HANDEL AND HAYDN SOCIETY.
In the June 1874 Annual Report of the Handel and Haydn Society, Lang’s role as accompanist was noted. “The pianist who is willing to devote his time to the dry study of the intricate choruses of any new and difficult work with a society of amateurs like ours, who stumble at every step, requiring the closest attention on his part to aid them in their work, most assuredly must be induced to do so from love of the compositions and from the advantages which must thereby accrue to the cause of art, and in this his chief recompense is found. Mr. Lang has not only shown a self-sacrificing spirit in all this, but he has in no small degree contributed his powerful and valuable support to the chorus from his obscure position behind the Beethoven statue, [at the Music Hall] through the instrumentality of the superb organ under his control. One less skilful than he might have jeopardized many a performance, however able the hand which wielded the baton.” (Dwight (June 13, 1874): 244)
ARTHUR FOOTE (b. March 5, 1853 at Salem, MA and d. April 8, 1937 at Boston, MA).
“Arthur Foote As a Young Man.” Grove, American Supplement-1920, 206. Used in Elson’s The History of American Music, 1904, 188.
Foote was among the many talented pupils of Lang, and their association then became one of colleagues. Lang first taught Foote when he was 14. In 1870 Foote began at Harvard having “the good fortune to find John K. Paine there. His coming in 1869 marked the beginning of real musical instruction and of the development of a Department of Music…There were naturally few students for Paine at that time; in fugue I was the only one, taking my lessons at his house. He was college organist as well, and I had sense enough to appreciate the beautiful improvisations which I heard at chapel. I owe a great deal to him, not only for the excellent teaching but also for the important influence which he had on me at a time when it was sadly needed.” (HMA Bulletin No.4, 1) Foote graduated from Harvard in 1874, and he took organ lesson from Lang that summer—Lang convinced him to continue his music study. A year later he graduated from Harvard with the first MA in music. Foote opened a piano studio next door to the Harvard Musical Association, and became a member. He was appointed organist of Church of the Disciples 1876, then in 1878 at First Unitarian Church, Boston where he stayed until 1910. Foote shared Lang’s love of Wagner. He attended the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876 and the premier of the complete Ring of the Nibelungen (Cipolla, Am Nat Bio, Vol. 13, 190) He made eight trips abroad over a twenty-year span. He married in 1880—his only child, Katharine was born in 1881.
On Wednesday April 22, 1891, Foote led “The Ladies” Vocal Club of Salem” at the Cadet Armory Hall in one of three “Popular Concerts” sponsored by the “Salem Oratorio Society” whose conductor was Carl Zerrahn. In addition to the vocal numbers, piano pieces included Lang playing the Etude, Opus 25, No. 7 by Chopin and “Scherzo” from Sonata, Opus 31, No. 3 by Beethoven; Lang and Foote playing the Variations on a Theme from Beethoven by Saint-Saens: and the piano quartet of Lang, Foote, Phippen and Fenollosa playing the “First Movement” from Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and Les Contrastes by Moscheles. Foote taught at NEC from 1921 until his death in 1937. (Cipolla, 150) “Though he lived to 1937, Foote absorbed no twentieth-century styles. He was not a bigot, like Dwight. Rather, he acknowledged his timidity with typical equanimity: ”My influence from the beginning, as well as my predilection, were ultra-conservative”…Foote’s failure to grow was typical of Boston: like the writers he knew and admired, he was both supported and stifled by a benign cultural environment.” (Horowitz, 99) following the lead of his teacher Lang, Foote presented a series of eight chamber music concerts “on every Saturday evening in February and March.”  at the Chickering Hall, 156 Tremont Street. (BPL Music Hall Prog., Vol. 3) Another series was presented in 1882.
1874 MECHANICS’ HALL CONCERTS: FEBRUARY—MARCH.
Lang presented a series of four chamber music concerts on Thursday afternoons from 3:30PM until 5PM on February 19, March 5, 12 and 26, 1874. The first concert opened with Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, Op. 30 for Violin and Piano and closed with the Fantasie in form of a Sonata, Op. 5 by Saran which “Mr. Lang played with unflagging spirit and great brilliancy…to the delight of the whole company” except for Dwight who felt that there was just too much expression even though he did have to admit that the title did allow “more or less of moody freedom in this regard.” (Dwight (March 7, 1874): 190) The Metronome reported on the first concert: “We were unable to be present, but are pleased to hear on every hand that the concert was a perfect success. It could not have been otherwise, for Mr. Lang has fairly earned the reputation of being one of the most thorough pianists among us, and his fine taste as regards selections cannot be questioned. Those who have observed his musical career, have been pleased to note that his ambition has led him in the direction of true progress, both technical and aesthetically; by true merit, through indomitable will and keen judgment he has arrived at a most enviable position in his profession.” (Metronome (March 1874): 90)
A review by Dwight did not always guarantee a positive evaluation of Lang. The second concert “offered to a crowed audience” included Mendelssohn’s youthful Piano and String Quartet in B minor, Op. 5 with three members of the Mendelssohn Quintette Club “which he composed over two years before the Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture…Mr. Lang showed an easy mastery of its great difficulties, and the work went well as a whole.” Mr. George L. Osgood sang Schubert and Beethoven, and Lang played Chopin’s Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49, but not to the best review: “We have had [it] better played in concerts of Mr. Dresel and, more recently, of Rubenstein. Mr. Lang was not at his best in it, -at least not so happy as in his rendering of some other not less trying works of Chopin.” The concert ended with Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44-no critical comment was made. (Dwight (March 21, 1874): 178 and 179)
On March 12, which was the third in the series, Lang and the brothers August and Wulf Fries played Mendelssohn’s Trio in C Minor.” Mr. Lang repeated the Fantasie Sonata by Saran, with the same brilliancy and clearness as before, and, to our feeling, much more satisfactorily with regard to evenness of tempo and chaste simplicity of expression.The concert closed with an admirable performance, by himself and Wulf Fries, of the Introduction and Polonaise, Op. 3 for piano and cello, by Chopin.” The tenor, Mr. Charles R. Hayden also performed. (Dwight (April 4, 1874): 206 and 207)
The final concert in that year’s series was given on March 26: it “was a remarkably attractive one, -at all events Mechanics’ Hall was thronged. The great feature was the Trio in B flat, Opus 52, [for piano, violin and cello] by Rubinstein, a fiery, strange, effective work, bristling with difficulties from which many a deft and staunch pianist might well shrink; but Mr. Lang seemed in his element while resolutely, gracefully surmounting them, and came out loudly cheered…Mr. Lang’s piano solos came all together in a series of six pieces in the middle of the concert…finally, again by Chopin, that ever welcome great Nocturne in C minor (opus 48), for which we have several times expressed our indebtedness to Mr. Lang, who played it con amore.”(Dwight (April 18, 1874): 214) The thirty year old vocalist Miss Clara Doria also took part. Miss Doria was recently arrived in Boston, and Lang hired her professionally and then came to know her socially when she married the Boston lawyer Henry Monroe Rogers. The daughter of the English composer John Barrett, Miss Doria was the “youngest student ever accepted by the Leipzig Conservatory, where she studied piano and singing.” (Grove Amer., Vol/IV, 75)
Wiliam F. Apthrop gave a very favorable review of the series; “Mr. Lang’s series of concerts at Mechanic’s Hall closed March 26. They have been decided favorites with the lovers of classical music, every concert being largely attended. With able assistants, Mr. Lang presented on each occasion good selections, and rendered them in a manner worthy of his high reputation as a musical artist.” (Brian, 59: original in Folio, May 1874, 148) Of couse this was written by a former pupil of Lang’s.
Of the final three concerts, the Metronome thought that the programs would “compare favorably with those of any other series of classical concerts ever given.” This critic did not like the singer of the third concert “Mr. Chas. R. Hayden, who was neither happy in his selections nor the performance of them.” However, of Lang’s playing: “We were well aware of Mr. Lang’s’ rare ability as a pianist, but must say it occurred to us that he played at these concerts with more than his wonted excellence, and this opinion is shared by many who are best acquainted with his public performances. The concerts were attended by full houses.” (Metronome (April 1874): 3)
Lang continued his early musical connection by various concerts throughout his career. On April 16, 1874 he presented a solo piano recital at Plummer Hall including music of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Handel, Schumann, Saran, Bargiel and Liszt. Also on the program were “Lang’s diversions, caprice and spinning song. Tickets were 50 cents. (Salem Register (April 13, 1874): 2, GB)
Other Lang appearances. HMA Program Collection.
LANG AS HANDEL AND HAYDN ORGANIST
“Mr. B. J. Lang, the organist of the Handel and Haydn Society exhibited the greatest taste in his manipulations of the ”Grand organ” during the choral performance of the festival. This matter of organ playing in conjunction with chorus singing is a very important one, for the finest vocal effort can be totally destroyed by an injudicious use of the organ. Mr. Lang’s quick perception in adding the organ at the right moment and in the right quantity was notable and deserves the highest mention. We can not recall to mind any organist who could have so skillfully filled the position. We think Mr. Lang stands alone in this particular… .We would again draw the attention of our readers to the fact that Mr. Lang filled one of the most onerous positions in the performance of the festival, and with extraordinary success.” (Metronome (May 1874): 13)
LANG’S MOTHER DIED.
Lang’s mother, Hannah B. Lang (maiden name Learock) died from cancer on September 25, 1874 at 93 Waltham Street, Boston—57 years, 7 months. She had been born in Salem. Her father was listed as John Learock, also born in Salem, and her mother was also named Hannah; both her parents had been born in Salem. (Death Certificate)
BOSTON PHILHARMONIC CLUB.
In addition to promoting his own concerts, B. J. appeared in those organized by others. After the headline “Boston Philharmonic Club” Dwight wrote: “The first Classical Matinee of Mr. Bernard Listemann and his accomplished associates, took place Nov. 30th, in Mechanics Hall, before a very appreciative audience. And it was one of the finest chamber concerts we have heard for many a day.” After the String Quartet in D minor, Opus 77 by Raff, and a French Horn solo, “The piano selections were interpreted by Mr. Lang; that happy little, bright Allegro from Handel, with which he pleased so much last year, was played more exquisitely than ever; and that almost impossible Etude of Chopin, with the wide arpeggio chords, kept up unflaggingly, all came out clearly and effectively.” The concert ended with Beethoven’s Trio Opus 87 for Piano, Violin, and Cello. (Dwight (December 12, 1874) “The Boston Philharmonic Club” was organized much like the Mendelssohn Quintette Club in that it was a combination of string and wind players. The players in 1874 were: Bernard Listemann, violin; Fritz Listemann, violin; Emil Gramm, viola and violin; Adolph Hartdegen, cello; Eugene Weiner, flute, and Adolph Belz, horn and viola. The piano accompanists listed were E. Gramm. A. Belz, and F. Listemann (HMA Program Collection).
APOLLO CLUB 1874-1875.
Dwight reviewed the concerts of late 1874 as being “Singularly perfect and delightful specimens” of male part-singing. “The Apollo Club (64 good singers, with fine voices, and well balanced), have given two concerts, with essentially the same programme, to their crowds of friends; and never has their singing seemed so perfect in the finish and refinement, as well as the rich volume and grand power of tone, and the harmonious blending of tone colors” (Dwight (Jan 9. 1875): 367) Dwight continues by decrying that the group should spend so much time on trivial material, but concludes, “on the other hand, there was the grandly satisfying double chorus from Oedipus of Mendelssohn, which closed the concert, and was sung magnificently, to the effective piano accompaniment of their accomplished conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang.”(Dwight (Jan. 9, 1875): 367)
In 1875 Dwight continued his good reviews. Mentioning a June concert, he said: “The singing of the former (Apollo Club), -a well-selected, solid, and well-balanced body of 67 voices, -even surpassed their own high standard of past years.The sweet, pure, rich ensemble of tone, its vital resonance, was most remarkable; and the execution, in all points of precision, light and shade, etc., was singularly perfect.Vocal solos and a Rondo for two pianos by Chopin were also included. (Dwight (June 26, 1875): 47)
100th. ANNIVERSARY OF BUNKER HILL.
Nearly all the members of the Apollo Club, by invitation of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, assisted at the services on the occasion of the First Centennial Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1875. They sang the hymn God Save the Queen with words by Charles James Sprague and Loyal Song with music by Kuchen and words by Sprague. The final hymn had words by “G. W. W.” and music by Abt. The Benediction was given by Rev. Phillips Brooks. “G. W. W.” was George Washington Warren who was President of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, and he had given the address. Lang thought enough of the event that he saved his “City of Boston Pass” which allowed him “through all the lines, military and police.” (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2)
The Cecilia was formed in 1874 as a 100 member mixed choir as an adjunct of the Harvard Musical Association so that its orchestra would have “a choral adjunct to strengthen its position musically and financially.” (Hill-p.5) The first joint concert was held in The Music Hall on November 19, 1874 with Carl Zerrahn conducting (the choir had been prepared by Lang) and the second half of the concert was Mendelsohn’s First Walpurgis Night. Dwight wrote: “The introduction of the new Choral element and first appearance of ‘The Cecilia’ drew an immense audience to the Music Hall on Thursday afternoon ‘at 3PM precisely’, Nov. 19. This was the second concert of their tenth season. To give the hundred or more singers a fair chance on the stage, so that they could be massed together in the middle front, the orchestra were [?] placed down in front, on a platform half the height of the stage, and stretching over its entire width… The arrangement was on the whole a good one for the singers, but not so altogether for the orchestra.” After the opening overture, the first sounds from the new choral group were that of an a cappella madrigal by Weelkes, and this was followed by a Mendelssohn’s part—song The Lark—both were conducted by Lang and were reviewed in a very positive manner. “The great event of the concert, and of the musical season so far, was the revival of Mendelssohn’s Walpurgis Night under the direction of Mr. Lang, who had first brought it out here in the small hall some ten years ago, giving it twice over in one evening. It was a success then; of course a much greater success now. Yet it was a bold undertaking, with only two orchestral rehearsals, only one for orchestra and chorus, to produce a work so difficult and so exacting… Dr. Langmaid sang the tenor solos with great sweetness and nobility of tone, and with consummate style and beauty of expression… We may find room to treat the theme with fuller justice should Walpurgis Night be repeated, which there is a fair prospect that it will be at an early date, as there has been much call for it; in that case it will doubtless go still further and will be better understood.” (Dwight (Nov. 28, 1874): 343)
At the same time that Lang was preparing this new choir, he was also continuing his own piano performance career. This is shown by two ads that appeared next to each other in the Boston Daily Globe of November 28, 1874. The first ad announced “Four Subscription Concerts” to be given by the Boston Philharmonic Club. Lang played a Chopin piece as a soloist in the first program, November 30th. Just two days before he had been part of the committee that organized a “Grand Testimonial Concert” for Mr. J. D. Mansfield. Among the volunteer performers was Mr. C. R. Hayden, “The Favorite Tenor” who was Lillian Bailey’s uncle and voice teacher.
At the December 24, 1874 concert the First Walpurgis Night was indeed “Repeated by request” after its performance a month earlier. Dwight’s review reported that “The day, a busy one for many so preoccupied with Christmas trees and presents, besides being stormy, was not very favorable, and yet the audience was large and it’s attention hearty and unflagging from the beginning to the end of the cheerful and attractive programme… The repetition of the Walpurgis Night was decidedly an improvement on the first performance, gratifying as that was. [But there were no a capella pieces in this performance]. This was the fruit, partly, of renewed rehearsal by the singers, and partly of more self-possession and control of the orchestral forces acquired by Mr. Lang in the bringing out of the very trying prelude and accompaniments; nut it was also greatly owing to the better arrangement and chorus on the stage, the former being grouped behind the voices. The sopranos and altos were massed together on one wing of the front, the tenors and basses on the other, for the reason that the choruses in this work for the most part are alternating for male and female voices.” (Dwight (Jan. 9, 1875): 366) Two soloists were singled out for praise: “Mr. John Winch, whose grand voice and delivery, in the baritone solos of the Druid Priest, won him the chief honors; but the sweet tenor tones, the well-trained organ, the refined, expressive art of Dr. Langmaid, if not so telling in a great hall, deserve equal praise.” (Dwight (Jan. 9, 1875): 366)
The eighth Symphony Concert of the 1874-1875 season was given at 3PM on Thursday afternoon, February 18, 1875, and it “drew a great crowd to the Music Hall to hear the first Boston performance with orchestra, of Schumann’s wonderful cantata Paradise and the Peri. The vast crowd listened to it all-for nearly two hours-with almost absolute attention, and with abundant signs at first of wonder, then of steadily increasing interest and delight… . Mr. Lang conducted carefully, -perhaps a little mite too anxiously, -but in the main firmly, doing his best to keep down the noisier instruments so as to give the voice a chance. It is obvious however, that the instruments of the orchestra are sometimes not entirely sure of his intentions, and that the baton does not always lead them in spite of themselves… The Cecilia had been very patiently and thoroughly trained in all the choruses; if there was any fault it was that possibly the drill had been too strict and careful, leaving not enough of spontaneity and freedom to the singers for the best effect sometimes… But they had entered into their work with enthusiasm; the voices of sopranos and altos especially, were delightfully fresh and telling, and the tenors and basses showed a vigorous reinforcement since the Walpurgis Night was sung.” Only two professional soloists were used with the other solos being sung by members of the choir. “There appears to be a pretty general desire to have Paradise and the Peri repeated. Such an effort does indeed seem too great to be spent upon only one performance; and doubtless, a second time. Both public and performers would come better prepared both for the appreciation and the rendering of so great a work.” (Dwight (March 6, 1875): 398 and 399) Among the eight soloists were Miss Ida Welsh (Alto), Mr. George L. Osgood (Tenor) and Mr. John F, Winch (Bass). There was enough public interest to warrant a second performance which Lang conducted on Wednesday, April 14 at Horticultural Hall with one change among the soloists: “The part of the Peri this time will be sung by Miss Henrietta Beebe, of New York; the other solos as before (Mrs. Gilbert, Miss Ita Welsh, Mr. George L. Osgood, Mr. John F. Winch, etc.)” (Dwight (April 3, 1875): 415)
The reviewer in the Gazette took a less enthusiastic position. “There was an immense audience present, the hall being literally crammed. We do not think that Schumann’s genius was quite fitted to deal with theme of this particular quality. In other words, to transfer to music the airy grace and delicate fantasy and the tender brilliance of Moore’s music. The sweetness of the poem and the almost melancholy seriousness of the music to which Schumann had wedded it do not blend happily. The effect on the audience was, we think, disappointing. For the performance we do not know what to say. It was good and bad in turn.” (Johnson, 331 and 332) The work had been presented in Boston eleven years earlier at a private performance at Chickering Hall on April 25, 1863 led by J. C. D. Parker and a “Club of amateurs” with the soloists, Mrs. Harwood, Miss Huntley, and Dr. Langmaid (Johnson, 331).
Just a month later the choir was part of a concert with the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra concert that included the Boston premier of sections from Mendelssohn’s unfinished opera Loreley, Op. 98. Dwight’s review of this March 18, 1875 event at the Music Hall said: “The tenth and last concert of the tenth season called out a large audience on Thursday afternoon, March 18. The Cecilia, in full numbers, under Mr. Lang’s direction, again lent its valuable aid, and the programme consisted of about equal halves of vocal and of purely instrumental music.” The concert opened with the second performance of the Magnificat by Durante for choir and orchestra with “the choral parts well sung by the Cecilia,” and also included two part-songs by J. C. D. Parker conducted by the composer which “were to many of the singers pleasing reminiscences of the old Parker Club… They were indeed exquisitely sung, and were enjoyed as charming specimens of delicate, poetic harmony.” During the second half three sections from Loreley were sung… “The ‘Finale’ is by far the most important of these fragments, and the most important contribution of the Cecilia to that closing concert… The whole was given with great spirit and with vivid coloring, the alternate passages of chorus and soprano keeping up a breathless interest. Miss Whinery in the earlier portions was a little weak and tremulous, but she rose to the full height of the long, impassioned climax, her voice coming out quite splendidly on the high notes, showing what dramatic fire and fervor she is capable.” (Dwight (April 3, 1875): 414 and 415)
Print from the lower first page of Harper’s Weekly, April 13, 1867. Johnston Collection.
Clark’s Boston Blue Book 1888, 320.
Thus in its first season, the Cecilia took part in four of the Harvard Symphony Concerts and repeated Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri after the season closed. (Music, June 3, 1882) Originally this repeat of the Schumann was to have been with orchestra, but “the music-loving public, probably from sheer satiety after so much musical excitement, seemed quite indifferent to so rare an opportunity. To have given it again, at so unpropitious a moment, would have entailed a serious loss…But Cecilia had her revenge, in a more private social way, by inviting her friends to Horticultural Hall, on Wednesday evening, and there singing it with simple pianoforte accompaniment. And the entertainment was really delightful…The remarkablely fine voices which comprise this chorus were at least heard for once, and the excellence of their singing was appreciated.; their sound was neither covered up by an overpowering orchestra, nor lost in space.” (Dwight (April 17, 1875): 7)
THOMAS CHORAL SOCIETY.
Just as Lang was establishing the Cecilia, another symphonic choir had been formed by the New York conductor, Theodore Thomas, for use in his Boston performances. In March 1875 it was noted that: “The Thomas Choral Society will rehearse Bach’s cantata My Spirit Was In Heaviness,” in Bumstead Hall, this evening.” It was described as one of Bach’s grandest works, and it would be an American premier at the Thomas April 3 concert where “the society is to have the valuable assiatance of Mr. Theodore Thomas’s orchestra and distinguished solo talent.” (Advertiser (Maarch 18, 1875): 1, GB)
MR. JOHN F. WINCH.
The Winch brothers were important members of Lang’s musical circle. William Johnson Winch (tenor) and John F. Winch (bass) were “Boston merchants, whose part-time careers as tenor and bass ranked them only a little lower than the angels.” (Johnson, Hallelujah, 135) “The Winch brothers illustrate a difference in temperaments. John F. Winch, the bass, was direct and positive in his acceptance of engagements. William J. took a long time to make up his mind whether or not he was available, whether or not he wanted to sing the role offered, or whether or not the price was acceptable, with or without expenses of hotels and travel. In as much as he was the best tenor for the music of Bach, some patience was needed to obtain a definite commitment.” (Idem, 133) On Easter Sunday 1874 the Handel and Haydn Society presented Mendelssohn’s Elijah. “The new point of interest was the rendering of the Prophet’s part by Mr. J. F. Winch whose rich, elastic quality of voice gave unusual life to all the music. And he improved as he went on; rarely anywhere have we heard the beauty and deep pathos of ”It is enough,” or the emphatic energy of ”Is not the word” more satisfactorily brought out.” (Dwight (April 18, 1874): 215) W. J. Winch was also a conductor- he led a performance of Gade’s Crusaders with the Salem Schubert Club December 30, 1879 at Plummer Hall. (Dwight (January 31, 1880): 16) He appeared as soloist with the BSO on nine programs during the seasons ’85, ’89, ’90, ’91 and ’92. (Howe, BSO, 261) The 1892 appearance was as the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (MYB, 1892-93, 10) When Chadwick and his wife returned from their summer in Europe (1888) they “went by previous arrangement to Wm. Winch’s in Brookline, to stay until we found a place to settle down. His house was on Longwood Ave. next to the present No. 124 which was then a vacant lot…We had a delightful time at the Winchs, with fun and music every night and we made many new acquaintances among the nice people who live in that neighborhood. One night uncle Joseph, the eldest of the three Winch Bros. was at the house. We coaxed him to sing ”Every Valley” which he did in remarkable style for a man of seventy.” (Chadwick, Unpublished Memoirs) Clara Rogers described William Winch: “the ever genial and witty, and who had, happily, remained immune from tenor-itis…overflowing with fun, as usual.” (Rogers, Two Lives, 191)
LANG CONCERTS AT MECHANICS’ HALL 1875
“Mr. B. J. Lang gave the first of two concerts, at Mechanics’ Hall, last Thursday afternoon (April 22, 1875), which drew the large audience which his concerts always command; and it was a concert full of interest.” Two artists assisted: Miss Grace Sampson, one of his pupils, played Mozart’s Sonata in D for Two Pianos” with her teacher; the two giving us a very finished and artistic rendering…Miss Sampson’s touch is nice, her execution clean and even, and her whole performance had not a little of the fineness as well as the vigor of her master’s.” Miss Ita Welsh, not in the best of voice, sang four songs to Lang’s accompaniment, and his solos included Chopin’s Impromptu in F Sharp Minor, Handel’s Bourree in G, and the concert ended with Schumann’s Concertstuck in G, Op. 92 with Lang as soloist and his pupil playing the orchestral accompaniment. Dwight mentioned that Lang had played this work twice before with orchestra. (Dwight (May 1, 1875): 15)
The second concert on April 29 used the same three performers and the same program arrangement. At this concert Miss Ita Welsh was in fine voice earning and encore, “and in all her songs she succeeded admirably.” (Dwight (May 29, 1875): 30)
“Aug. 7th. Lel sailed for Europe. Mr. Breed and Mr. Tucker with him…Aug. 23rd. Maidie and I to Stockbridge for a long visit with mother. It is very gay here. Continuous parties. I am often asked to sing, and must confess that I enjoy it all…Sept. 18th. Lel returned from Europe. He came directly up here.” (Diary 2- 1875)
APOLLO CLUB 1875-1876.
Dwight’s review of the January 1876 concert said that the club “sang more admirably than ever.” The Mendelssohn “Bacchus” chorus again closed the concert, and the guest soloist was a soprano from Brooklyn. But, “Part-songs, sentimental or playful, filled the intervening space, all sung with that exquisite finish, which becomes cloying after a certain time. One critic described the effect with more truth than he intended when he called the execution ”dead perfect.” It is not that anything can be sung too well; the secret of the fatigue lies, we think, in our feeling of the disproportion between comparatively little consequence of the music itself and the great amount of time and pains which it must cost to render it so perfectly.” (Dwight (Jan 22, 1876): 167) In a review following of the Boylston Club, mention is made of the Apollo Club’s having “many ripe, smooth, well matched high tenors.” (Ibid)
This previous review provoked “S. L. B” (presumably a member of the Apollo Club) to write to Dwight-this letter Dwight published in two full columns of his February 5, 1876 edition. The gist of the letter was that the Apollo committee had spent much time and effort in researching the best male repertoire, and that many of the great composers of the time had set short poems: If triviality is inherent in brevity, then all of these worthies must bear the charge, for they have not sought to elevate the character of Liederkranz and Mannerchor by offering important works…The mind is not always attuned to grandeur and profundity…The four-part songs of the great composers include some of their sweetest musical thoughts.” Dwight is forced to admit “That we cannot, any more than the Apollo Committee, draw up a list of noble pieces to be added to the Antigone choruses, etc., which they have already sung.” Dwight’s solution is to have the club become a mixed voice choir, a solution that they have not followed up to the current day.
Dwight review of the May 3 and 26, 1876 concerts began: “May and early June being to the song birds, with and without wings. Our vocal Clubs, -it is theirs by right to sing out the long concert season, and usher in the summer.” Dr. Langmaid (tenor), Mr. J. F. Winch (barytone), and Mr. W. J. Winch (tenor) were the featured soloists. The accompaniments were done on the piano, and five of the choral pieces had been translated “for the club by Mr. Charles J. Sprague sung on this occasion for the first time in this country.” It would seem that having the audience understand the texts was important to B. J. “We may truly say that we have never enjoyed an Apollo Concert quite so well as this one. It has long seemed as if they had about reached the last limit of attainable perfection in the balance and well blended beauty of their voices, and the nice, effective and expressive execution of whatever music that are wont to undertake. But this time they really pushed the limit farther back; the rich, full manly, sweet ensemble of tone, the precision, force and delicacy of execution, the truth to every shade and contrast of sentiment, too, though still kept within the rather exhausted and monotonous sphere of male part-songs, had uncommon freshness…Mr. Sprague has been happy in his exploration after fresh material, as well as in his singable translations.” Dwight ended with a paragraph from another paper, the Advertiser: “Upon the stage of the Music hall, during the concert of the Apollo club last evening, was to be seen a very beautiful bronze statuette of the Apollo Belvidere. This work-a Barbedienne and an exquisite specimen of its kind-was obtained through Messrs. Bigelow, Kennard & Co., expressly for the active members of the Apollo club, who last night presented it to their conductor, Mr. Lang. The gift was certainly an appropriate expression of the feeling of admiration and regard cherished by the corps for the accomplished artist under whose guidance they have won so many artistic triumphs.” (Dwight, June 10, 1876, pp. 246 and 247) Other reviewers were enthusiastic; the “Traveler” critic ended: “We cannot find words to say what is due to Mr. Lang. He gave his whole souls to the performance, and inspired the singers throughout. A justifiable pride should be his in the success of the concert.” (Scrapbook) The Advertiser reviewer held the same opinion: “The last concert of the club marks the highest point which it has yet attained, and seems to leave little more to be accomplished.” (Scrapbook)
CECILIA SECOND SEASON: 1875–1876.
The choir took part in three of the Harvard Symphony Concerts during the 1875-76 Season. The third concert of the season was given Thursday December 2, 1875 and included in the first half the cantata Spring’s Greeting by Gade, the 23rd. Psalm Op. 132 for female voices by Schubert. In the second half, two fragments from Mendelssohn’s unfinished opera, Loreley, the “Ave Maria” and the “Finale for Soprano solo and Chorus” were performed. “The attraction of the Concert was the singing with and without orchestra, by The Cecilia, conducted by Mr. Lang…The voices, now raised to about 120 in number, are fresh and musical, making a fine ensemble. The tones blend richly, beautifully; and all the four parts were effective, though the balance is still capable of improvement.” (Dwight (December 11, 1875): 142) Dwight felt that the Gade was not a major work, but charming. He commended Mr. Sumner for his accompaniment of the Schubert.
The sixth concert concert of the season, “owing chiefly to the attraction of the Cecilia, under Mr. Lang, had the largest audience of the season.” The choir sang Gade’s cantata, Comala, text from Ossian; the complete text was printed in the program. “The performance was unequal; the male chorus of bards and warriors commencing rather timidly, partly because the time was taken too slow, and partly because they were too weak in number and too widely set apart upon the platform. The weakness was felt more than once. But the soprano and alto portion of the chorus was altogether beautiful and telling.” The soloists were mentioned: Miss Clara Doria “was in excellent voice;” Dr. Bullard sang with “judgment and refinement,” but was covered in many parts by the orchestra. (Dwight (February 5, 1876): 174 and 174) The second half of the concert had several shorter numbers including Schubert’s psalm setting of The Lord is My Shepherd, “repeated by request, confirmed the beautiful impression which it had made before, and must stand as so far the most successful effort of the Cecilia. The delicate piano part was nicely played by Mr. Arthur W. Foote, -A very spirited performance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven brought the concert to a grand conclusion.” (Ibid)
The tenth (and last) concert of the 1875-1876 season had Carl Zerrahn conducting the first half and B. J. Lang conducting the second half of the concert. The second part began with Bach’s cantata Ich hatte veil Bekummerniss with George L. Osgood and Miss Clara Doria as soloists who were members of the choir. John F. Winch, a non-chorus member was the bass soloist. It certainly speaks well of the choir that it and Lang attracted such fine voices as those of Osgood and Doria. Osgood was to go on to lead choirs somewhat in competition to the Cecilia; Doria would give up her solo career when she married a Boston lawyer in 1878, but she was very active as a vocal teacher and hostess on the Boston social scene until her death in 1931. G. W. Sumner as organist for this performance. An ad for the concert mentioned additional “members of the Cecilia” who would be soloists: Miss Ita Welsh, Dr. S. W. Langmaid and Dr. E. C. Bullard.” (Traveler (March 13, 1876): 3, GB) Dwight, while finding the “tenors and basses still inferior in number and volume to the sopranos and contraltos,” did better that in previous concerts. Knowing that a Bach cantata was a difficult offering for the Boston audience of this time, began one paragraph of his review with: “And what impression did the Cantata make? Good enough upon the whole, we think, to justify the risk of introducing it, and to give promise of better yet in this sort for the future.” (Dwight (April 1, 1876): 207)
By the spring of 1876 it had been determined that the choir, in fact, did not add financially, and separation was suggested. Gould cites the reasons for the separation as being the “frustration at being overwhelmed by such a large orchestra and the difficulty experienced by singing businessmen in attending the afternoon rehearsals.” (Gould-Our History Part 1, 1) A two-page notice dated November 16, 1876 gave details of the new, independent organization – about one-hundred singers, SATB, which would give three programs per season (each repeated) at Horticultural Hall, “the music presented to be a lighter character and greater variety than that which is offered by the larger choral societies of this city.” To defray expenses, three-hundred Associate members, either ladies or gentlemen were assessed $10 for which they received two tickets for every performance- “No tickets are to be sold.” The notice also stated that solo pieces would be included, and that members of the choir would be used as soloists. This policy of using soloists from the ranks of the choir obviously made membership attractive to many singers, but it also was to create a problem for the future as in many works the voices were not up to the solo demands of the works performed-a fact that was cited by the critics often.
“Lel is almost ready to give up the conductorship of the Cecilia and the Bach Cantata Ass. All this because the Orchestra plays so carelessly and indifferently.” (Diary 2 – Winter 1876)
CHAMBER MUSIC: SPRING SERIES 1876.
The two 3PM chamber music concerts held in the spring of 1876 were given on Thursday afternoons March 23 and 30, again at Mechanics’ Hall. “His programmes were unique, the distinctive feature being the great prominence given to the French composer who has excited so much interest here of late, Camille Saint-Saens…On his visit to Europe last summer the Harvard Musical Association commissioned Mr. Lang to procure, for its Library and its Concerts, some of the principal compositions of Saint-Saens.” Dwight wrote at the time: Saint-Saens, “organist at the Madeline in Paris, a musician thoroughly trained in the best classical school, at home in Bach [important to Dwight], [had] a streak of genius in him.” (Dwight (April 15, 1876); 213) As a result of Lang’s music buying the HMA performed the Saint-Saens Second Piano Concerto with Lang as the soloist, and the Concerto for Cello with Mr. Wulf Fries and the symphonic poem, Phaeton.
For the first concert on March 23 concert Lang and Arthur Foote opened with the American premier [Foote, Auto., p. 44] of Saint-Saens’ Variations for Two Pianofortes on a Theme by Beethoven, Opus 35 which had just been composed and published only two years before in 1874. “These were the days when St. Saens’ music came to us as a stunning novelty.” (Foote, Auto., 44) About twenty-five years later the Bostonian Mabel Daniels, who was a music student in Munich at that time (1902) recorded that she played this piece with her teacher. “I think it is great, especially the big fugue at the end.” (Daniels (Am. Girl): 258) It would be interesting to know if she had previously heard the work in Boston. In the same concert Miss Ita Welsh sang two songs, Lang played four short Bach pieces as transcribed by Saint-Saens and the concert ended with Lang as the soloist and Foote providing the orchestra parts in the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 2 in G Minor. Lang had played the American premier of this work two months before with Carl Zerrahn conducting the Harvard Musical Association at the Music Hall. Lang was able to play the work with orchestra again at the end of the year. He performed with The New York Philharmonic Society led by Leopold Damrosch on December 9, 1876, but the New York premier of the work had been done only one day before with the Thomas Orchestra at Steinway Hall with Annette Essipoff, pianist!
The program of the second chamber music concert again followed the outline of the first. The Trio in F Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello by St. Saens played by Lang and the two Wulf brothers opened the concert, followed by two songs, this time sung by Miss Lillian Bailey were separated by four Bach/Saint-Saens transcriptions, and the concert ended with Lang as the soloist in the Tschaikowsky (sic) Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor and the orchestral part played by Arthur Foote. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2) Dwight did not enjoy the Tchaikovsky. “The Russian Concerto suffered peculiarly by being deprived of its orchestral background; for it is a work conceived in the extreme modern style, dependent upon brilliant accessories and color contrasts for its effect.” Then Dwight weighed in with his critical comment on the work. “Without these, what intrinsically remains, with all its ingenuity and brilliancy, seems poor and uninspired and dull. Mr. Lang had mastered its immense technical difficulties surprisingly well…How much of the pretentious music of today can bear this test? But Beethoven is Beethoven if you only feel his shadow pass you in the twilight.” (Dwight (April 15, 1876): 213 and 214) Lang had been the conductor of the world premier of the Tchaikovsky concerto with Hans von Bulow as soloist only six months before (October 25, 1875).
This had been Miss Bailey’s debut: “She is a bright, enthusiastic maiden of sixteen, with a soprano voice of singular purity and sweetness, and of a sympathetic quality. For one so young she seems to have made careful studies, as well as to have intelligence beyond her years.” (Ibid) The opera singer Clara Rogers was also present at Bailey’s debut, and she noted: “Her singing at that time was almost amusingly unbridled, but her fresh, young voice and musical instinct had a charm of their own. She had not then the remotest idea how to adapt the spoken sentence to the musical phrase; good diction was an unknown quantity to her! I mention this because it was precisely the timely acquisition of good diction in her studies abroad that made her a finished artist; the distinguishing feature of her delightful singing being her faultlessly clear enunciation of every word.” (Rogers (Two Lives): 70 and 71) Dwight also remarked on the vocalist: “A fresh and interesting feature of this concert was the singing of Miss Lillian Bailey,-her first public effort, we believe. She is a bright, enthusiastic maiden of sixteen, with a soprano voice of singular purity and sweetness. For one so young she seems to have made careful studies, as well as to possess intelligence beyond her years, and we should say a decidedly musical nature.” Lang seems to have found and helped yet another young talent. (Dwight, Op. cit.)
TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1- WORLD PREMIER.
The year 1875 was also important for Lang as an orchestral conductor as he led the world premier performance of the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Von Bulow as the soloist on Oct. 25, 1875. This created quite a sensation. (Foote, Auto., 44) Lang learned the piece in “less than 24 hours.” (Herald (December 16, 1900): 17, GB-written when Lang again conducted the work 25 years after the premier) Johnson in First Performances states that this concert was not actually part of the regular season given by the Harvard Musical Association, but that the group was “generally speaking the same body of players.” (Johnson, 364) Lang and Von Bulow had met back in the summer of 1860. Liszt had provided one of his own cards as an introduction to Von Bulow who was, at that time, his son-in-law. (Excerpt 1860 B. J. L. Diary)
The details of the event are covered well in the following story filed by the Boston correspondent of the Graphic. “Von Bulow’s Quarrel with Bergmann. It may not be generally known that Von Bulow quarreled with Carl Bergmann, who came on here to conduct the orchestra at his opening concerts. The New York conductor, be it known, is no stranger to Boston, for he came here twenty-four years ago at the head of the Germanians before proceeding to New York. At rehearsal the German pianist is extremely fiery if things go wrong, and things did go exceedingly wrong at one of the preliminary rehearsals of the terribly difficult concerto by the Russian composer, Tschaikowski, which had never been performed at all until brought out here. Indeed, matters had gone wrong on several occasions. At this particular time the diminutive doctor became more animated than ever, and made a sarcastic remark which Bergmann resented. The result was that the latter conducted one more concert, which was to finish the first week, and then departed for New York. There wre some thoughts of sending for Dr. Damrosch, who is an old friend of Dr. Von Bulow, but it was decided to try Mr. B. J. Lang, who was also personally known to the pianist. Lang accordingly passed the next day, Sunday, in studying the music with Von Bulow, and the result was highly satisfactory to the latter and very creditable to our Boston musician, who continued to conduct at the remaining concerts.” (Cincinnati Daily Gazette (November 19, 1875): 2, GB)
Verlag Hans Dursthoff-Berlin: J. W. Johnston Collection.
Von Bulow almost did not make it to America in 1875. “During the end of the 1874-75 season, while on a tour to England, he suffered an ‘apoplectic stroke’ that partially paralyzed the right side of his body. In late June  he wrote Cosima that his health was ‘completely shattered,’ and he feared he would be ‘incapable of starting for America.’ A couple of weeks later he was able to view his situation not ‘too tragically or pathetically’ but still made arrangements for a ‘fatal ending,’ drawing up his will and giving instructions to Cosima for disbursing his possessions. It was in this debilitated physical condition and cynical state that Bulow began the musical preparation for his American tour.” (Lott, Peoria, 237 and 238) He had done his will as “He knew that he would be in North America for at least nine months…There was a predictable division of money and personal property to the three daughters Daniela, Blandine, and Isolde (the last whom he continued to call his own.” (Walker, 211) Cosima was a major reason for this tour-it was six years since she had left him for his friend Wagner, “and he was still struggling to regain control of his life-mentally, emotionally, and physically.” (Lott, Trance, 530) He also needed money and this tour would provide that. Over a period of eight months, he was to give 172 concerts; this averaged five concerts per week for which he would be paid c. $20,000 (about $450,000 in 2018). However, even though during the early weeks (October 1875) he called America a “marvelous country” with “splendid people,”and he was “housed and served like a prince” which made him “consider remaining in the New World,” by the following March physical and emotional depression had set in and he “withdrew from his contract with thirty-three concerts remaining.” (Op. cit., 531 and 541) He had played 139 concerts in thirty-nine different American cities, and in some, such as Boston and New York, he gave multiple performances. 101 were solo recitals, 20 were with orchestra and 18 were with chamber ensembles. (Op. cit., 548 and 549)
“The American tour began in Boston, on Monday, October 18, 1875, after a very rough transatlantic crossing on the steamer Parthia, during which Bulow was seasick. Immediately after his arrival in Boston, he locked himself away in his private quarters at 23 Beacon Street. The local newspapers reported that he practiced for eight or nine hours a day-as well he might in view of the workload before him.” (Walker, 213)
For his first concert on October 18th. the Music Hall’s 2,700 seats were filled. His entrance caused some comment: “Bulow walked onto the platform, a short, dapper figure, carrying a hat. This disconcerting appendage he proceeded to place under the piano. He also wore gloves which he ceremoniously removed before surveying the audience with his usual aristocratic distain…This opening concert was hugely successful and Bulow could not have been happier with the press notices…The New York Times accorded him a position of preeminence among the pianists who had visited America during the past fifteen years…During the first few days in Boston, Bulow gave four more concerts. But it was his appearance the following week, on October 25, that has entered the history books.” (Walker, 212 and 213) This was the world premier of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.
Dwight’s Journal of November 13, 1875 states that this concert was the fifth in a series of seven, [dates of the concerts were: #1-Monday, October, 18;#2-Wednesday, October 20; #3-Friday, October 22; #4 Saturday, October 23;#5-Monday, October 25;#6-Friday, October 29; #7-Saturday, October 30] and that the entire program of number five was repeated for the seventh concert. Between the Monday, October 25 Fifth Concert and the Friday, October 29 Sixth Concert, Bulow gave two recitals in Providence! (Lott, p. 301) “Mr. Peck, to whose enterprise we are indebted for these seven feasts, has made arrangements to have him [von Bulow] return in January  and give some concerts of Chamber music with the Philharmonic Club (Messers. Listemann, etc.).” The program for the Fifth Concert was:
Grand Concerto in B-flat (sic)-Tschaikowski
Sonata, Opus 27 (Moonlight Sonata)-Beethoven
Grand Fantasie, Opus 15- Schubert arranged for Piano and Orchestra by F. Liszt
“The Overtures went smoothly under the baton of Mr. Lang who had been called to succeed Mr. Bergmann and who [Lang], being himself a pianist and an enthusiastic admirer of von Bulow, was in better sympathy and understanding with him for the rendering of the extremely difficult, strange, wild, ultra-modern Russian score. It is the composition of a young professor at the Conservatory in Moscow, a pupil of Rubinstein’s (indeed the work contained not a few suggestions of the master), and is dedicated to Bulow, who complimented Boston very first performance. A compliment well meant, and warmly responded to by the applauding audience, -twice-for this program was repeated for the seventh concert… How wonderfully von Bulow rendered it, there is no need of telling; all that a hearty sympathy, a masterly conception and an infallible technique could do for it, it had the fullest degree; and the young author well knew that his work could not suffer in such hands.”(Johnson, First Performances, 364) “Privately, Bulow thought Lang’s performance was ‘very decent’ and a repeat performance of the Tchaikovsky was ‘most spirited.’ Publicly, he linked his arm in Lang’s after his first performance and insisted on sharing the applause with him. ” (Lott, Peoria, 243) Lott amplifies this story in a footnote, saying: “One writer remembered Bulow being ‘extravagant in testifying his satisfaction’ with Lang and reported this conversation with the pianists: ‘Did you see my little scene with the conductor?’ I said that I did, and asked why he was so desperately demonstrative, and why he made such a scene. ‘Ah! you ask that? I expected you would,’ he said. ‘But why not? It did me no harm, and it may do him good. Beside, I was so grateful that the conducting was no worse, that I could not restrain myself.”’ (Lott, 339) Bulow’s gratefulness extended to having Lang also conduct the sixth concert: “The little orchestra still manifested improvement,” and Lang also appeared with von Bulow in the last piece: “The Chopin Rondo (in C Major for two pianos) was very finely rendered by both artists, who kept perfectly together; and this compliment of Von Bulow to his new conductor, like the one before, when he led him out to share the honors of a recall, found sympathetic audience.” (Dwight (November 13, 1875): 126) Recently Steinberg mused: “I do wonder, though, what it all sounded like with B. J. Lang’s little orchestra with its four first violins (Steinberg, 477) Dwight had reported in his issue of October 30, 1875 concerning the fifth concert in the series: “Carl Bergmann’s baton gave a fair outline, although, to be sure, four first violins were rather thin and feeble for the great crescendo of the Leonora No. 3.” Dwight earlier in this same review had said: “There has been an orchestra, a small one to be sure, with the best conductor in America at its head during the first week” of the von Bulow concerts. (Dwight (Oct. 30, 1875): 118) This would then make Lang better than the best conductor then in America!
Upton, Musical Memories, facing 54.
The question remains as to why Bergmann was dismissed which then gave Lang his chance to conduct. Bulow recorded that “Bergmann had not taken much interest in the concerts as he had in drinking beer, he had missed two meetings to discuss the concerts which forced Bulow to make suggestions to the orchestra himself, and then, while Bulow was beginning his solo pieces in one of the concerts, Bergmann audibly invited the musicians to ”go get some refreshments,” and brought six of them back half tipsy.” (Lott, Peoria, 251) At Bulow’s next stop on his tour, New York City, he was asked during an interview with the New York Sun to explain why he had fired Bergmann who was well regarded, especially in the German community. Bulow began “by denouncing Bergmann as incompetent. He then went on to berate him for ”showing more interest in drinking beer” than in pursuing his duties as a conductor…The interview was so outspoken that it created what Harper’s Magazine called a ”hullabulow”. The German press gored him, calling him a great artist but a small man. That only made matters worse. Bulow went on to criticise the Germans in general as a beer-swilling crowd who drank until their brains were stupid, rendering them incapable of appreciating great music because they listened to everything through an alcoholic haze. This led to a further outcry and Bulow received the predictable crop of hostile letters.” (Walker, 214)
As late as the program for the Forth Concert held on October 23rd., Bergmann was still listed as the conductor of the fifth concert to be held two days later! In the fifth concert program Lang is advertised as the conductor, and also for the sixth and seventh concerts, which was a repeat of the material from the fifth concert. Nowhere in the program is there any mention of who the orchestra was. Walker describes the group as “a scratch orchestra of a mere thirty-five players.” (Walker, 213) Also, there were no notes about the music, but only various articles about von Bulow. (HMA Program Collection) Bergmann, as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, had built that group “into a fine orchestra,” but according to Howard Shanet, “the modern chronicler of the Philharmonic,” Bergmann “was now professionally so sloppy, spiritually so depressed, physically so decayed, and continually so drunk that only the great affection that his men bore him kept him in his post.”…”By August 1876 he would be dead.” (Lott, Peoria, 251 and 152) This was a sad ending for someone who had conducted the New York Philharmonic beginning in 1858: “Bergmann was the Philharmonic’s most potent artistic personality for more than three decades. He also happened to be America’s first potent advocate of the music of Richard Wagner.” (Horowitz, Wagner, 38) The careers of Theodore Thomas and Bergmann “intertwined…Thomas, fourteen years Bergmann’s junior, frequently played the violin under Bergmann’s baton. Bergmann was initially the cellist in the historic chamber-music concerts of Thomas and the pianist William Mason. It was Thomas who brought the work Bergmann had helped begin to a plateau of high fruition.” (Ibid) In Thomas’s autobiography he evaluates Bergmann: “Bergmann was a talented musician and a fair ”cello player…He lacked most of the qualities of a first-rank conductor, but he had one great redeeming quality for those days which soon brought him into prominence. He possessed an artistic nature, and was in sympathy with the so-called ”Zukunft Musik” [”Music of the Future”]. He lacked the force, however, to make an impression, and had no standard. He derived his principal inspiration from our chamber music practice. His readings of Beethoven’s works showed clearly that he had no tradition, and that it was not based on study.” And, if this was not damning enough, Thomas ended with: “Bergmann never practiced.” (Horowitz, Wagner, 38 and 29)
HMA Program Collection
Von Bulow had made known that “the grand composition of Tschaikovsky, the most eminent Russian maestro of the present day, composed last April and dedicated by its author to Hans von Bulow, has NEVER BEEN PERFORMED, the composer himself never having enjoyed an audition of his masterpiece. To Boston is reserved the honor of its initial representation and the opportunity to impress the first verdict on a work of surpassing musical interest.” (Steinberg, 477) Originally the composer had dedicated the piece to Nicolai Rubinstein, Head of the Moscow Conservatory (from its founding in 1866 to his death in 1881), but Rubinstein’s reaction, which Tchaikovsky recorded three years after the event in a letter to his patron, von Meck so upset the composer that he vowed to ignore Rubinstein’s suggestions and publish the work “exactly as it stands”-which he did (Steinberg, 475) He wrote to von Meck: “It transpired that my concerto was no good, that it was impossible to play, that some passages were hackneyed, awkward, and clumsy beyond redemption, that as a composition it was bad and banal, that I had pilfered this bit from here and that from there, that there were only two or three passages which would do, and that the rest would have to be either discarded or completely reworked.” (Lott, Peoria, 241 quoting from a letter) The connection between the composer and von Bulow seems to be Karl Klindworth who “was a colleague [of Tchaikovsky] at the Moscow Conservatory,” and with Bulow, a fellow pupil of Liszt. (Ibid) “Bulow had already written favorably of some of Tchaikovsky’s earlier works… Upon receiving the concerto, Bulow wrote to Tchaikovsky: ”The ideas are so lofty, strong, and original. The details, which although profuse, in no way obscure the work as a whole…The form is so perfect, mature, and full of style – in the sense that the intention and craftsmanship are everywhere concealed.”” (Ibid) After such a response, naturally the work was given to von Bulow.
Not everything was perfect at the premiere. “The distinguished Boston composer George W. Chadwick, then just about to turn 21, heard the performance and recalled in a memoir years later, ”They had not rehearsed much and the trombones got in wrong in the ”tutti” in the middle of the first movement, whereupon Bulow sang out in a perfectly audible voice, ”The brass may go to hell.” This was the first Tchaikovsky piece [I] ever heard and I thought it the greatest ever, but it rather mystified some of our local scribes [critics], who could not have dreamed how many times they would have to hear it in the future.” (Ledbetter, Program Note) “Critical reaction to what is now the world’s favorite piano concerto was decidedly mixed. its lyrical themes and colorful orchestration were immediately recognized and praised, but the sheer length of the work and the rambling first movement in particular were obstacles to appreciation. The Boston Evening Transcript found the ”elaborate work [to be] as difficult for popular apprehension as the name of the composer.” because of the ”long stretches of what seems, on the first hearing at least, formless void, sprinkled only with tinklings of the piano and snatchy obbligatos from all the various wind and string instruments in turn.” Dwight judged the last movement of the ”strange, wild, ultra-modern work” to be ”extremely brilliant and exciting,” but he wondered whether the public could ”ever learn to love such music.” …The public’s response was not nearly as guarded. A reporter for the New York Daily Tribune, in Boston for the premiere, thought the performance was ”irresistible, and the effect upon the audience most intense.” In fact, the exhilarating last movement, despite some ensemble problems, was so enthusiastically received that it had to be repeated. Tchaikovsky wrote to Rimsky-Korsakov after Bulow informed him of this demand, which happened more than once: ”Think what appetites these Americans have: after every performance Bulow was obligated to repeat the entire finale! Such a thing could never happen here.”” (Lott, Peoria, 241 and 242) Having taken over as conductor of the fifth concert, Lang was retained for the sixth concert and then the seventh. For the sixth concert he had only two or three days to prepare another new piece, the Raff Concerto!
SIXTH CONCERT PROGRAM.
HMA Program Collection.
Lang was also the conductor for the Sixth Concert on October 29, 1875 (see program above). Note that Lang and von Bulow ended the concert with Chopin’s Rondo in C Major, a piece that Lang would later program with his pupils.
Lang and von Bulow repeated the Grand Concerto as part of von Bulow’s Seventh and final Concert in Boston. Then at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on Friday December 17th. and continuing the 18th., 21st. and 22nd. of the same year (1875). Lang’s name was printed as the conductor for the third and fourth concerts and written in as conductor for the first and second concerts, but the Tchaikovsky does not appear in any of these programs. (BPL Lang Prog.) Lang’s biographical entry in the 1886 A Handbook of American Music and Musicians edited by F. O. Jones characterized his conducting as follows: “His calmness and presence of mind under all circumstances and surety of score reading has more than once saved a careless or nervous performer from disaster. These qualities make him one of the best conductors, and enabled him to successfully act in that capacity for the belligerent von Bulow and the meteoric Joseffy.” (Jones – first page of ”L” section) Von Bulow played the Tchaikovsky Concerto in 139 out of a total of 172 concerts that he presented that 1875-76 season! As a performer himself, Lang was very considerate of the soloist when he conducted. Apthorp relates more of Lang’s experience with von Bulow in their Philadelphia appearance. Lang, “having heard reports that the Philadelphia orchestra was none of the best at that time, besides knowing that von Bulow was liable to be nervous and at times rather obstreperous at rehearsals, thought it wise to have some rehearsing without his presence. Among other things Beethoven’s G major concert [sic] was to be played; Lang agreed with von Bulow to have the rehearsal at ten o’clock the next morning, but privately sent word to the orchestra that it would be called at nine. This would give him an hour’s rehearsal before von Bulow appeared on the ground. The orchestra assembled as ordered, the orchestral numbers and accompaniments were rehearsed; when it got to be six or seven minutes to ten, Lang and the orchestra were still hammering away at the accompaniment to the G major concerto. But it happened that von Bulow got there some minutes before his appointed time, and, finding Lang already rehearsing without him, took a seat at the back of the hall to wait until this unexpected preliminary rehearsal should be over. Lang standing with his back to the house, of course did not see him, and went on with his work unsuspicious of his presence. When the orchestra got to the tutti hold on the dominant that ushers in the cadenza, and Lang had cut the chord short with a wave of his baton, he was not a little startled to hear von Bulow shriek out behind him in his sharpest and most acrid voice: ”The woodwind may go to hell!” Lang turned around just in time to see the infuriated pianist jam his stove-pipe upon his head and rush out of the hall as fast as his legs could carry him; von Bulow was not to be found again that morning, and the G major Concerto was played in the evening without rehearsal with the pianoforte.” (Apthorp, 357 and 358) When this story was repeated in the Springfield newspaper, the writer interpreted this last sentence to mean that “in the evning the concerto was played with a piano accompaniment instead of the orchestra.” (Springfield Republican (September 29, 1893): 10, GB However, the concerts went well: the pick-up orchestra played accurately and expressively under Lang’s meticulous direction. What he lacked in magnetism, Lang compensated for through his careful study and preparation of the orchestra… Bulow’s faith in Lang’s abilities was validated by excellent performances…Bulow’s continued to share the credit publicly with Lang. After a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Bulow grabbed both of Lang’s hands and ”led him impulsively to the footlights to share blushingly the honors of the occasion.” (Lott, 260) Later, Lang himself was the soloist in this work at performances with the BSO in 1883 and 1885. (Steinberg, 473)
Tchaikovsky was very moved by the news of Bulow’s success with his concerto. In a letter date February 13, 1876 he thanked Bulow for the news of “another American success that I owe to you,” the first being the Boston premier. (Walker, 214) This second success was the New York performance of the concerto led by Leopold Damrosch whom Bulow had known in Weimar. For this performance the finale was also encored as it had been in Boston. Tchaikovsky also noted that he had known Bulow “only a short time,” and having been treated so badly by his mentor, Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky expressed to Bulow “the immense gratitude that I owe you, to you who were not my master and who are not even a compatriot.” (Walker, 215)
Bulow had some interesting observations on the musical audience in Boston. A year after his first appearances there, in 1876, Bulow told the Chicago Times: “There are two types of musical cultivation: for want of better terminology. I might call them in-breath and in-depth. In the latter respect, I would consider Boston the most cultivated; but the people are narrow and too pretentious for the measure of their knowledge. Puritanism has frozen art in New England; it’s a miracle that it hasn’t killed it altogether in the last 100 years. The Bostonians feel their indifference not only to an extreme degree: they even display it openly with pride. Presumably they reckon it as one of the Fine Arts. But that it is not. It is simply a form of paralysis…nevertheless, for a certain sort of technical facility and depth of musical cultivation, Boston takes first place.” (Horowitz, America, 10 and 11)
Lang also learned the solo piano part of the Tchaikovsky work. At the February 19 and 20, 1885 concerts (19th. Pair of the Fourth Season) of the BSO Lang soloed in this work which just ten years earlier he had conducted its world premier; this time the conductor was Georg Henschel. He had done the “Allegro” only at a Fitchburg concert of March 1883. Lang was still conducting this work 25 years later. At a Sunday night December 16, 1900 concert at Symphony Hall, Lang conducted an orchestra of 55 in a “GRAND CONCERT given by and for the benefit of the Musicians” Aid Society.” The orchestra solos were the “Overture” to St. Paul by Mendelssohn and the Overture-In Memoriam by Sullivan (Mr. J. Wallace Goodwich-organist) The main soloist was Ossip Gabrilowitsch who played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor Opus 23 and Liszt’s Hongarian Fantasie for piano and orchestra. (BPL Lang Prog.)