APOLLO TWENTY-THIRD SEASON, 1893-1894.
The first concert was given on November 22, 1893 with the wife of the conductor of the Boston Symphony as assisting artist. Mrs. Emil Paur played Beethoven’s Variations in C minor in the first half, and in the second half she presented four lighter pieces which were highly praised. Hale called the choice of the Beethoven “unfortunate” and the performance “accurate” but “dry.” (Journal (November 23, 1893): 5, GB) My Native Land by Meyerbeer was “beautifully rendered” by the tenor from the choir, Mr. E. E. Holden, and “the soft repeating of each line by the chorus after the soloist was a device that was truly worthy of Meyerbeer…In the last verse the effect of the rolling river was truly wonderful.” (Advertiser (November 23, 1893): 4, GB) An unusual number which was a surprise to many was Stephen Foster’s Old Folks at Home in an arrangement that was called “Glorified.” The arranger was Mr. Frank Van der Stuken and the soloist was Mr. Clifford whose performance was “sweet and pathetic.” (Ibid) Hale noted that “the power of a popular and simple melody was again shown by the loud applause that followed” this arrangement. (Journal (November 23, 1893): 5, GB) This arrangement had just been copyrighted on the previous October 20, 1892-was this its Boston premier? The Bedouin Song ended the concert in a the performance of which the choir “may well be proud of.” (Ibid) It was noted that “Mr. Lang has brought his forces to a degree of such enviable perfection that scarcely a defect can be found by the most critical.” (Advertiser (November 23, 1893): 4, GB))
The next concert was given on Wednesday January 17, 1894 at the Music Hall. Mr. Clifford was also a soloist in this concert. Philip Hale noted “his natural advantages; he has an excellent voice and a manly presence,” but he sang as though he were being “driven recklessly over a stoney street.” (Journal (January 18, 1894): 4, GB) Hale was complimentary about five of the choir’s pieces, but he had a number of negative comments concerning Buck’s King Olaf’s Christmas. These comments included balance problems between the piano and organ, poor attacks, “and in the 10th. verse the true pitch seemed an unknown quantity.” (Ibid) Hale could always be counted on for a pithy comment. The vocal soloist was Miss Marguerite Hall who “sang at times above the true pitch.” (Ibid) Then another Hale comment: “She was applauded heartily and gave in answer a Scotch ballad.” (Ibid)
The third concert was held on Wednesday, March 7, 1894 with an orchestra. The main work was the symphonic ode The Sea (1889) by Jean Louis Nicode (1853-1919). It used soprano soloist, Mrs. Jennie Patrick Walker and used a large number of the male singers of the Cecilia Society. “The work is a stupendous one, splendidly conceived and treated with the genius of a master. In style it is nearly akin to Wagner….The chorus of 120 voices and more was not equal to the gigantic task in power, though excellent quality was noticeable.” (Advertiser (March 8, 1894): 5, GB) A note in the score asks for Tenor One-50 singers, Tenor 2-40, Baritone-40 and Bass 2-50 for a total of 180 singers. The work is in seven sections with the first, “The Sea” and the fourth, “Phosphorescent Light” being for orchestra only. A group of partsongs by McDowell was praised for it’s shading and ensemble.
The fourth concert was given Wednesday, May 9, 1894 at the Music Hall before the usual large and enthusiastic audience. Among the partsongs was one by Arthur Foote and another, Jack Horner by Mr. E. Cutter, Jr., the choir’s accompanist. He “was obliged to bow his acknowledgement.” (Journal (May 10, 1894): 5, GB) The violinist Miss Carrie Duke was the assisting instrumentalist. Her lighter pieces were well received, but in the more difficult Polonaise by Wieniawski “her intonation was at times distressingly false.” (Ibid) Then the usual sly comment by Hale to finish: “She was loudly applauded and recalled.” (Ibid)
The annual meeting was held on Tuesday afternoon, June 5, 1894 at the Club’s rooms at 2A Park Street. The officers elected were: President-Arnold A. Rand; Vice President-George H. Chickering; Clerk-Arthur Reed; Treasurer-Charles T. Howard; and Librarian-Albert F. Harlow. (Herald (June 6, 1894): 6, GB)
EDWARD BURLINGAME HILL.
Photo from Wikipedia, accessed February 15, 2019.
Born in 1872 into a musical home, Hill was to teach music at Harvard from 1908 until 1940. After four years at Harvard where he graduated summa cum laude in 1894, Hill felt that his musical education under the one person music department of Prof. John Knowles Paine, was incomplete. During the summer of 1894 he studied piano with Lang, and the fact that he was a visitor to the Lang farm during the following summers of 1895, 96 and 97 would indicate that Hill had become part of the Lang musical circle. During the summer of 1897 Hill studied composition with Charles Marie Widor who was then composition professor at the Paris Conservatoire. Why Hill chose to study in France rather than Germany is not known for sure, but possibly Lang’s interest in French music at that time, Hill’s admiration for Edward MacDowell’s who had studied in Paris for three years, or Hill’s interest in the music of Charles Martin Loeffler, assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose music the BSO was beginning to program, any, or all of these factors may have influenced Hill.
Before his Harvard appointment in 1908, one of Hill’s means of support was as a reviewer for the Evening Transcript, a position he held from 1901 until 1908. For this paper he wrote reviews of Lang’s Enoch Arden performance in 1902 and reviews of the Apollo Club in 1906 and 1907, Dubois’s Cantata in 1902, and reviews of The Boston Singing Club, conducted by Lang’s pupil Hiram Tucker, in 1902 (2) and 1908, and an article in 1907 about the coming production of Paine’s opera Azara, which was Lang’s final concert with the Cecilia Society.
LANG’S MUSICAL TALKS.
On October 23, 1894 Lang the “first of a series of 12 lessons. conversations or talks about the symphony concert programme of the week.” Chickering Hall was “well filled” and Lang organized his remarks “based upon the supposition that his audience were students rather than professionals…In addition to a four-hand pianoforte reading of the leading works of the present week’s programme, in which Mr. Ernst Perabo gave his valuable assistance,, Mr. Lang told many facts relating to the several compositions.” (Herald (October 24, 1894): 5, GB) These talks were to be continued every two weeks throughout the Symphony Season.
HOOK AND HASTINGS STUDIO ORGAN.
In 1894 Lang ordered this organ for his teaching studio. It is now in the Church of the Epiphany in Washington, D. C.
CECILIA NINETEENTH SEASON: 1894-1895.
The fall of 1894 saw the Boston premier of the opera Samson and Dalila by Saint-Saens given at the Music Hall on Tuesday November 27 (Wage Earner Concert) and Wednesday evening, November 28 with the Boston Symphony. The soloists were Mrs. Julia L. Wyman, Clarence B. Davis, Heinrich Meyn, W. H. Clarke, Robert T. Hall, and Stephen S. Townsend, the last two being members of the Cecilia. Carl Zerrahn had conducted the work at the Worcester’s Mechanics Hall just two months before. The Courier wrote that even though the work was called a biblical drama, “the music has a certain unmistakable oratorio flavor,” and as a staged version was probably not to be given in Boston, as it was one of “the composer’s most famous creations, it is far better to hear it given in this way than not at all…The performance had many fine points. The chorus sang admirably from beginning to end, with accuracy, authority and effect.” When the soprano soloist, Mrs. Wyman “sang the more famous passages…she dropped from English into the original French; a proceeding which may be criticisable on the ground of good taste, but was none the less welcome to us; it gave the music its true flavor, and showed it forth in a far more brilliant light…The orchestra, if we except some occasional moments of not perfectly clear playing, did well, doing justice to the wealth of color in the scoring and giving the often intricate detail-work with good effect. The Cecilia is heartily to be thanked for giving us so good an introduction to a work which every music-lover is interested to hear, and one which holds unquestionably high rank among the dramatic productions of the last quarter of the present century.” (Courier, undated) Hale in the Journal wrote that the first four scenes suffered from Lang’s “sluggish” tempi. “If the conductor is not a man of marked talent in orchestral leadership and the rehearsals are few, the most skillful players are apt to appear at a disadvantage. The chorus was generally excellent. It sang with beauty of tone, as a rule, and with understanding…It was a pleasure to hear it again, even with perhaps inevitable drawbacks. may the day soon come when this opera will be heard here as an opera.” (Journal, undated) Warren Davenport referred to Hale’s remarks about “sluggish” tempi, but wrote that he felt “Mr. Lang’s tempi was [sic] well conceived, in my opinion.” Of the other aspects of the performance: “The work of the chorus was admirable in every particular, and Mr. Lang conducted the performance in a firm and confident manner.” (Globe, undated) Another review wanted to see the work as a staged opera “rather than perverted into an oratorio. The result of this perversion was that there was an absence of warmth and of color contrast…Palestine was changed to Boston, and the Philistines metamorphosed into Puritans…Nothing but praise is due to the chorus, all the members of which sang with spirit and with feeling. It may be truthfully said that, from an art-viewpoint, the chorus performed the best work of the evening…A word of protest may be urged against Mrs. Wyman’s bad taste and small art in singing several of her numbers in French, while the remainder of the opera was sung in English. Musically, there is no merit in pronouncing French correctly, and art propriety [what is that?] is of far more importance than linguistic skill. It remains to be added that at every available opportunity Mrs. Wyman was greeted with applause, which was enthusiastic at the conclusion of the love song in [the] first act.” (Anon., undated) Interesting ideas!
Another piece by Margaret Ruthven Lang was premiered at the Wednesday evening, January 16 and Thursday evening, January 17, 1895 concerts at the Music Hall. The secondary headline of one review was: “A Not Particularly Interesting Programme Presented” (Anon., undated) while another review began: “The programme was most excellent and varied…The song for female voices by Miss Lang is charming in melody, and it is most skilfully and effectively arranged. It was sung with intelligence and sympathetic feeling, and was fully deserving of the applause that it won.” (Anon., undated) Hale listed the title of Miss Lang’s piece, but made no mention of the work saying: the concert “was not of special interest.” (Journal, undated) However, another review ended with the comment: “The whole concert was one of the most enjoyable of the smaller ones ever given by the Cecilia,” and described Miss Lang’s piece as “charming through and through.” (651-653) The Herald review wrote that Love Plumes His Wings was “Cleverly set for the voices, and is dainty, pretty and would be wholly admirable if it were more emphatic in its climax. It was tastefully and smoothly sung.” (Herald (January 18, 1895): 7, GB)
The third program of the season was given on Thursday evening March 28, 1895 at the Music Hall with orchestra and H. G. Tucker as organist. The Brahms Requiem and selections from Act One of Wagner’s Parsifal were performed. The Courier described the Brahms as “a long, heavy and complicated work, intensely honorable, thoroughly academic.” The writer thought little of the Wagner excerpt “which is vain and irrelevant without its context and poor concert material anyhow.” (Courier, undated) Hale called the Brahms “this crabbed and tiresome Requiem…It is unemotional, it does not provoke a good or mental emotion; it is without a religious feeling…Mr. Lang conducted in a perfunctory manner and without disclosing possible beauties that may lurk concealed…The chorus sang carefully and faithfully, but without marked distinction in dynamics. It must not be forgotten that the task of the chorus is exceedingly difficult, and the attacks and the intervals are dangerous even for picked and long-drilled singers. The orchestra did its best in the absence of a firm conductor.” Hale did not approve of opera excerpts, and the most positive thing that he could say was: “The performance was one of good faith.” (Journal, undated) The Transcript wrote that this second performance by the Cecilia of the Brahms “gave one fresh insight into the work; at the first performance, a few years ago, one listened to it, as one is often impelled to listen to something at once new and evidently beautiful and sublimity is a rather general way, but without very definite musical understanding…The Cecilia last evening sang the great music admirably for the most part; with careful attention to light and shade, firmness of attack, and often brilliancy…One wished that the singers would only sing with more of individual fervor, with more buoyancy of phrasing, in a word, with more style…The selections from Parsifal were sung far more satisfyingly, and made a very powerful impression. The singing of the small choirs behind the stage was one of the most beautifully perfect things of its kind we have ever heard. The orchestra played unusually well throughout the concert; only in some portions of the Parsifal music was a certain lack of dynamic balance between different groups of instruments to be noticed.” (Transcript, undated)
The usual miscellaneous program finished the season on Thursday evening May 2, 1895 at the Music Hall with Frederic H. Lewis as the pianist and Rose [Laura, 1870- ] and Ottilie [1872- ] Sutro as the featured guest soloists. There pieces were by Mozart-Fugue, Chopin-Rondo and Brahms-Theme and Variations Op. 56. Among the choral pieces were two by Boston composers, The Robin by Helen Hood and From a Bygone Day by George Osgood. Warren Davenport wrote: “The performance of the Sutro sisters was a delightful one, the ensemble of the effort being faultless. It was a thoroughly artistic effort devoid of affectation or sensationalism.” After the Chopin piece, “these admirable artists were recalled and played in a charming manner a Scherzetino by Charmenade.” [sic] “Mr. Lang conducted with his accustomed attention to detail and the concert was an agreeable experience on the part of the audience.” (665) The Sutro sisters were then in their early twenties, and there career continued to blossom to a point that they appeared during the 1916 Season of the Philadelphia Orchestra, probably conducted by Leopold Stokowski. (Wister, 227)
One “Wage-Earner” from Cambridge wrote to the Transcript saying that he was very insulted by the insert which had appeared in the last program which noted that the concerts: “are given at no profit to the club, and at great personal inconvenience to the members of the chorus.” He asked: “Are not the conductor, orchestra and many members of the chorus wage-earners? ” (Transcript, undated)
Winslow Homer (United States, 1836-1910) Benjamin Johnson Lang (1837-1909), April 19, 1895. Graphite on paper, 16 x 13 3/8 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Gift of William D. Hamill, 1991.19.3. Reproduced by permission. Can not be downloaded without a fee to the Portland Museum.
An article entitled “Recent Accession-A Portrait Drawing by Winslow Homer” written by “JH” for a publication of the Portland Maine Museum of Art gives the specifics behind this work. It is “thought to have been drawn in the Lang Studios at 6 Newbury Street, and dated 19 April 1895…The Homers were good friends of the Langs and often visited them at their home on Brimmer Street. In a letter to Homer’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Charles S. Homer, Jr., on April 20, 1895, Homer reported; ”I send today the sketch of Mr. Lang. He was very prompt in giving me permission and opportunity and he likes the sketch. The light was bad and he was a hard subject. Such as it is you are now welcome to it. On no account think of sending me that $25 that you may think was a trade between us-as I shall not take it.”…This drawing is a strong work from the peak period of Homer’s career. its informality of pose and costume-an embroidered smoking jacket with contrasting collar-place the composition closer to Degas and Eakins than to Sargent’s flamboyance; Homer was always a precise draftsman while knowing what to accent and what to omit. the simplification is seen in the modeling of the head with its features intent on the effect of pulling a stop. The drawing is a fine instance od one artist’s appreciation for another united by their common interest in music.” The article mentions that Winslow played the guitar and sang when alone, and that he was a patron of musical events. “He shared with Lang an appreciation of Wagner.”
This Mrs. Charles S. Homer, Jr., known as Mattie, who requested the work was among the leading society dames of the period. “At the turn of the century on Prout’s Neck, Winslow Homer’s sister-in-law Mattie was the leading hostess; for one soiree she invited Madame Melba, the leading prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera.
APOLLO TWENTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1894-1895.
The first concert was given during a storm on Wednesday November 21, 1894. “Not a single unworthy selection did the programme contain-if we may be pardoned for this left-hand complementing a club that for years, even from its first season, has been noted for the high artistic worthiness of its concert programmes.” (C. L. Capen in the Advertiser, November 22, 1894, 5) The major work was The Pilot by Max Spicker which Capen called a “masterpiece.” The assisting artists were the tenor, Mr. C. B. Shirley and Miss Mary Louise Cary whose voice was described as “both cumbersome and unpliant, voluminous but not pleasing, and with faulty and indecisive production of tone. (Ibid) However, the third soloist, Mr. Thomas L. Cushman displayed “a tenor voice of rare purity, sympathy and trueness, and with as refined and delightful phrasing as one would care to hear.” (Ibid) Mr. Basset was the pianist and Mr. Cutter the organist. The choir’s President, Mr. Arthur Reed, had the idea of interspersing appropriate selections from the poems of the late Oliver Wendell Holmes among the musical pieces.
NEW BOSTON FARM: FIRST SUMMER SEASON-1895.
After spending many summers in many different places, the Langs began to look for a place of their own. A house owned by the BSO founder was considered, land in Tenant’s Harbor was so appealing that Lang “came back crazy over it. He started us making house plans.” Then a farm auction in New Boston, New Hampshire came to their attention, they went and it was bought for $4,000. At first Frances was not impressed, but found the setting beside “a lovely river and a mill…picturesque.” (Diary 2, Summer 1894)This was a working farm, and so the Langs had to hire “a Farmer…Lel took Rosamond with him to New Boston yesterday. He talked with 2 different men who have applied” for the position. (Ibid) Neither was hired. By early October Lang had “received innumerable applications from Farmers..” (Diary 2, Fall 1894)
In June 1895 the Langs started a Guest Book for the “House of Lang,” his newly bought summer home in New Boston, New Hampshire. During the first summer Mrs. Lang’s relatives visited: Emeline Burrage who visited that first month, June 1895, followed by Edward Burrage and Julia Severance Burrage, June 22, 1895. Elizabeth May Marsh, a B. J. piano pupil visited June 25, and the critic William F. Apthorp visited in July 1895 writing, “Push it along, it’ a good thing.” Another of Lang’s piano students who would later become a music professor at Harvard, Edward Burlingame Hill signed on August 3, 1895 and included four measures of a song. Martha E. Homer , the sister-in-law of Winslow Homer, signed on August 6, 1895 as did Charles H. Burrage and Lydia L. Burrage on August 19. 1895. Caroline Severance Burrage stayed from September 2nd. until the 5th., 1895. Lang’s pupil E. Cutter then arrived on September 5th. and stayed through the 7th. leaving both an eight line poem and a musical quote from [his?] Fugato-Suite in G Minor. The next day, September 8, 1895 Herbert E. Burrage as did Ruby M. Burrage. Isabella Stewart Gardner signed on September 28, 1895 and she seems to be the last guest of the first season, and certainly the most famous.
Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent, 1888.
This portrait was first displayed at the St. Botolph Club, but her husband, John Gardner found it so offensive that it had it removed. It now hangs in Fenway Court, but she did not allow it to be shown to the public until after her death. From this painting it is obvious that Mrs. Gardner was the “possessor of a slender, curvy body,” and while the Boston women in the mid 1860s were still wearing hoops, she was wearing the latest fashions from Paris. When one gentleman remarked, “Pray, who undressed you?” she was able to drop the name of a most famous Paris designer of the day with her reply: “Worth, didn’t he do it well.?” (Vigderman, 37 and 38)
Isabella Stewart Gardner (April 14, 1840-July 17, 1924) was a good friend of the Lang family, so much so that she was in charge of arranging the flowers at B. J.’s funeral. The Langs also visited the Gardners-among the “first visitors at Beverly Farms [in 1895] were… B. J. Lang” – this was the summer home of the Gardner’s – they had just returned from a almost a year in Europe. (Carter, 154) In a more informal situation: “Rosamond rode on her bicycle to Mrs. Gardner’s to make a dinner call.” (Frances’ Diary Excerpts)
Mrs. Gardner helped many in addition to B. J. Among the young men in her circle was the composer Clayton Johns who had taken a young piano student, Heinrich Gebhard under his tutalege. Johns had Gebhard play for Paderewski who was on tour in America-the suggestion was that Gebhard should study with Leschetizky. “However, before I left for Vienna, Mr. Johns wanted to present me to the Boston public as his pupil. So in April, 1896, a concert was arranged in Copley Hall, where I played before a large representative audience a program [that included] the Schumann Concerto accompanied by sixty-five players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Franz Kneisel. Mrs. Jack Gardner, that wonderful and brilliant woman, who so often was a benefactor to young promising talents, in her great generosity footed the bill for this expensive concert.” (HMA Bulletin No.13)
Arthur Foote wrote “that Boston began its greatest musical growth soon after he started living there. He attributes much of this growth to the local women and their clubs… The preeminent example of a woman dedicated to the arts was the wealthy Isabella Stewart Gardner, Foote’s kindly friend and patron. She gave moral and monetary support to musical performers, composers, painters, and sculptors… She exerted herself in helping musicians to establish the Boston Composers’ Manuscript Society. its aim was to give local composers a hearing.” (Tara, Foote, 57) Gardner’s biographer, Morris Carter was quoted as saying: “Whether a social renaissance was created or not may be a question, but ”the Brimmer set, which represents the old Puritan aristocracy,” and ”the Apthorp set, which represents the new Bohemianism,” did meet in her house on a common ground.” (Ibid)
Phyllis Robbins had a farm in New Boston which she found during a visit to the Langs. “The owner, an obdurate old woman, did not want to sell. Mr. Lang broke through her resistance on my behalf, after paying her many calls, by bringing a doll to her granddaughter.” (Robbins, 125) Robbins mentioned that: “Pianos were scattered here and there on the Langs’ big farm. There was one in the ‘Chalet’; another in the ‘Crow’s Nest’; and two in the ‘Mill.’ We listened to Beethoven with an accompaniment of rushing water. Even the bullfrogs contributed their choral chant, which varied so little from evening to evening that it was found possible to compose an obbligato and a piano accompaniment to their serenade.” (Ibid) Yet another missing Lang composition! The Robbins farm was “a tiny white house, near the river, under a giant elm.” (Ibid) Quite often the actress Maude Adams would spend time during the summer at the farm of Miss Robbins. Miss Adams was also a friend of the Langs. “I had seen Miss Adams at a distance coming out of Boston’s famous old King’s Chapel on one of the Sunday evenings when Mr. B. J. Lang sometimes played the organ for his invited friends. He had sent her a card, though at the time she did not know him personally.” (Robbins, 69)
Maude Adams in 1892. Wikipedia article accessed July 10, 2016.
TYPICAL JOURNEY BY SHIP.
As the summer of 1895 was the first year the Lang family spent at the New Boston farm, no one went to Europe. However, the earlier trip of 1893 in the ship MAJESTIC could have been much like what follows. A passenger on the Steamer PAVONIA made a ten-day westward journey from London to Boston, “sailing in early August,” thinking that the passage would be “pleasant,” but “the words ‘very unpleasant’ will have to characterize it.” From the first day it rained and was “exceedingly chilly. The wind blew you about, while the steamer pitched, then rolled and tossed about in the tumultuous sea.”
Steerage and second-class passengers boarded by means of a tender-thus you loaded all your luggage unto this small boat that took you out to the steamer that was in the middle of the river, and then unloaded all that luggage unto the steamer. Those in first-class waited until the steamer docked, and then easily boarded-you could get a train from London that arrived shipside just fifteen minutes before sailing and still have time to board! As so many ships needed to dock, each ship was allowed only one hour load and then sail. Seeing people off was still a novelty; the crowd gave the “imprewion that Liverpool men and women would ratheer watch the departure of a ship off to sea than work.”
There were 102 first-class passengers, which was an unusually large number of returnees for so early in the season. Because of the weather, many people didn’t come to the dining room, but instead took their meals “on deck or in the seclusion of their rooms.” During the first night they sailed into a storm and they were awakened the next morning “by the goods and chattels in our rooms tumbling about in a very lively manner. At breakfast there were very few indeed.”
The last stop before heading out into the Atlantic was Queenstown in Ireland. Here “bum-boats” surrounded the ship and the women in these boats were “hauled up by ropes with their baskets” of wares that included “sets of lace collsrs and souvenirs of oak.” Other women were selling “fruit and eatables” in second class and steerage. “The trading was continued even from the tender by means of a basket and rope, as a penny placed in the basket entitled you to four small apples.”
For the times when the passengers felt well enough to eat, French, English and American menus created by one of the best caterers in the Cunard fleet were available. “French soups and entrees, English game and bacon, we had such tempting American dishes as ice cream, sherbets,and ices daily, with codfish balls and apple dumplings to make us feeel that we were eating at home.”
As they were nearing Boston, vaccinations had to be given to second class and steerage passangers. For entry into New York, only steerage passengers were required to have this done. “This is the reason that there is always a larger number of second cabin passengers to New York than to Boston. The ship’s surgeon has always to use considerable tact and diplomacy when there are several hundred and often 1,000 steerage to be vaccinated.”
Due to the winds of the various storms, the ship arrived in Boston at 7:30PM of the day before it was due. Unfortunately no one was at Quarantine to do the inspection, and so the passengers spent the evening within sight of Boston which aggravated many of them. The next morning “we were aroused for an early breaakfast, unbearable heat and the trials of the custom house.” All quotes from “A Midsummer Ocean Trip,” (Herald (August 25, 1895): 33 GB)
CECILIA TWENTIETH SEASON: 1895-1896.
The opening concert at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, December 5, 1895 presented the Berlioz Requiem. Hale gave his usual hedged review noting how difficult the score was, how large the orchestra; “It is seldom, then, that this mass is ever heard as it looks in the score and may be imagined from it. To say that the performance last evening was wholly excellent would be to say the thing which is not. Yet it may be said truthfully that the performance was respectable throughout, and at times admirable.” He ended his review: “In spite of the shortcomings, some of them inevitable, to which I have alluded, the performance was a creditable one, and this phrase applied to the Requiem means much.” (Journal, undated) Another review noted: “Considering its difficulties the Requiem was surprisingly well sung, although now and then the singers were in advance of or lagged behind the orchestra…It was, however, all conscientious and well studied work, and at times reached a high point of excellence…No fault could be found with the excellent work of the orchestra [and then a few faults were listed].” (Anon., undated) The Globe first headline was “Another Splendid Performance of Berlioz’s Requiem” while the second headline noted “Last night Cecilia for 3rd. time in this city.” (Globe (December 6, 1895): 8) It also noted that in spite of the extremely inclement weather, there were only a very few seats empty. “The singing of the chorus was uniformly excellent and almost all the work was done by the chorus…The chorus throughout was well balanced, and the basses and sopranos sang remarkably well.” (Ibid) The reviewer had noted earlier that the work “is written without an alto part, but Mr. Lang utilized his contraltos by having them sing in unison with the tenors. The effect of this combination was very pleasing and the tenor part was decidedly stronger than it is in most of our concerts.” (Ibid)
The second concert was presented on Thursday evening February 13, 1896 at the Music Hall with Harry Fay and Frederic H. Lewis pianists. Margaret’s Irish Love Song was sung by Mrs. Jeannie Crocker Follett who seems to have had an ideal voice for this piece. The Transcript wrote: “Mrs. Follett was utterly unlike the soprano soloists we have heard in recent years, for she sang with no affected airs. Hers is the ideal ballad voice, simple, sympathetic and appealing. Her three songs were admirably chosen, and with Mr. Lang’s skillful accompaniments, gave genuine delight.” The review continued with comments about one of the accompanists. “We venture to suggest to Mr. Fay that he profit by the lesson given him by Mr. Lang. [Fay was a Lang pupil] Where the latter’s touch was delicate and subdued, Mr. Fay’s seemed harsh and noisy. Mr. Lang’s pianoforte work was a treat in itself. Mr. Fay’s made one squirm.” (Transcript, undated) On the other hand, the Globe wrote: “Messrs Fay and Lewis are to be congratulated for their work in the Wynken, Blinken and Nod accompaniment.” (Globe (February 14, 1896): 8) However, Lang’s paying was also praised: “The fine hand of Mr. Lang was probably not more noticeable in any other number on the program than in this [Wynken,Blinken and Nod]. The lights and shades were beautifully done.” (Ibid) Mrs. Follett’s rendering of Margaret’s Irish Love Song “was especially good.” She had also done the solo in Wynken, Blinken and Nod. The concert opened with “O Gladsome Light” from Arthur Sullivan’s The Golden Legend, a work that Lang would do in its complete form in April 1898.
The third concert was given on Friday evening March 20, 1896 at the Music Hall using a string orchestra, harp and organ for the accompaniment; Foote and Lewis were the organists. Margaret’s work also appeared in this concert-not as a composer, but as the translator of a scene from Goethe’s Faust which opened the second half of the concert. The translated title was “The Shepherd deck’d him For the Dance” with music by Moritz Moszkowski, his Op. 44. The Gazette review was lukewarm: “The concert was solemn as befitted the occasion and somewhat dull.” The reviewer felt that “the Moszkowski music came in as appropriately as a clown at a death bed; it drew the line at solemnity and converted it into farce. A sample of bad taste not often heard at dignified concerts. The piece was not bad in itself, but its place was surely not on a programme of a religious or semi-religion [sic] nature.” Three movements of the St. Saens Noel found favor, and “the singing was admirable throughout, the soloists being surprisingly good…the orchestra played with independence; a large audience was liberal in its applause and the Cecilia may be congratulated on the excellent work done.” (Gazette, undated) Louis C. Elson also thought the Moszkowski “a bit of an interruption to the prevailing thought of the evening, but in itself proved a sparkling sketch of bucolic fun and laughter.” He approved of the Sgambati Te Deum for organ and strings which he described as “replete with spiritual exaltation” and played “with just the right touch of religious fervor, portraying a churchly pageant rather than a humble prayer.” (Advertiser, undated) Elson also enjoyed the Saint-Saens noting especially the chorus work in the final section. “Their splendid precision of attack, purity of tone, surety of intonation, were given free scope in that inspiring finale.” The choir’s performance inspired Elson to devote a paragraph to their place in Boston’s musical world. “With all due excuses for a display of local pride we take pleasure in renewing our own assurance of unrivalled distinction for the Cecilia in the way of a body of ensemble singers, after hearing most of the best chorus work done in America. Even the patron saint of the society would find satisfaction in the tone quality of the soprani. Rarely in a body of singers are there to be found such distinctive qualities as refinement, power, tone and temperament, but in the Cecilia the combination is refreshingly patent.” (Ibid)
The fourth concert was given on Thursday evening April 30, 1896 at the Music Hall with Ernst Perabo as the guest soloist and Lewis as accompanist, and Elson noted that he played “with discretion and good taste.” Elson also wrote: “Miss Margaret R. Lang’s In a Garden was graceful but nothing more; Miss Lang must beware of taking so long a time to say nothing.” He ended the review with the comment: “Altogether the evening was a pretty and unambitious ending to a season that has been even above the praiseworthy standard generally maintained by the Cecilia.” (Advertiser, undated) The Transcript review didn’t mention Margaret’s piece directly, but noted: “Mrs. [Alice] Rice’s three songs were a delight to the ear and soul,” and of the solo pianist: “Mr. Perabo played exquisitely as ever.” (Transcript, undated) Hale also noted the pianist’s performance: “Mr. Perabo played with his customary thoughtfulness and reverence for the composers,” and of Margaret’s song: “Mrs. Bates-Rice sang [her three songs] with technical skill and genuine feeling.” (Journal, undated)
President Thorndike’s Annual report of May 28, 1896 wrote: the “kind public has greeted our successes with appreciative favor. Even the critics…have not found fault oftener than is the wont of their tribe or, perhaps, oftener than we have deserved.” He also called attention to the “higher standard of performance of the Cecilia” and cited one of the factors:”the playing of Mr. Higginson’s orchestra is superior to that of the orchestra of the Harvard Musical Association. And I am never tired of saying that the Cecilia owes most of this to Mr. Lang, who must have great pride in the manner in which the club has grown under his hands.” Thorndike then reflected on the general growth during the previous twenty years of all aspects of music in Boston. “The musical life of the city is far more intense and pervading, far more a necessary part of daily existence, than ever before. Fifty girls play the piano fairly well to one who played it fairly well when Mr. Lang and Mr. Dresel began to teach. ” He then addressed the younger members of the club: “Upon you, young people, it rest to see that the Cecilia takes its proper place in this general progress. You are the inheritors of all the gains that it has made in the time that is past, and it depends upon you to add like gains in the time that is to come.” One area of needed attention was financial support: “We could do much more than we have done if we had more associate members, and we must, each and all, neglect no opportunity of obtaining them.” The continued success of the Wage Earner Concerts was noted as was the continued abuse by some who used these cheap tickets even though they could afford to become Associates. “This dishonesty manifestly causes pecuniary loss to the Cecilia. Mr. Ryder [Secretary of the Wage Earner Committee] well remarks, ”If the evil cannot be abated, the Wage Earner Concerts must stop.”” The Report ended with news of the following season: “The next season will begin with a repetition of Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride, not heard here for seven years. In a later concert Massenet’s Eve will be repeated.” (1896 Annual Report).
KING’S CHAPEL: EASTER AND CHRISTMAS 1895.
Just horse-drawn carraiges-no cars yet. Johnston Collection.
The music for Easter Sunday 1895 included a Te Deum in G Flat Major by Lang together with Lang’s Easter Carol. While “G Flat Major” is possible, it is more probable that the “G” was a mis-print for “B” which is located just below “G” on the keyboard. The choir for that day was: Mrs. Josslyn, Miss Lena Little, Mr. W. J. Winch and Mr. Max Heinrich. (Herald (April 12, 1895): 7, GB)
“Unitarians from all parts of the city attended the Christmas services at King’s Chapel yesterday forenoon [December 25th.] The interior of the chapel was elaborately decorated with evergreen and hemlock…The choir rendered a special musical programme. The numbers included Christmas Carol by Lang…Te Deum in D Major by Lang. (Herald (December 26, 1895): 6, GB)
APOLLO TWENTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1895-1896.
The first concert of the 25th. season was on Tuesday, November 26, 1895. The sole work was Oedipus Tyrannus by Harvard’s Prof. J. K. Paine which was accompanied by a full orchestra. This was the first complete performance, the Prelude having been given about fourteen years previously. Mr. George Riddle was the reader and Mr. William H. Rieger was the tenor soloist. (Herald, (November 24, 1895): 16, GB) On Friday, November 29 the Club repeated the work at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. For this performance, all the parts were again read by George Riddle. The reviewer had “frequently spoken of it as the leading American work in music ” since its premier in 1881. [That is the opposite of the third sentence] Mendelssohn had set Oedipus in Colonos and Antigone and had planned to set OedipusTyrannus before his death. “Comparisons are naturally in order between Mendelssohn and Paine,” but Mendelssohn, in his two Greek settings had “not attained the direct strength and majesty which characterize Prof. Paine’s setting.” Sanders Theatre was “more perfect in its acoustics than any large hall in Boston, and the chorus rang out with a virility and vigor that it could not have attained in Music Hall.” The auditorium was filled and all the performers, Paine, who conducted the Overture, Riddle and Lang were greeted with “ardent” applause. (Louis C. Elson in the Advertiser (November 30, 1895): 8, GB)
Apollo Club-25th. Anniversary Concert, May 6, 1896. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.
The 25th. Anniversary Concert was given on Wednesday May 6, 1896 together with the Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York. A visit by the New York group to Boston during the winter of 1870-71 had led to the formation of the Apollo Club. Philip Hale wrote what would seem to be a rave from his pen: “The many excellent characteristics of the singing of the Apollo are familiar to all music lovers in Boston, and it is sufficient to say that last night the members were in the vein and the performance was of the best.” Hale then continued with an extensive section on the performance by the Mendelssohn Glee Club which ended: “In a word the singing of this society was long to be remembered. It was on a level with the best of the Symphony and Kneisel concerts.” He finished with a short paragraph about the soloist, Mrs. A. Sophia Markee “who flattered parochial pride by singing songs of Mrs. Beach, Mr. Chadwick and Miss Lang. Her singing was a disappointment. Her intonation was frequently impure.” (Journal (May 7, 1896): 8, GB)
FARM: SECOND SUMMER SEASON 1896.
The same angle as the post card used for the First Year entry. Taken 2011 by Quent and Carolyn Peacock. The first guest of the second season was Benjamin Lang, B. J.’s father who wrote: “well done my boy, I’ve seen the farm. its hill and dale and every charm. May heaven always bless you all.” Dated June 14, 1896. The singer Lena Little visited July 11-12, 1896, and Arthur Sturgis Dixey signed on August 3. 1896 and left a colored sketch. Emeline Burrage, Caroline Severance Burrage and Edward Burlingame Hill made return visits during September 1896. Winslow Homer’s brother, Charles and his wife, Martha E. Homer also stayed during September.
AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS.
Lang was one of the founding members of the American Guild of Organists whose first President was Gerrit Smith; his wife had organized in New York City a recital of Margaret’s songs. Other prominent Boston AGO members were Arthur Foote, John K. Paine. Horatio Parker, George Whiting and Dudley Buck who was named Honorary President during the period 1896-99. (Orr, 85)
LANG AS HANDEL AND HAYDN CONDUCTOR. “Best concert in its history.”
After having been the organist for the Handel and Haydn Society for thirty-five seasons, he succeeded Carl Zerrahn as conductor for two years 1895-1897, but this was a period when the group was at a low ebb and torn with dissensions. However, he conducted the “best concert in its history” with the Elijah performance. (Secretary notes)[February 1897] During the season before he became conductor, Lang had the chance to conduct the Feb. 3, 1895 concert of Handel’s Israel In Egypt as Zerrahn had had an accident. With no rehearsal, Lang conducted a brilliant performance. President Browne’s annual address included these words of praise: ”Mr. Lang conducted. He had no time for rehearsal with the chorus, but he held them so firmly and conducted with so much coolness and intelligence that it was a notably good performance.”(History-Vol. II, 47) Secretary Stone wrote: “Under such circumstances Mr. Lang was the center of interest, and covered himself with glory. He held command of the situation throughout. His depiction of ‘There was not one feeble person’ was sublime: an amazing revelation of the possibilities of the passage. The chorus worked hard. its performance was somewhat uneven, but always powerful and vital. The reserve power which was flung into the final chorus carried it out with a sweep and rush that was new in the story of the Society…It was voted that the cordial thanks of the Society should be extended to Mr. Lang for his invaluable services, generously rendered without charge, in conducting the performance of Israel in Egypt.” (History-1911, 46 and 47) The critical response was very favorable: the Globe critic was very complimentary. Secretary Stone noted: “A most interesting event of the evening was the appearance of Myron W. Whitney, father and son. Mr. Whitney senior seemed restored to his old greatness, and the son showed himself a youth of noble promise.” (History-1911, 47) Louis Elson wrote: “Probably no audience has ever before heard ”The Lord is a man of war” given by father and son, and the result was something that both might be proud of.” (Ibid)
Lang had also conducted the Society almost twenty years before. At its April 12, 1876 concert at the Music Hall he had conducted Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise (their 12th. performance of the work) and the Rossini Stabat Mater (their 20th. performance). J. K. Paine had been the organist. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2) Perhaps Zerrahn needed a rest or had an engagement with another group, as he had conducted the Society in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on Palm Sunday April 9, 1876, just four days before!
Handel and Haydn Scrapbook. BPL. At the June 25, 1895 meeting of the Board, President Browne read a letter from Carl Zerrahn saying ”that I will withdraw at any time from the candidacy of the conductorship.”(History, Vol II, 54) The letter had actually been written a year before, May 1894 and probably reflected the mood of the Board at that time when ”The opposition was so great that Mr. Zerrahn was not as usual elected at the early meetings of the board of 1894 and not until Sept. 10, 1894 when he was elected conducted at a salary of $1,000 and Mr. Lang organist at a salary of $300.” (History-Vol. II, 55) therefore it probably was not a surprise when the June 25, 1895 meeting decided to accept Zerrahn’s withdrawal as a candidate for conductor. At the same meeting B. J. Lang was elected as conductor at a salary of $1,000 by a vote of nine yeas and three nays.
President Browne later wrote that, ”With his (Zerrahn’s) retirement came, for the first time in forty years, the necessity of choosing a conductor, but hardly a question as to who it should be. The excellent musician who has been our organist for thirty-six years, and had, as conductor of the Cecilia and Apollo clubs during a quarter of a century, abundantly shown his high capacity in that regard, was, of course, the choice of the board…It might have been expected that a feeling of unfamiliarity because of the change in conductorship would operate to the disadvantage of the chorus singing, but nothing of the kind was shown. There was no falling off in attendance or interest at rehearsals or as have his skill and success in instruction, so that in some very important respects the chorus improved during the year.” (History-Vol. II, 63) Thus with the success of his conducting debut with this group and his long connection as organist, Lang began leading the major choral group of Boston. Tara described Lang’s era: “Lang nursed back to health a Handel and Haydn Society that was almost moribund.” (Tara, Foote, 41)
The repertoire for Lang’s first season included two performances of Messiah in December (the 92nd. and 93rd. time the group had sung this work). One writer said of the first concert: ”As Conductor Lang walked up to the platform warmly applauded by the immense audience that completely filled Music Hall, one could not feel that it was a case of ‘Le Roi est mort; vive le Roi”; for there in the foremost row sat Carl Zerrahn in the audience. As he watched the every motion of the man who now conducts his beloved Society, many an eye grew moist at the deep suggestion of the picture.” (Bradbury, History-Vol. II, 57) It is ironic that he would have to begin his conductorship with this work as ”Mr. Lang regarded the singing of Messiah by the Handel and Haydn on Christmas week so many consecutive years as having really no fitness for that season. He viewed as the most fitting music for that season the Christmas Oratorio by John [sic] Sebastian Bach. Bach he considered the greatest name in Protestant church music.” (Transcript, April 5, 1909) The Herald noticed “many innovations in regard to the time in which the choruses were take…for a more rapid pace was adopted.” This worked well in some cases but the “more flowery passages could not be sung clearly and steadily by so large a body of singers, and the effect was confused and muddy.” However, one of the most difficult, “For Unto Us a Child Is Born, was finely sung, with strong emphasis, admirable color and impressive spirit,” and nothing said about the roulades! “Mr. Lang was evidently suffering from nervousness, for he did not always hold his forces together, and there were many moments when he was at odds with both the singers and orchestra.” (Herald (December 23, 1895): 5, GB) Philip Hale in the Journal also noted the faster tempi: “Certain choruses were taken at a faster pace than has been the custom, and the majority of these choruses gained thereby.” However, those with roulades “were for the most part indistinct and without accent.” To Hale the choir didn’t sound any different than it had under Zerrahn. The orchestra played poorly, and Hale wrote: “This was not the fault of the orchestra; it was the fault of Mr. Lang, who is apt to bury his head in the score, forgetting that even the most experienced player is often anxious for a cue.” (Journal (December 23, 1895): 5, GB) For the Sunday concert the choir numbered 368 with an orchestra of 54; for the Monday concert the numbers were 310 and 54. (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 57)
The Verdi Requiem was performed on Feb. 2, 1896 (for the fifth time) to mixed criticism. On Good Friday, April 3, 1896 Bach’ St. Matthew Passion was presented (for the thirteenth time), also to mixed critical response and a very poor house which led the Society’s Secretary Charles W. Stone to predict the ”doom” of this work as an annual feature in the Society’s programming. Only two days later, on Easter Sunday, Haydn’s Creation was given (the sixty-sixth time since 1819) to a full house that produced a profit of $1,282.80. The soloists were well received, the chorus performed well, and Lang was lauded by the critics. The choir numbered 381 and the orchestra 69. (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 58)
On Good Friday, April 3, 1896 the choir sang its 13th. performance of Bach’s “Passion Music with a chorus of 323, an orchestra of 61 and the usual boy choir.” (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 60) Ticket sales were very poor, and although the the Society’s Secretary wrote that the “choral performance was superb, finer than ever before in the work,” (Bradbury, 60) this marked the last performance of the work.
A week later [!] the Society gave their 66th. performance of Haydn’s Creation. “The chorus numbered 354 and the orchestra 55. The house at this concert was full [ as opposed to the Bach performance] and not papered, for the receipts were $3,762.42 and the direct profit of $1,282.80. (Bradbury, 61) One of the soloists cancelled at just a few hours’ notice, but Mrs. Henschel stepped in, singing, as Secretary Stone reported, “very well, evading the high notes and hard places in the highest style of the art.” (Ibid) “In almost every number the chorus executed its task in a manner to do credit to itself and to the training of Mr. B. J. Lang (Louis C. Elson), and “the chorus sang splendidly with vim, accuracy, sharpness of attack, and all due shading (Transcript-probably Apthorp).” (Ibid)
The Annual Meeting held on May 25, 1896 was described as ”stormy.” It was demanded that the correspondence between President Browne and Carl Zerrahn be read to the full meeting. The Journal had multiple headlines for its story: “A CONTEST OVER B. J. LANG; Handel and Haydn Society Have a Contest; What the Conductor Has to Say on the Subject; Secretary Stone talks Freely of the Affair”. Lang was asked by the Journal reporter what he knew about this situation, and Lang replied that he was just the conductor and not a member of the society. He did not attend meetings and so knew nothing of the affairs of the choir. The reporter brought up the deficit of c. $1,000 for Lang’s first season, but Secretary Stone replied: “There have been very few seasons for 12 or 15 years when we have paid expenses out of the season’s receipts.” concerning the Annual meeting Lang mentioned: “What happened, by the way, doesn’t concern me particularly. In the course of the day I have met perhaps 40 or 50 friends and pupils. Not one of them said anything to me about the incidents of last night’s meeting.” (Journal (May 27, 1896): 7, GB)
The meeting was continued until June 8. Two days later the Worcester Daily Spy reported: “The war in the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston is nominally ended, and Mr. Lang will continue as conductor. Two more directors favorable to him were elected by the Society, Monday night, so that the board stands 9 to 2 in his favor…There are hints, however, that the suspension of hostilities against Mr. Lang is merely a truce and not an established peace.” (Worcester Daily Spy (June 10, 1896): 4, GB) The actual vote was Nine in favor, Four against. At a final meeting on July 1 Lang was elected conductor for the next season. The program was to be Messiah in December, Elijah in February, and Horatio Parker’s Hora Novissima in April.
For the December 20 and 21, 1896 concerts Lang was unable to conduct because of pneumonia. “From an attack of conjestion of the lungs, he was confined to his home by the imperative order of his physician.” (Herald (December 21, 1896): 5, GB) Without rehearsal, George W. Chadwick conducted the Messiahs. “It may be said, however, that there were no serious hitches, and that, all things considered, he acquitted himself with much credit.” (Ibid) “It will suffice to say of the chorus work that it was steady and generally praiseworthy. To criticise it more closely would not be kindly.” (Ibid) For the Sunday performance there was a chorus of 346 and an orchestra of 54; for Monday’s concert the numbers were 304 and 54. (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 68)
The February 7, 1897 Elijah performance was the 50th. for the Society and every seat in the hall was filled. The Society first sang the work on February 13, 1848, just nine months after its premier in England. “So great was its success that it was performed on the next eight Sunday nights.” (Bradbury, Op. cit., 69) This 50th. performance was called a “triumph” for Lang, and even Philip Hale said ”It is only just to say that the performance as a whole deserves hearty praise.” (Ibid) The Globe gave more details. The second paragraph began: “The only notable novelty about the performance was the appearance of the distinguished boy soprano, Henry Donlan, in the part of the youth.” (Globe (February 8, 1897): 5) Before this date, this part had always been sung by a soprano. The ease with which he sang the high A at the end of his section was noted. However, another critic noted that he “lapsed from correct intonation,” and that instead of singing in “a simple childish manner,” he had been coached to produce a ” maturity of feeling quite out of keeping with his age, and that deprived his efforts of anything resembling sincerity.” (Herald (February 8, 1897): 4, GB) However, “Master Donlan received an ovation such is seldom seen anywhere. At intermission, when he left the stage, the audience arose and shouted for him.” (Worcester Daily Spy (February 8, 1897): 3. GB)
Another highlight of the performance was the singing of the Welshman Ffrangeon Davies, in the part of Elijah. He received “most generous applause” for his main aria, but also he was applaued for his recitatives, “the entire performance coming to a pause, while conductor Lang, resting his arm upon his music stand, waited for quiet to be restored.” (Ibid)
Of the choir: “Mr. Lang has made distinct improvements in his handling of the chorus. He has better control and leads with more confidence. The work of the great body of singers was unusually good. There was precision of attack and exact unanimity of action without which the effect of the work of a chorus is sadly marred. The balance was fairly good, though a little more volume of sound from the alto section would not have been amiss. The shading of tone volume was beautifully done, the chorus responding as accurately and surely to the conductor’s command as an organ does to the drawing of its stops.” (Ibid) The Worcester paper reported that this concert had been “one of the best in the history of the Handel and Haydn Society.” Lang had brought about “excellent dynamic effects of light and shade in both chorus and orchestra, good attacks and improved pronunciation” was evident, “while the orchestra was held well in hand and made more than usually effective in the solo accompaniments.” The young boy soloist “Master Donlan received an ovation such is seldom seen anywhere. At the intermission, when he left the stage, the audience arose and shouted for him.” (Worcester Spy (February 8, 1897): 3, GB) The Society’s Secretary wrote: “This was pronounced by the friends of the society the best concert of it history. It was a day of triumph for Mr. Lang…The chorus sang with amazing ease, grace, flexibility, responsiveness and power. its work was a revelation. [!] Immense enthusiasm attended the performance, and even the hostile critics [see Hale above] had not the termerity to deny it.” (Secretary notes, 261) But yet he was not hired for the next season! The choir numbered 334 and the orchestra 55. (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 69)
The Bach Passion was not presented this season. The Easter Sunday, April 18th. performance included Lang leading Mendelssohn’s Overture to St. Paul and Hear My Prayer together with J. C. D. Parker conducting his own Redemption Hymn and Horatio Parker conducting his own Hora Novissima. The high point of the performance was to have been the first Boston appearance of the English soprano, Miss Ella Russell, but “her rendering of the solos in Hear My Prayer was heavy and lacking ” in style, color, freedom and warmth of sentiment while the speed was so slow that “grace of phrasing were quite out of the question.” (Herald (April, 19, 1897): 8, GB) Her major solo in Hora Novissima, “O Bona Patria” was marred by “the unimpassioned manner in which she interpreted it.” (Ibid). The Redemption Hymn was “again listened to with pleasure and interest.” (Ibid) End of comment. The work of the chorus was “praiseworthy in every way…It has done nothing better than its firm and solid rendering of the difficult a capella chorus.” [In Hora Novissima] (Ibid) The orchestra played well, especially under Horatio Parker, and “the concert may be confidently pronounced the most commendable of the society’s season.” (Ibid) The choir numbered 329 and the orchestra 59. (Bradbury, History, Vol. 2, 70)
At the Annual Meeting of the Handel and Haydn Society on May 24, 1897 nine of the thirteen board members elected were seen as ”Anti-Lang men”. This board then elected Zerrahn conductor again, and, disregarding precedent, created an executive committee that did not include the Vice-President and Secretary. It also removed from the President the duties of appointing the voice committee and superintendents. The result was that the four major officers of the Society resigned. In a story dated June 23, 1897 in the Boston Record the various officers were quoted. Ledbetter summarizes the story-”The four principal officers of the Society were older men, while new members of the board in 1897 were younger. Nonetheless, these younger fellows preferred Zerrahn to Lang, feeling that his personal magnetism and familiar ways of conducting were more healthful than the stricter discipline immediately imposed by Lang. Lang was at a disadvantage with the orchestra and had difficulty in holding all forces together in concerts. The younger men felt that the older Zerrahn had not outlived his usefulness and wanted him back again.” (Johnson, Hallelujah Amen, 167, 168) The four offiers were: President: Eugene Hagar, Vice-President: Gen. F. Daniel and Secretary: Charles W. Stone with Treasurer M. Grant Daniel resigning later. (Journal (June 23, 1897): no page number, GB) These men “had long been valued officers of the society.” (Ibid)
When Lang was questioned about this, he pointed out that he was not at this business meeting: “I am a musician. I have nothing to do with the business of the society…I understand that some gentlemen who are termed ‘anti-Lang’ were put into power…But I don’t know. Mr. Stone [Secretary of the Society] knows, I daresay. He lives on Mt. Vernon Street.” (Journal (May 25, 1897,: 6. GB) The Journal was Boston’s more sensational paper of its time, and so Lang’s comments generated this headline: “MR. LANG AT SEA. He Doesn’t Know What Happened at the Handel and Haydn Society Meeting or What It Means.” (Ibid)
“This unfortunate situation explains why Elson refers to Lang as a musical ”admirable crichton,” after the sixteenth-century Scottish scholar who was attacked one night by a party of armed and masked men. Crichton recognized one of them as his pupil and offered him his sword, and this young prince of Gonzaga immediately ran him through with it. Lang must have felt acutely the betrayal of the young Boston musicians.” (Fox, Papers, 11)
“The conflict rocked the town, and the Press gave the Society its most complete coverage to date. The Record showed a large drawing of the decrepit Zerrahn leading an orchestra of bald-headed men while disgruntled officers with large portfolios headed toward the Exit sign, above which, in a coffin, rested B. J. Lang on the shelf. The title was Why Do the Heathen Rage? Letters of a most confidential nature were gleefully printed in full in the Journal, and officers, behaving like primadonnas were interviewed… There was even hidden treasure! A rumor ran widespread that a wealthy man in another city intended to contribute about $150,000 to an organization which would use it effectively and that he had communicated with B. J. Lang. Mr. Lang talked it over with the President and Secretary of the Society, Mr. Hagar and Mr. Stone, giving the implication that the long desired building might become a reality. This had the air of being a bid for the conductorship of Mr. Lang…Charges and countercharges upset the musical boat as the newspapers used the words ”row,” ”fight,” ”factions,” ”strife,” ”clash,” in protesting that both sides held Mr. Zerrahn in affection but that the dissenters felt that he had lost his ”vital fluid,” and they preferred Lang in perfect health at sixty years of age… The final meeting of September 29, 1897 proved to be quite tame, for the Lang forces withdrew, Zerrahn was ‘vindicated,’ and an unconvincing attempt made to gloss things over.” (Johnson, Hallelujah, 169 and 170) Zerrahn’s “Loss of vital fluid” some felt was due to having lost his wife the previous year, “and [he] naturally showed less vigor and strength for a time thereafter.” (Advertiser (May 26, 1897): 8, GB)
Herald (September 17, 1897): 1, GB). On the front page!
This September meeting elected officers for the coming year, but no one would stand for the post of President. E. P. Boynton, [lower left] “who has been all along the leader of the Zerrahn contingent” was elected Vice President…It has been freely hinted outside the meetings that those who are running the society at present would like to get for the new president such a man as either Col. H. L. Higginson or Richard H. Dana, and the failure to elect last night is construed as giving a semblance of probability to the story.” (Globe (September 30, 1897): 8) At the previous Annual Meeting on May 24, 1897, the four primary officers were reelected but the eight Directors and the Librarian were all “Anti-Lang Men.” As soon as the were elected, they passed a number of rule changes so that “the President was to be merely a figure-head, and the Vice-President not even as much as this…In consequence of this action Messrs. Hagar [President], Daniels [Vice-President], Stone [Secretary], and Daniell [Treasurer] resigned.” (History II, 78) In an interview of June 23, the Vice-President, M. G. F. Daniels said: “There is no particular objection to Mr. Lang or his methods of directing the society, but Mr. Zerrahn possesses what may be called more magnetism than Mr. Lang and consequently he is more popular as a director. He is a much easier conductor to work under than Mr. Lang for the reason that he is less thoro [sic] in his methods and much less of a disciplinarian. Mr. Lang has brought the work of the society to a degree of excellence which it never before attained and this is solely due to the superiority of his methods.” (Op. cit., 79)
At the September 16, 1897 “Special Meeting” the four letters of resignation were read out and Mr. Simmons moved for acceptance. But before this, the long-time former President of the choir, Mr. A. Parker Browne, moved that this new board resign. The vote was Yeas 56 and Nays 57. By just one vote history was changed. After the vote, “Mr. Browne, followed by a large number of the Lang faction, left their seats in the hall.” (Op. cit., 92)
Between the meeting May 24th. and September 29th. meetings various other candidates for conductor were mentioned. One longtime member suggested “young Mr. Chadwick ” who had conducted a few times last year and was considered “first rate…I think he would do more to bring up the society than any other man.” (Advertiser, Op. cit.) Other suggestions were Emil Mollenhauer and Horatio Parker. Mollenhauer was trained as a violinist and he began his career in New York City at the age of 9. He moved to Boston and joined the BSO in 1884. In 1889 he resigned and became concertmaster of the newly formed Boston Festival Orchestra, and after three years, he then became the conductor for the following 22 years; c. 1892-c. 1914. After Lang’s two years with the Handel and Haydn Society and a following one final year with Zerrahn, Mollenhauer became the Society’s conductor “which he reorganized and revitalized after a period of musical decline. He took over the directorship of the Apollo Club after Lang’s retirement in 1901, and [much like Zerrahn] also led choral societies in Brookline, Lynn, Salem and Newburyport.” (Ledbetter entry in Vol. 3. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, 255-256)
The Herald wrote on September 19, 1897 an article based many of the many articles published previously. “The published reports of the meeting in Bumstead Hall one evening last week indicated an intensity of feeling on the part of the vanquished [Lang’s men] that fell little short of indiscretion, to say nothing of oblivion to the dictates of becoming dignity. Nothing lasts forever, even the supreme control of an organization by a faction or a clique.” (Herald (September 19, 1897): 29, GB) The article then wished that all the energy generated by bickering had been instead directed to discussing how the choir could be returned to a place of major influence in the musical life of Boston, as it had ” ceased to be a prominent factor in musical progress here.” (Ibid) The ending sentence hoped that the incoming faction would be “inspired by like zeal for the welfare of the society.” (Ibid)
Zerrahn’s return lasted only one year, and after a May 2, 1898 “testimonial concert of Elijah-the work he had first led for the Handel and Haydn on December 3, 1854-combining these three choruses [H and H, Worcester Chorus, and the Salem Chorus] with similar groups from Lynn, Lowell, New Bedford, Hyde Park, Chelsea, Quincey, Waltham, a vast throng of 1700 voices with soloists headed by Johanna Gadski, the great Wagnerian prima donna” Zerrahn retired to Germany. However he spent only five years there, and then “returned to Milton, Massachusetts, where he enjoyed eleven years (1909) of comfortable retirement at the home of his son.” (Ibid, 171) Thus Zerrahn and Lang died in the same year.
While Lang was the conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society he had greater prestige among Boston Social Circles. The “Social Life” section of the Herald reported on the list of those who had already signed up as subscribers or patrons of the Castle Square Theatre, “that beautiful playhouse with the best people.” (Herald (September 27, 1896): 27, GB) He was the first on the list: “Mr. B. J. Lang, director of the Handel and Haydn and Cecilia Societies.” Others listed were Mrs. W. B. Sewall of Commonwealth Avenue, Mrs. Skinner of Marlboro Street, Mrs. E. J. Andrews of Beacon Street, etc. The Langs now moved in very elevated circles.