely and finely, lacking only that one quality which can hardly be expected from a woman’s nature. She played the exquisite andante superbly, throwing into it an amount of elevated passionate sentiment, fulfilling the entire measure of the poetical inspiration of the composition. The warmest pathos of this movement was really affecting. The delicate and [illeg.] ‘Finale’ was played in a fine congenial spirit and with a clear, articulate and brilliant fluency, which evinced her admirable mastery over the difficulties of the instrument. In all respects Mme. Urso’s performance was a brilliant success, and deserved the enthusiastic applause which greeted the close of each movement. Vieuxtemps Ballade and Polonaise, which is a fine though curious composition, was also performed by Mme. Urso, who threw into it the quaintness of spirit, which is its characteristic, together with great brilliance of execution. The applause which greeted the close of this performance would have warranted its repetition, had not encores been forbidden by the Society; as it was it proved how entirely the public endorsed the performance of the talented artist.

     Miss Sophie Groschel played the first movement of Mozart’s piano concerto in D Minor, in a correct and graceful manner. She has a delicate touch, her execution is clear and fluent, and she has spirit, but she lacks somewhat in expression, and has not sufficient force to give full effect to a concerto. Still she plays well and fully deserved the recall which was awarded her. Both orchestral accompaniments were finely played, and we must compliment Mr. Bergmann upon the entire success of this thoroughly satisfactory concert.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 17 December 1866, 8.

The concert was not well attended. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 has a lot of nuances and thus is challenging to perform. However, the conductor and orchestra did perfectly, except for the last movement’s ma non troppo which had to “yield the allegro”. Urso performed Mendelssohn’s concerto and Vieuxtemp’s ballad and polonaise with understanding and confidence. Groschel, a student of the conservatory in Stuttgart, played with a lack of confidence and certainty. We will hold back with more evaluations until her next performance.

Review: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 18 December 1866.

“The second concert of the twenty-eighth season of the Philharmonic Society of New York took place Saturday at Steinway Hall. Beethoven’s Symphony Number 4, especially the Adagio, was executed admirably. We didn’t like either the choice of the overture to Lohengrin, by the detestable Wagner, or that of Carnaval romain, by the no less detestable Berlioz. On the other hand, Mlle Camille Urso, the violinist of choice, outdid herself in the performance of a magnificent concerto by Mendelssohn.”

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 19 December 1866, 312.

The concert did not attract as large of an audience as the other concerts before. Noticeably fewer young women attended. Could it be that this venue offers them fewer amenities than the Academy of Music? [musical interpretation of Beethoven’s b major symphony and a long detailed quote by Marx about the introduction of the symphony:  (translated literally) [Regarding Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4] Especially interesting is the introduction and we can’t help to repeat what Marx had said about it: (Quote begin)

“It [the symphony] is introduced by an adagio. Here the phenomenon of Beethoven’s original motif of a “softly progressing broodingly roaring depth” becomes very apparent. Mysteriously, the empty b flat of the woodwinds echoes fixed with the brief pizzicato of the strings; no oboes, no sharp instruments – they are still waiting – only hollow sounding instruments, only a flute in the higher ranges, in the middle [range], the not fully sounding C of the b-clarinets, the bassoons not in its lowest range, because their contra b has a “rough power”, in contrast the deep [lowest range] b-French horns which are not capable of much power and which in the piano part cannot give a consistent and smooth sound. It is a “ghost sound” which looks at you out of dead eyes just as a ghost would”. (…)

“Oulibicheff – one does not know anymore why he wrote Beethoven’s biography – says about the symphony: it were a “side piece” (fait pendant) of the second [symphony] and certainly has received Haydn’s praise, although it was not fully accepted by the new admirers of the last works’. What does that mean? How can one explain works, which have no connection but the name of the type [‘symphony’], by placing [ranking] one next to or above the other?

Meanwhile he does not find satisfaction with this generality. Lured by a casual statement by Schindler, he thinks it is possible that the love for Guiletta Guicciardi (probably already countess Schalenberg) gave the composer the idea (…) for a symphony and all the motifs (tout les motifs) ‘in the tender key of b major’. This introduction is like the introduction to a lovesong”. [End of quote]

Bergmann’s interpretation of the piece was excellent. Groschel was very successful with playing the first movement. She has a strong, sometimes too hard attack style of the piano keys; her technique however, is very good. A little more warmth and individuality in her interpretation would not hurt, though. She is the daughter of a well-known music instructor who has a high ranking position at the Brooklyn conservatory. She was trained at the Stuttgart conservatory.

Miss Urso was also received very well by the audience. She played the first movement very well; however, her performance lacks lively creative expression and warmth just like Groschel’s. She did not show much of an understanding of her piece.

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 23 December 1866, 4.

The performance was excellent; so was the program; but not its order. It seems to have become a habit for the Philharmonic concerts to start with a grand symphony and from then on spiral downwards towards the finale, which is no more than light and insignificant dance music. We are missing the grand finale here, so do the people who leave before the concert is finished. These might be the people who came late and missed the impressive beginning. It would clearly make more sense to raise the quality of the pieces increasingly towards the end instead of the other way round. The late comers also disturb the opening performance which influences the quality. To open the program with a brilliant overture would be much more appropriate. The performance of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony was full of well-executed nuances; the second movement was pure perfection. The pace of the last movement was felt as too fast, however; this did not affect the purity and clarity of the phrasing. All in all, maybe a little less elegance yet a bit more fire would have been more effective.

            Berlioz’ “Carneval Romain” (sic) was brilliantly composed and performed, although some people got up from their seats and left during this performance.

            Urso played the violin beautifully and skillfully; only a little bit more strength is required to lift her into first class ranks of musicians. Mendelssohn’s violin concert was played with precision and clarity, the andante’s double touch on the fret was as pure as can be, and a rising warmth in her playing developed once she had overcome her initial nervousness. Vieuxtemps’ “Ballad and polonaise” is not an interesting piece; however, Urso understood to make it so. She was called out many times after her performance.

Groschel played the first part of Mozart’s piano concerto with confidence and skill, yet without liveliness. If the lack of spirit in her performance was influenced by timidness, we regret, she was not given an opportunity to perform a second piece.