Price: $1.50, reserved and unreserved
10 January 2018
"The third of Mr. Theodore Thomas's symphony soirees will be given at Steinway Hall on Saturday evening. The services of the Mendelssohn Union have been obtained for this and the remaining soirees. [Lists program.]"
“Steinway Hall.—Mr. Theodore Thomas will give his third Symphony Soirée at this establishment to-night. Of the orchestra it is unnecessary to speak. It is always the principal attraction. On the present occasion, however, Mr. Thomas will be assisted by the members of the Mendelssohn Union, whose services contributed so largely to the pleasure and importance of the last entertainment. The Union sings various pieces from ‘St. Paul.’ The orchestral works are the ‘Suite in C,’ by Raff, the ‘Ave Vernon [sic] Corpus,’ by Mozart, and the ‘D Minor Symphony,’ by Schumann.”
“To Steinway Hall tonight. Theo. Thomas concerts. ‘Suite Op. 101 Raff’ Rather pretty-ish. A ‘Suite’ seems to mean a 12th Symphony. I never saw the word on a programme before. This composition was nowise original or brilliant, but the composer had honestly tried to write something agreeable and graceful, wherefor he is to be commended. That is the last thing our Wagners and Volkemanns and Rubinsteins think of. They want to be stunning and fearful. I believe the first movement of the C minor symphony (leaving out of view the exquisite melodic phrases that are first introduced in the key of E flat major) has ruined modern orchestral music by begetting a race of feeble imitators, whose work is studiously hideous when they think it is Beethovenesque, but who could certainly write things agreeable to hear, even if not deep or novel, having all the vast resources of the orchestra at their command. After ‘Raff’ came Mozart’s sweet and solemn ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ chorus and orchestra. Mendelssohn’s overture to St. Paul—chorus from ‘Arise and Shine’ and then (the finest thing in that oratorio) that awful chorale, ‘Sleepers Awake! A Voice is calling. It is the Watchman on thy Walls.’ ‘Thou City of Jerusalem’ &c. The words are weird and perhaps not quite unworthy their grand noble music. I held that chorale full consideration for my dollar and a half, and came away without hearing a symphony of Schumann’s.”
“Mr. Theodore Thomas is doing a work of inestimable value in the cultivation of an elevated musical taste, by familiarizing the public with artistic performances of the best classical music, which he has always introduced, more or less, in the popular concerts at Steinway Hall, but which is given exclusively at his symphony soirées. The last of these rare entertainments took place on Saturday evening, and was largely attended. A programme, consisting of Raff’s ‘Suite in C;’ a passage from Mozart, ‘Ave verum Corpus;’ Mendelssohn’s ‘Arise and Shine,’ and Schumann’s beautiful symphony in D Minor was performed by an orchestra of eighty pieces and the Mendelssohn Union in a manner always satisfactory and in some respects much more than satisfactory.”
“It is difficult to write a musical notice without mentioning the name of Mr. Theodore Thomas, and, in truth, it is always pleasant to do so. Few men have worked harder for a position than he, and still fewer have deserved to retain it. Immersed in every kind of music, it is surprising to find that he still clings to his first love—the ‘Symphony-Soirees,’ and this too in the face of many monetary rebuffs. The third of these superb entertainments—entertainments which we venture to say have never been paralleled in New York—was given on Saturday night, at Steinway Hall (the Theodore Thomas of Halls). The programme justified a larger attendance than was present. The forces employed were an orchestra of eighty, and a chorus of one hundred—the latter from the Mendelssohn Union. The pieces were a suite in C, opus 101, by Raff; ‘Ave Verum Corpus’—chorus by Mozart; a selection from ‘St. Paul,’ by Mendelssohn, and last but decidedly not least, the ‘Symphony’ in D by Schumann. The members of the Mendelssohn Union being strangers it becomes us to give them welcome. They sang the choral ‘Sleepers Wake’ beautifully, and the ‘Ave Verum’ also. The latter is hardly worthy of being selected for such an occasion, albeit melodious and touching. In the chorus ‘Arise and Shine’ (Mendelssohn) no one arose and no one shone, (in a musical sense) not even the orchestra. Mr. Berge by the way conducted the vocal piece by Mozart. There are few musicians more earnest and deserving, but we prefer—when an orchestra is concerned—to see the bâton in more practised hands. In the oratorio music Mr. Berge presided at the organ. There is not much to be said of the purely instrumental morceaux. Raff’s suite is a dextrose compound of mediocre ideas and technical skill, with a decided proclivity to vulgar jollity. The minuet and scherzo are perhaps exceptions to this somewhat broad generalization. The instrumentation in both is delicate and imaginative, but it terminates in a rollicking, common-place march. If it be curious to produce a composer’s one hundred and first work, then there is curiosity in this suite. But it seems to us that Raff is old enough to do better. The concert ended with Schumann’s Symphony in D minor–one of the most popular of the series written by the composer. We have on many occasions had the pleasure of speaking of its merits and need only add that, like the ‘Suite,’ it was played superbly.”
“The sustained success of Mr. Theodore Thomas’s Symphony soirées must be encouraging to the best aims of music in New York, as it provides conclusively, that the classics of the art, in the hands of earnest and able musicians, can be made in every respect compensatory. They summon large audiences by a spell of wonder-working instrumentation deeper and more potent in certain essentials of the finest thought than that which attracts us to any other work. The symphony-feast is the purest symposium to which the lover of music can sit down. We should have it oftener, but let us be grateful that once in a month, after careful preparation, Mr. Thomas can bring his well-worked and intelligent musicianship before the scorns of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Beethoven—in face of audiences which delight to hear the symphony. The programme of Saturday opened with a rare and masterly work—the Suite in C, by Raff—in which the minuet, and the concluding scherzo and march, with their energetic pomp and stateliness, were the parts most thoroughly enjoyed. A sacred passage from Mozart, ‘Ave Verum Corpus,’ was uttered by the voices of the Mendelssohn Union with that finely modulated solemnity which its grave pathos demands. Mendelssohn’s memorable chorus, ‘Arise and Shine,’ would have still been better rendered, if the stress of instruments at one point had not made the voices unnecessarily vague for a time. In the succeeding choral, ‘Sleepers Awake,’ it again seemed as if the very high tide of instrumentation would overwhelm the apparent dreaminess of the voices. It has always been the problem of the master, how to manage his voices and instruments so as to not spoil his dreams; and this difficulty, even with the finest musicians, is not to be surmounted without persistent and conscientious effort. The symphony in D minor, by Schumann, in many respects the most interesting part of the programme, concluded the concert. Its searching imagination, and especially the extraordinary beauty of its romanza, impress the hearer deeply.”
“The concert was attended by a smaller audience. The march at the end of Raff’s composition was performed very powerfully, which the audience applauded enthusiastically. This composition’s last two movements are quite interesting and captivating.
The chorus’s performance of the gentle ‘piano’ entrances in Mozart’s work was very good. We appreciate Thomas’ efforts to introduce new works to the audience, for example Mendelssohn’s St. Paul oratorio. Both choral pieces were well studied and performed with fervor, energy and precision. Unfortunately, the sounds of the organ and of the orchestra often overpowered the singers. Berge played the organ with skill, and Thomas conducted with energy, understanding and confidence. All performances were vastly rewarded with applause. We did not stay for the second part as did not other people. Schumann’s D minor symphony was performed many times before.”
“The program was diverse, yet it lacked coherence. The combining of Raff and Schumann can be condoned; however Mozart’s ‘Ave verum corpus’ and Mendelssohn’s oratorio should not be part of a program of such concerts. We assume the program was originally different and was changed due to circumstances. The concert was not well attended. Raff’s opening was well received (musical analysis and interpretation), however, Mozart’s ‘Ave verum’ was not. We are not sure if the performance was the reason or something else. Mendelssohn’s oratorio was well sung by the Mendelssohn Union.”