Established Musical Force: 1891-1901. S.C.
CECILIA PREMIERS: All from the 1907 List unless noted.
(Boston) Bach: Blessing, Glory, Wisdom and Might (with piano), January 24, 1894. .
(Boston) Beach: The Rose of Avontown. Beach was the accompanist. February 4, 1897.
(Boston) Beethoven: Missa Solemnis. March 12, 1897.
(American) Berlioz: The Fifth of May, November 28, 1891. (First Wage Earner Concert)
(Boston) Brahms: How Long Wilt Thou Forget Me, O God? January 25, 1892.
(Boston) Bruch: Siechen rost. January 25, 1893.
(Boston) Chadwick: Phoenix Expirans. December 3 and 5, 1900.
(World) Chadwick: The Pilgrims. April 2, 1891.
(American) Coleridge-Taylor: Overture to Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. March 12 and 14, 1900.
(Boston) Coleridge-Taylor: Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. March 12 and 14, 1900.
(American) Coleridge-Taylor: Hiawatha’s Departure. December 3 and 5, 1900.
(Boston) Dvorak: Requiem. November 28 and 30, 1892. Second American-Dvorak conducted.
(Boston) Elgar: My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land. January 17, 1895. Second American.
(Boston) Fanchetti: Academic Festival Hymn (with piano). January 24, 1894.
(Boston) Goring: The Swan and Skylark. January 13, 1898.
(Boston) Haydn: Salve Regina. March 20, 1896.
(Boston) Humperdinck: Pilgrimage to Kevlaar. January 13, 1898.
(World) B. J. Lang: The King is Dead. January 25 and 26, 1899.
(World) M. R. Lang: Love Plumes His Wings. January 23 and 25, 1893. Repeated January 16 and 17, 1895.
(World) M. R. Lang: Irish Love Song. February 13, 1896.
(World) M. R. Lang: In a Garden. April 30, 1896.
(World) M. R. Lang: Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down. May 6, 1897.
(Boston) MacCunn: It Was a Lass. January 22, 1891.
(Boston) MacCunn: Lord Ullin’s Daughter. January 22, 1891.
(Boston) Moskowski: Scenes from Faust, March 20, 1896.
(World) Nevin: If She be Made of White and Red. May 11, 1893.
(Boston) Palestrina: Sanctus. May 2, 1894
(Boston) Palestrina: Missa Brevis. February 13, 1901.
(Boston) Parker: Legend of St. Christopher, Opus 43. December 6, 1899. The world premier had been just the year before. Parker conducted.
(American) Perosi: The Transfiguration of Christ. April 14 and 26, 1899. The work had only been premiered in Italy a year earlier, March 20, 1898.
(Boston) Saint-Saens: Samson and Dalila (Delilah). November 27 and 28, 1894.
(Boston) Schubert: Miriam’s Song of Triumph. May 14, 1891.
(Boston?) Sgambati: Andante Solenne (Organ and orchestra). March 20, 1896 at a Cecilia Concert.
(Boston) Stanford: Phandrig Crohoore. March 14, 1900.
(Boston) Thomas: The Swan and the Skylark. January 13, 1898.
(Boston) Tinel: St. Francis of Assisi (Selections). November 23 and 24, 1893. Second American.
(Boston) Tchaikovsky: Cherubim Song. January 24, 1900.
(American) Verdi: Stabat Mater. December 5 and 7, 1898.
(American) Verdi: Te Deum. December 5 and 7, 1898.
(Boston) Verdi: Hymn to the Virgin. January 26, 1899.
(Boston) Wagner: Parsifal (Concert Performance). April 14, 1891 by the Cecilia Society and the Apollo Club with 75 members of the New York Philharmonic. (Johnson, First, 387)
(Boston) Wagner: “Quintet and Chorus” from Die Feen. January 31, 1899.
(World) Lang, Margaret: The Boatman’s Hymn. January 18, 1893.
(Boston) MacDowell: Midsummer Clouds, November 30, 1898. (Advertiser (December 1, 1898): 4, GB)
(World?) Osgood: In Picardie. May 3, 1893. (Advertiser (May 4, 1893): 5, GB)
BY LANG STUDENTS:
(Boston??) Sgambati: Piano Concerto in g minor, Op. 15. Hiram G. Tucker pianist with the BSO on October 31, 1890, Arthur Nikisch conductor. (Johnson, First, 336)
As an “Established Musical Force” it fell to the Langs to host , attend or support many social events. During this ten-year period the newspapers are full of reports listing Mr. and Mrs. attending, Mr. and Mrs. supporting, Mrs being a Patron, Mrs. and one or more of the children attending, etc. In addition to the regular Lang Sunday afternoon open houses which would sometimes include musical performances, there were special events. “Dec. 28th. Lel gave a dinner of 12 for Paderewski. Some of the guests were Nickish, Higginson, Chadwick, Foote, MacDowell, Johns, Apthorp and Winch…Also present at the dinner were Paderewski’s old school friends Joe and Jim Adamowski [Boston Symphony members].” (Diary 2, December 1891) The doyen of Boston Society, Isabella Stuart Gardner, was a family friend. “Mrs. Gardner has invited me to a luncheon given for Paderewski.” (Diary 2, Winter 1892) “Leonora Van Stesch [violinist] is staying with us. She receives a steady stream of callers. But also practices many hours each day.” (Ibid) In the fall Antonin Dvorak would be a house guest. Even rival conductors were welcomed: Mr. Damrosch dined with us before his concert.” (Diary 2, Winter 1893) For one Sunday open house: “We had a big crowd here Sunday afternoon to hear Eleanor Hyde sing.” (Ibid) “Went to the big supper for Paderewski at Mrs. Gardner’s.” (Ibid) The Langs knew the greats of their time: “Edwin Booth is dying. How well I remember going behind the scenes at the Boston Theatre and his being presented to us.” (Ibid) Then there were the composers: “Last evening Mr. and Mrs. Horatio Parker and Mr. and Mrs. Chadwick came to dinner. Afterwards all went up to the Billiard room.” (Diary 2, Fall 1893) “Our Sunday afternoons are getting very crowed. People seem to enjoy coming.” (Diary 2,Winter 1894) “At a big Tavern Club dinner Lel was called upon to make an impromptu speech. Afterwards Will Apthorp told him that it was one of the best speeches he had ever heard.” (Diary 2, Spring 1894) “Another wonderful party at Mrs. Gardner’s last night.” (Ibid) “There is not a moment to breathe. We are always on the go, or people are coming here.” (Diary 2, Spring 1895) “Our Sunday afternoons are more crowded than ever…Our days are filled with receptions, parties, concerts and the Opera.” (Diary 2, Winter 1896) Another side of society life was charity work. How did she have the time? “I am now going regularly to the Home for Incurables. I enjoy talking with them, also singing to them, which they often ask me to do.” (Ibid) “I am almost dead with so much going on.” (Ibid) The pace didn’t let up. An entry, “We go to the Opera almost continuously,” was closely followed by, “We had a brilliant Sunday afternoon yesterday. The talented Mr. Kittredge who played with Mrs. Robinson in In a Balcony sang exquisite French songs, playing his own accompaniments…I try to rest but there is never time…Now that April is here we have discontinued our Sunday afternoons” (Diary, 2 Spring 1898) However, ours had a longer season. “We went to a brilliant Garden Party at Mrs. Gardner’s. Next Day. Went to a large dinner at Mrs. Gardner’s. There were 16 of us, and after dinner we had the greatest fun playing a Haydn Kinder Symphony.” (Ibid) There were also family obligations that took up time; “Mrs. Gardner went with Lel and me to see Noble’s School play against Roxbury Latin Sch. Malcolm played short-stop. Roxbury won 5-4” (Ibid) The Sunday Afternoons late in 1898 began on December 4th. (Diary 2, Winter 1898)
APOLLO CLUB SINGS FOR FUNERAL OF JOHN H. STICKNEY.
On November 18, 1891 the choir sang at the funeral of John H. Stickney who was the only surviving member of J. C. D. Parker’s original twelve singers of the Chickering Club-he had often been a soloist with the Club. Such changes were reflected in Phillip Hale’s review of an 1892 concert where he wrote, “the first tenors are not now as strong as of old. Death and resignation took away valuable old members” (Baker, 15) However H. M. Ticknor (bass in the choir and on the Harvard faculty) wrote in the Globe “of first tenors applying for membership, 31% are accepted, 26% of second tenors are accepted, and only one out of every five basses who apply are admitted to membership.” However critics grew more negative as reflected by this 1894 comment from B. E. Woolf in the Gazette-“B. J. Lang’s prevailing weakness as a conductor is evident…[he is] somewhat of an anachronism.”
CECILIA SIXTEENTH SEASON: 1891-1892.
The headline in the Transcript was: “CECILIA AS AN EDUCATOR.” This season presented “Wage-Earners Concerts,” held the night before the regular concert with ticket prices of 15 and 25 cents. The idea had first been tried in Chicago, to great success, and in Boston, “judging by the size of the gathering and the warm interest of the listeners the first trial of the plan was a complete success.” (516) The Herald headline was in three parts: “THE BEST MUSIC—LOW PRICES. The new Departure of the Cecilia Outlined. A Repetition of the Club Concerts at Low Prices-Plans for Distributing the Tickets for Sale to Wage-Earners-A Worthy Effort in the Right Direction.” This paper reminded their readers that it had reported on the efforts of the Apollo Club of Chicago when they first began: “The Herald was very anxious that steps should be taken to establish a similar course of concerts in this city, but at the time, for various reasons, it seemed to be impossible…During the last few weeks, a gentleman representing the club has visited substantially all the large employers of labor throughout the city with a view of interesting them in this enterprise…The Cecilia must be congratulated on the enterprise they have shown and the unselfishness with which their singers have gladly given their services.” (Herald, undated) Another paper also had an extensive headline: “MUSIC FOR THE MILLIONS. CECILIA’S NEW SERIES. Her Brave Effort to Play to Boston’s Wage Earners Has a Measure of Success. THROUGH MANY BIG SALARIES GOT IN.” (Anon. article)
The Wage Earner Concerts were continued for twenty years with prices of 25, 35 and 50 cents. Blocks of tickets were given to companies who then distributed them to their employees. Unfortunately many tickets fell into the hands of those who could afford to pay full price, and this led to a discontinuing the concerts during the 1897-1898 Season. However, these concerts “had become a source of considerable revenue, and were renewed the following year and continued regularly until the season of 1909-1910.” (Hill, 9)
The first concerts of the season were presented on Sunday evening, November 29 (Wage-Earner Concert) and Monday evening, November 30, 1891, both at the Music Hall, both with orchestra with concertmaster Kneisel, and both with the same repertoire: Dvorak-Patriotic Hymn, Bruch-Fair Ellen, and Berlioz-The Fifth of May whose text had been translated from the French by Margaret Ruthven Lang. The Musical Herald said: “Miss Lang is to complimented for her translation…Mr. Lang has a great troop of workers under him this year…An admirable orchestra, led by Mr. Kneisel, assisted at this concert.” (Musical Herald, undated)
The second concerts were held on Tuesday evening, January 26 and Wednesday evening, January 27, 1892 at the Music Hall with B. L. Whelpley as organist and Mrs. Arthur Nikisch singing two groups of songs which included Margaret’s In a Garden-this was the fourth time that her works had been part of Cecilia concerts. The Advertiser noted that the club “never sang before a more attentive, decorous audience than that which filled the big hall on the occasion of the second in the ”Wage-Earners’ series…Mrs. Nikisch found favor with the audience, and was given applause and recalls.” (Advertiser, undated)
The third concerts were given on Wednesday evening, March 30 and Thursday evening March 31, 1892 at the Music Hall with orchestra with the work being Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri. The Transcript reviewed the earlier Boston performances of this work beginning with one given by the Parker Club in the early 1860s. It was then given by the Harvard Musical Association when the Cecilia was part of that group, and then again ten years later when the Cecilia was an independent chorus. “The performance last evening, in so far as chorus and orchestra were concerned, was very fine indeed; the chorus, in especial, sang with noble firmness, vigor, and vitality, and also with the nicest attention to effects of light and shade. Better chorus singing could not be asked for.” The comments about orchestral accompaniment may have had some effect. “The orchestra, too, played with far more care and attention to their parts, and to the conductor, than they have done of late, outside of the symphony concerts, thus doing much to wipe off the stigma which they have, on more than one occasion, brought upon themselves.” (Herald, undated) The Herald also recorded: “The work of the chorus was especially good throughout the evening, and showed the body of singers to the best advantage, evidences of the thorough study given under Mr. Lang’s direction being evident in all their leading numbers…The orchestra was from the ranks of the Symphony men, and, under Mr. Lang’s baton, the many beauties of the instrumental score were most happily interpreted.” (Ibid) Woolf, in the Gazette, did his usual pan. Of the work itself: it is “dull, monotonous, and unimpressive,” and of the performance: it was “as a whole, far from praiseworthy, and showed in many directions the result of careless and inadequate rehearsing, and had a distressing go-as-you-pleaser aspect, generally.” (Gazette, undated) However, another reviewer, H. G. Hopper in the Times wrote: “Especially commendable was the performance in every detail and the whole work was a brilliant success, due, of course, to the care of the conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang, in the numberless rehearsals which must have taken place to produce such completeness…Of course every seat in the great hall was filled and the audience most attentive and enthusiastic.” (Times, undated)
The fourth concerts were given Wednesday evening May 11 and Thursday evening May 12, 1892 at the Music Hall with a miscellaneous program which included Mrs. H. H. A. Beach playing two groups of piano solos, one of which included her own work, Fireflies. Under the heading MUSIC AND THE DRAMA Hale wrote another positive review. “It is a pleasure to hear the Cecilia in such concerts, for the balance and the march of the parts are more clearly observed, and the quality of tone and the observance of dynamics carry greater authority than when the singers are drowned in orchestral floods…Last evening the concert was thoroughly enjoyed by many who at the end of the season, stunned and dazed by orchestral crashes and pianoforte pyrotechnics, realize that,after all, the human voice is still the noblest, the most potent of all instruments. The singing of the society was generally excellent.” (535-536) Warren Davenport praised Lang as an accompanist. “Mr. Lang played the accompaniments to the vocal solos in his own charming manner, an accomplishment that few possess.” He also noted the effect of having assigned seats-after the first piece late comers were admitted, “and all along, for a half hour or more after the performance began, the listeners were disturbed by people going to their reserved seats” including a music critic, whose arrival was noted at 8:20. (537) One final review (possibly from the Gazette) was also very positive. “In fact, the Cecilia has not acquitted itself more satisfactorily this season than it did on this occasion. The pleasure it afforded the audience was frequently manifested in the hearty and fairly earned applause that rewarded the singing.” Mrs. Beach “was also cordially applauded and recalled” as was the soprano soloist, Mrs. Wyman who was “recalled three times” after her songs. (Anon. , undated)
The success of the Wage-Earner Concerts is reflected in a letter from “J. L. C.” written after their first season where he noted: “My daily or weekly wage is not low enough to fall into the one class benefited by the generosity of this singing club, nor high enough to enable me to afford and associate membership. Is this unfortunate middle class to be always shut out from the enjoyment of these concerts.” He then suggested a third [!] performance with tickets prices of “say 50 cents, or even 75 cents…Give the unfortunate middle class a chance.” (Anon.)
APOLLO TWENTY-FIRST SEASON: 1891-1892.
The second concert was given on Tuesday February 23, 1893 at the Music Hall with orchestral accompaniment. The opening work was The Trumpeter by Templeton Strong. Elson wrote: “After hearing several of Mr. Strong’s compositions I believe him to be the foremost of the young American composers in ease of treatment of orchestra and in spontaneity of ideas.” (Advertiser (February 24, 1892): 4, GB) The final piece was March of the Monks of Bangor, words by Sir Walter Scott and music by George E. Whiting. Elson thought it was taken too fast-“as if the monks were in the direst hurry” but he ended his review with the statement that the “work, by itself, might make him famous.” (Ibid) Whiting had written the work for the tenth anniversary of the Apollo Club who sang the world premier April 22, 1881. For this 1881 performance the Club printed an edition of just the choral parts, and in 1887 the work was popular enough for John Church Co. of Cincinnati to bring out an edition for voices and piano.
The last concert was on April 27, 1894. By tradition this concert was “a pleasant dessert after a solid feast “of the heavier works in earlier concerts. (Advertiser (April 28, 1894): 5) For Louis Elson: “Pleasant are those concerts which require no analytical reviews.” (Ibid) The opening and closing works were choruses from Mendelssohn’s Antigone, but the middle was full of “folksongs and musical sugarplums” which included Foote’s I Love My Love (encored) and Mr. E. Cutter’s ( the club’s accompanist) Farewell. Elson found both needed “more directness and less contrapuntal imitation.” (Ibid) The violinist Camilla Urso included one piece that had “simultaneous bowing and pizzicato,” played brilliantly. The vocalist, Lillian Blauvelt’s had a very successful debut, but her encore of The Last Rose of Summer, a work sung far too often and so “few people weep over it as copiously as they used to do. The fount of tears is nearly dry, and this particular rose is not a hardy perennial.” (Ibid)
PARSIFAL: SECOND TIME.
Just before the final Cecilia concerts mentioned above, Lang presented his second private performance of Wagner’s Parsifal on May 4, 1892. As the Globe noted, this concert was given without the aid of newspaper ads or public sale of tickets. There were not quite as many attending as for the first performance, a year before, but there were “very few vacant seats in the auditorium…Yesterday’s performance was almost an exact duplicate of last year’s production. The large Metropolitan Opera House orchestra was brought here again; the Cecilia again provided the choral singers, and, with one exception, the same soloists were heard again…It must be said, that the production reflected great credit upon its promoter and those who aided him in the undertaking. There are few in Boston who would be equal to the task so successfully accomplished by Mr. Lang.” (Globe (May 5, 1892): 2)
As usual the Lang family was very involved in the preparations. From Frances’s Diary: “Went to a Bell Foundry on Allen Street to see bells for Parsifal. Shall go to see some in Worcester. Lel sent me to Worcester to see an experiment with bells…April. Lel to New York to have a Parsifal rehearsal with the Metropolitan Orcheatra…People are agog to hear Parsifal again. Lel is terribly busy planning every single detail, and constantly having rehearsals…Parsifal performance-House packed and everyone wildly enthusiastic. It is the most beautiful music in the world.” (Diary 2. Spring 1892)
However, the Herald reported that the “attendance was considerably below that at last year’s production of this work, [but] the audience was most enthusiastic in its recognition of Mr. Lang’s enterprise and the merits of the performance…Taken as a whole, the performance reached a high degree of merit in all its parts, and the ovations which greeted and rewarded Mr. Lang were well deserved.” (Herald (May 5, 1892): 5, GB) However, the Advertiser noted that the audience was over 2,000-“a most brilliant one, and the closest attention as well as abundant enthusiasm were manifested throughout.” (Elson, Advertiser (May 5, 1892): 4, GB) The orchestra numbered 85 players and the chorus was large and performed very well. Two languages were used-the soloist in German and the chorus in English. “The whole performance calls for an expression of thanks to Mr. Lang, who has in it shown an appreciation of the musical wants of our city.” (Ibid)
NEW-BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CHORUS.
In the fall of 1892 the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that it was organizing a chorus of 200 voices “which will be trained by Arthur Foote.” (New York Tribune (September 19, 1892): 4, GB) Philip Hale recorded: “At the beginning of the season much was said about a new chorus that was to play the part of annex to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately performance gave lie to promise. The chorus made two appearances, in the Ninth Symphony and in a bill that included Brahms” Song of Destiny and Foote’s Skeleton in Armor. The chorus was weak and timid. It was disbanded at the end of the season.” (MYB (1892-93): x) It was after this that the Cecilia began singing with the Symphony.
A FRENCH LIFE OF WAGNER.
In 1892 the Boston publisher, J. B. Millet Co. brought out an English translation of Richard Wagner: His Life and Works. This was written by the well known French author on musical subjects, Adolphe Jullien with the translation by Florence Percivel Hall and an introduction by B. J. Lang. The book was based on Jullien’s own collection of Wagner material that “is so vast that he has been able to add very considerably to the knowledge even of those who have read the german biographies.” (New York Tribune (May 22, 1892): 18, GB) Lang mentioned that most of the previous books in English were by German writers, and that American readers were quite ignorant concerning French scholarship about this composer. Naturally the three years that Wagner spend in Paris is an important chapter, and the fourteen caricatures by Faustin-Latour were called “admirable and full of suggestion.” (New York Times (July 3, 1892): 5) This was a special edition, in two volumes, and limited to 1,000 copies.
HARVARD MUSICAL ASSOCIATION NEW HOME.
In November 1892 the HMA moved from 11 Park Square to 1 West Cedar Street, a building which they bought. Dwight made the move and he wrote to a friend about all the alterations that had to be made. On the second floor a concert hall was built. “We shall have a beautiful long room, three parlors end to end, with solid pine floor, uncarpeted; and I think eye and ear will find it very agreeable. ” (Cooke, Dwight, A Biography, 292) Dwight approved the repertoire that was chosen for the opening concert: “Beethoven’s great B-flat Trio (Lang, Kneisel and Schroder of the Symphony Orchestra); Adelaide, sung by W. J. Winch; and a Bach bass aria, sung by Lamson.” (Op. cit., 293)
Lang’s performances were not the only ones that received contradictory reviews. In the 77th. Annual Report of the Handel and Haydn Society, the writer took the time to quote from reviews of the group’s Messiah performance. Elson (Advertiser) wrote that the orchestra was insecure, rough and “worse than anything we have heard in oratorio for a long time.” However Hale felt that “the work of the orchestra was unusually good.” The Herald echoed this by saying; “The orchestral work was all that the severest critic could demand,” while the Traveler took a middle position: “The orchestra played smoothly most of the time, with spots of raggedness that were entirely inexcusable.” The Beacon agreed with this position, but the Home Journal wrote: “The orchestra played uncommonly well.” (probably Hale) Finally the Courier felt that “The orchestral playing was much better than is usually the case at the oratorio performances.” (H. and H. History, 16)
CECILIA SEVENTEENTH SEASON: 1892-1993.
The opening concert of this season presented the Boston Requiem of Dvorak, conducted by the composer at the Music Hall on Monday evening, November 28 and Wednesday evening, November 30, 1892 with orchestra and B. L. Whelpley at the organ. Dvorak had conducted the world premier at the English Birmingham Festival on October 9, 1891, and the American premier had been in New York City in February 1892. (Johnson, First, 132). Hale, now writing for the Boston Journal used this three-sectioned headline: ” THE CECILIA. Antonin Dvorak Directs his Requiem Mass. Thoughts Suggested by the performance.” Hale began by writing: “It is now safe to say that he is a man of great musical talent, and it is possible that posterity will recognize him as a genius.” But, he then wrote that the composer wrote for the voice as though it were an instrumental instrument. “When the voice is treated as an orchestral instrument the composer suffers as well as the singer, for his intention is rarely carried into effect..” Of the performance itself: “The performance of the chorus was in the main excellent, an honor to the Cecilia and the city. It was evident that the chorus had been carefully and intelligently drilled by Mr. Lang, for in attack and in observance of the nuances there was little to be desired.” The soloists were praised, and “Mr. Dvorak was welcomed with warmth, frequently applauded, and at the end recalled with enthusiasm. It was a pleasure to see this simple. modest, kindly man of great talent directing his own music…The man, as well as his music, made a profound impression. (Journal, undated) Under the banner DRAMA AND MUSIC, this review called the performance a “gathering of social and artistic significance…The vocal scoring is rich and ”singable,” that is, it does not require a voice of phenomenal range for any of the parts. But the original treatment of the accompaniments by the instruments strews difficulties in the vocal pathway, which the quartet were quite successful in surmounting, and the same may be said of the choiristers…The choruses were finely given, especially the parts allotted to the basses, and the orchestra played very smoothly.” (Anon.) Apthorp’s extensive review in the Transcript included: “We may be wrong, but our present impression is that the Requiem is a stronger work than the composer’s Stabat Mater,” but it would rank behind the Spectre’s Bride and the Patriotic Hymn. “The Requiem is a succession of brilliant, impressive and glowing pictures…One feels the work to be a great feat, powerfully performed. At least this is the first impression it produces-and beyond this we naturally cannot go now…The performance was exceedingly fine: never [!] have the Cecilia sung with more vigor and vitality of style… Although not accustomed to Dr. Dvorak’s beat, the singers followed him admirably, and responded to his every sign immediately and vigorously…The orchestra played with fire and spirit, if not always with the greatest nicety. But few such immensely difficult choral works have had so fine a performance in this city.” (Transcript, undated) The Herald noted “with gratitude” the many first performances given by the Cecilia. “The singers of the Cecilia are to be heartily commended for their faithful work in preparing this difficult work,” and the choir was also praised following Dvorak, who as a conductor, “is almost entirely lacking in personal magnetism, [and] has little force to control either singers or musicians, and withal is not a graceful man in either repose or motion.” (Herald, undated) Elson, also in an extensive review in the Advertiser called the Requiem “one of the most important and elaborate master-works that has been produced here for many years…The manner in which the Cecilia sang the choruses was extraordinarily able, under the circumstances. It was made clear that they had been industriously and intelligently rehearsed, and they sang with steadiness, a precision and a fidelity to the composer’s indications in respect to the marks of expression that left little if anything to be asked for. Now and then there was false intonation, but if a composer insists on writing ear-baffling, and voice-trying intervals, he must take the consequences if they cannot be sung readily.” Dvorak’s conducting style was described: “With his primitively artless beat, he extracted from the orchestra a beautiful pianissimo, perfect crescendos and diminuendos, and other fine nuances…Mr. Dvorak was often applauded, and when all was over, he was recalled with exciting enthusiasm.” (Advertiser, undated)
“Pemberton Sq., Boston December 15, 1892
My dear Doctor,
I am directed by the government and members of the Cecelia to extend to you their cordial thanks for the honor which you conferred upon them in conducting their first performance of your glorious Requiem. The opportunity thus given them of making your personal acquaintance, of listening to your instruction, of singing under your baton and of paying you their sincere homage, is something which will not be easily forgotten by them.
Of the beauty of your noble composition it would be impertinent to speak. When the musical world has already spoken, any small body of music lovers can find nothing to add. Boston is fortunate in receiving its first impression of the great work at the hand of its great composer.
In the earnest hope that your stay in America may be pleasant to yourself as it will surely be profitable, and that Boston may have many more occasions of renewing an acquaintance so delightfully begun, I am my dear Doctor, most gratefully and respectfully yours.
S. Lothrop Thorndike”
Philip Hale noted: “Dvorak conducted his Requiem Mass at a concert given by the Cecilia. There was naturally animal curiosity to see the man; but who recalls the work or the performance. The Cecilia maintained its reputation, however, as an excellent body of singers.” (Yearbook, Vol. 10, ix)
George Chadwick recorded: “There was much curiosity to see the man but he was a poor conductor and could not speak English, consequently he got no effect out of the work, which after all is not one of his best. I did not meet him.” (Chadwick, Memoirs) Dvorak was probably a house guest of the Lang family as Carl Faelton, in writing to Dvorak about visiting the New England Conservatory, mentions that he had asked B. J. “whether you might be not be interested to look over our Institution.” (Ibid) In Frances Lang’s Diaries there is also a reference to the composer looking over Margaret’s instrumental compositions. B. J. has wasted no time in making use of Dvorak’s presence in America-he had only just arrived on September 27, 1892! Horowitz mentioned the critical response to this work: “Imagine denouncing such a refined work as ”barbarous”! This was Boston shorthand for ”Slavic” or ”non-German.”” (Horowitz, Dvorak, 116) Luckily there were other considerations that would overcome this first American negative reaction. Dvorak could take comfort in his salary as Director of the National Conservatory of Music for which he was paid $15,000 per year, a figure that exceeded “by one-third that of the mayor of New York.” (Horowitz, Op. cit., 21) He also could reflect that his duties included teaching “for two hours every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is fewer hours than he originally planned,” and this left him more time to compose. (Horowitz, 33). He also had part of his family with him in New York-his wife, Anna and two children, his daughter Otilka aged fourteen and his son Antonin aged nine, but four remained back in Prague. However, the four came to America in the summer of 1893, and the whole family spent the summer in Spillville, Iowa which had been settled primarily by Czechs. The Conservatory itself was a fine school-begun in 1885 by Jeannette Thurber, who had attended the Paris Conservatory, she had built a solid staff including James Gibbons Huneker, the critic, who also taught piano at the school. Victor Herbert, who was then the principal cellist in Seidl’s two orchestras, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, also taught composition at the school. By the end of 1893 Dvorak would also have the triumph of the premier of his Symphony No. 5, in E Minor, From the New World, conducted by his now good friend, Anton Seidl. In a letter dated 27. XI, 1892 written from Boston’s Parker House Hotel, Dvorak wrote : “Yesterday I came to Boston to conduct my obligatory concert (everything connected with it being arranged by the highly esteemed President of our Conservatory, the tireless Mrs. Jeanette M. Thurber) at which the Requiem will be given with several hundred performers. The concert on December 1st. will be for only the wealthy and the intelligenzia, but the preceding day my work will also be performed for poor workers who earn 18 dollars a week, the purpose being to give the poor and uneducated people the opportunity to hear the musical works of all times and all nations. That’s something, isn’t it? I am looking forward to it like a child.” (Sourek, 151). The performances were actually on November 29 and 30, 1892. (Sourek, 153) “Each program was given before an audience of wage-earners and their families on the evening preceding the regular concert.” (MYB 1892-93, 15)
The second concert was held on Wednesday evening, January 23, 1893 at the Music Hall with Maude Powell as the featured soloist. This was a miscellaneous program which included the premier of Love Plumes His Wings by Margaret Ruthven Lang for female voices. Elson called this piece “the best I have yet heard by this composer. It is charmingly melodic, has enough of imitative treatment in the voices to keep up continuous interest from the harmonic, or contrapuntalside, and its unaffected grace and daintiness appeal to musician and non-musician alike. It received abundant and continued applause (and deserved it, too) but an encore was denied.” (Anon.) The Herald wrote: “The ladies never did better work than in Margaret Lang’s tuneful and pleasing Love Plumes Her [sic] Wings.” (Herald, undated) Hale, in his short two-paragraph review found the “programme not sufficiently diversified. Its color was gray,” but “Miss Lang’s graceful setting of Mrs. Moulton’s Love Plumes His Wings to Fly Away stood out in delightful relief, and it was heartily applauded…The singing of the chorus was, as a rule, excellent in quality of tone, in balance of the parts and in phrasing.” (Undated) Another review, under “Theaters and Concerts” found that: “Miss Lang’s dainty and exceedingly cleverly written Love Plumes His Wings was a welcome ray of light in the midst of all this.” This reviewer felt that the program, as a whole, was “melancholy.” (Anon.) Another reviewer found that the program had a “lack of contrasts” which made it “somewhat dull.” However, “a pleasing feature of the concert was Miss Lang’s delightful music to Mrs. Moulton’s poem, Love Plumes His Wings to Fly Away. It was a wholly charming song, and met with cordial applause.” (Anon.) One final review wrote of: “the pure and elevated sentiment of the musical setting by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, to the words of Love Plumes His Wings, [which] contributed a very welcome share to the interesting character of the programme.” (Anon.) The choir President S. Lothrop Thorndike called the piece an “altogether delightful bit of four-part writing for female voices.” (Annual Report, 1892-1893)
The Cecilia presented a concert in Salem under the sponsorship of the Salem Oratorio Society [Arthur Foote conductor?] on Thursday evening February 9, 1893 at Cadet Hall which included Margaret’s Love Plumes His Wings. No reviews were preserved, but President Thorndike wrote that the choir “evidently did itself credit; for the audience and newspapers were unanimous in their approval of the excellence of the singing, of the dresses of the ladies, and, especially, of the fact that Mr. Lang had not only conducted the concert admirably, but had, at an earlier period, taken occasion to be born in Salem.” (Op. cit.)
The Monday evening, March 22, 1893 concert at the Music Hall presented The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz with Miss Elizabeth Hamlin, soprano; Mr. Geo. J. Parker, Tenor [and member of Apollo]; Mr. Max Heinrich, Baritone; Mr. Ivan Morawski, Bass; with orchestra. (BMYB 1892-93, 16) One review said of the piece: “This work is one of immense power in certain essentials, but it must be confessed that much of it is painfully labored in effect. Berlioz, whatever his merits may have been otherwise, was not richly endowed with the gift of melody…The best moments of the work are its more stormy and bizarre…the difficulties of the work are very great, for both the singers and the players. that they were fully met on this occasion can hardly be conceded. The choruses were, on the whole, sung with fine precision, clearness and steadiness.” But, “the singing was too persistently and monotonously noisy…A similar effect was observable in the playing of the orchestra…Worse than this, however, was the roughness and raggedness of much of the playing; the happy-go-lucky manner in which difficulties were surmounted, the uncertainty in attack and the laxity in precision generally.” (Anon.) It had seemed as reflected in previous reviews that the orchestra performance had improved, but, it seems that this was not the case. Another review entitled “Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust receives a Fine Presentation” was more enthusiastic. “Soloists, chorus and orchestra each did their part to make the perfect whole, and it is doubtful if the work was ever given better in Boston…The Hungarian March was given with a snap and precision that brought forth hearty applause…The real climax of the piece, the wonderful ”Ride to hades” was grandly done…under the skillful direction of Mr. Lang.” (Anon.) In a third review Warren Davenport wrote of the choir: “The singing of the chorus was always good and mostly excellent as regards precision, good intonation and balance of tone in the parts.” However, “the orchestra generally throughout the evening was loud, disjointed and careless in its efforts, but for the past four seasons this has been its general style.” Of the soloists: “Generally speaking the solo parts in this work are ungrateful tasks, melodically dry and technically difficult…These singers deserve great praise for overcoming the difficulties of their respective parts in the artistic manner that marked their efforts.” (Globe?, undated) The Herald noted the concert in its social listings: “Miss Elizabeth Hamlin was a picture in her empire gown of satin white and enormous blue puff sleeves and bodice, as ”Marguerite,” at the Cecilia concert at Music Hall Wednesday night. Among the large and fashionable audience were noticed Mr. and Mrs. J. Montgomery Sears, Mrs. B. J. Lang, Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, Dr. and Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, Mrs. John L. Gardner, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Foote and many others.” (Herald (March 26, 1893): 26, GB)
Boston is today known as an Early Music City with its Festival of Early Music every two years and various musical groups that use authentic performance practice techniques, but B. J. Lang, 120 years before brought Boston an awareness of Early Music in the May 11, 1893 Music Hall Concert in honor of Shakespeare which used a harpsichord “kindly loaned by Messrs. Chickering & Sons.” The title of the concert was “Music in Shakespeare’s Time and Shakespeare In Music.” The assisting artists were Miss Fanny Richter, pianist who played Bach’s Italian Concerto and Mr. Ericsson F. Bushnell, bass. A first part of Renaissance material, and a concluding part of contemporary works including pieces by Foote (When Icicles Hang By the Wall from Love’s Labors Lost) and Fenelosa based on Shakespeare texts was separated by three harpsichord solos by Byrde (Prelude in C Major and Pavan in A Minor)and Gibbons (Galliard in C Major) played by Lang. (BMYB 1892-93, 16) The Cecilia records have seven reviews of this performance! Hale felt that “Miss Fanny Richter played the Italian Concerto of Bach with a certain facility, but without individuality and without rhythmic distinction: in a word she played like an industrious pupil of an advanced class.” He also pointed out that the piece had no connection with this program. “Mr. Lang played a prelude and pavane by Bryd and a galliard by Gibbons on a harpsichord, a substitute for the virginal of Shakespeare’s day…It was a pleasure to hear the tinkling with its thin, acid tone, and such an instrument might be recommended to any modern formidable pianist who delights in thundering at length; if he exerted his strength he would break the harpsichord and thus give an excuse for the early departure of the audience.” (Journal, undated) The Globe noted: “A quaint and vastly interesting contribution to the evening’s pleasure was made by Mr. Lang in his performance upon the old harpsichord of the Chickering collection of a prelude in C major and a pavan in A minor by William Byrde and a galliard in C major by Orlando Gibbons, these old time compositions on such an instrument constituting a novelty, which was greatly enjoyed.” (Globe, undated) The Advertiser (Louis C. Elson) noted: “The twanging, picking style of the instrument was a new flavor to the modern concert room, but of course the instrument (the harpsichord is first cousin to the virginals) was not powerful enough for the hall…had the actual virginals been used they would have been quite inaudible…Mr. Lang played the two old dances and a prelude…in a manner that completely won the audience.” (Advertiser, undated) Another review entitled “THE CECILIA CONCERT. Mr. B. J. Lang’s Harpsichord Recital Much Applauded” noted: “Mr. Lang himself received most of the applause for his numbers on the harpsichord,” while about the choir: “Chorus singing such as the Cecilia’s at the concerts conducted by Mr. Lang deserve all the praise they get.” (Anon. review) Under the heading “Music In Boston” Hale wrote repeated his point made in an earlier review that many pianists might benefit from having to deal with the limited dynamic range of the harpsichord. he ended this article with: “The season as a whole was a dull one.” (Journal, undated) The Advertiser under “Theatre and Concert” called the concert “A most interesting evening…We doubt if the majority of the Cecilia audience ever enjoyed a concert more than this one last evening; Shakespeare was the bait, and they all took it greedily…Mr. Lang’s playing of the Virginals music on an old harpsichord was quaintly suggestive of how the music would have sounded if one could have heard it; but the disproportion between the size of the hall and the feeble voice of the instrument was so great that the effect was more imaginative-poetic than intelligibly musical…Mr. Lang and the forces under his baton are highly to be congratulated upon the artistic success of their ”Shakespeare evening.”” (Advertiser, undated) Warren Davenport praised the choir: “There was a good degree of contrast in the dynamic expression, and a fair observance of the nuances. The voices also were well balanced, and the singers attentive.” Of Lang’s harpsichord solos: “Mr. Lang touched the harpsichord with delicacy and clearness, and evoked ther heartiest applause of the evening.” (Globe, undated) Certainly the choir had not expected such a positive response. In the May 1893 Annual Report the President wrote: “We were agreeably disappointed on the morning after the performance, when some of the best critics said that the concert was a good one, not merely from the antiquarian and educational, but from the musical standpoint…This was very satisfactory, and led us to believe that, after all, we had not made a bad ending of a notable season.” (1893 Annual Report)
At the Annual Meeting of the choir on May 25, 1893 it was reported that the ware-earner concerts had continued to be a success. “Enough tickets to fill the house were taken, at fifteen cents or twenty-five cents, according to location, by leading firms on behalf of their employees, and by individuals of the working class; and the audiences were as large and as enthusiastic as those of our regular concerts.” However, it was noted that some richer persons were using these tickets, and the President asked: “Will our friends kindly look to it that this does not happen again.” (1893 Annual Report) The President was S. Lothrop Thorndike who returned to the position after “an interval of eight years,” and he thanked “my worthy successors, now my predecessors, Colonel Browne and Mr. Coale.” He noted that during that period “the club, by inate strengh and worth, survived three of four other organizations working in the same field, which had begun, continued, and ended, during the existence of the Cecilia.” (Ibid) In announcing the next season he mentioned that its third concert would be “our one hundredth,” and that “the Walpurgisnacht of Mendelssohn with which we began almost twenty years ago” would be presented. (Ibid)
APOLLO TWENTY-SECOND SEASON: 1892-1893.
The first concert of the club’s 22nd. season was given on Tuesday November 22, 1892 with E. Cutter, Jr., as pianist. The assisting artists were Mrs. Corinne Moore-Lawson, soprano and Mr. Alwin Schroeder, cellist. The concert began with The Longbeards’ Saga by the English composer Charles Harford Lloyd (1849-1919) for male voices and piano obbligato-there was no mention of an orchestra. “Piano obbligato” is a strange term to use for an accompaniment that is obviously needed. The work was published c. 1887 and thus was written when Lloyd was organist at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Lang probably discovered the work during the summer of 1891 which he spent in Europe with Margaret. Hale thought that the work was well made “but as a whole rather long winded and tedious.” (Journal (November 23, 1892): 7, GB) However, he thought that “as a whole this concert was worthy of the reputation of the club.” (Ibid)
The final concert was held on Wednesday night, May 3, 1893 at the Music Hall and before an audience of the usual great size. Louis Elson in the Advertiser noted that the chorus “has not been so rich in soloists this season as in previous years, and the first tenors have not been quite as brilliant as heretofore, but the club is still one of the leading societies of its class.” (Advertiser (May 4, 1893): 5, GB) The Journal critic wrote: “It is doubtful if this excellent club ever appeared to greater advantage, even under the skillful baton of Mr. B. J. Lang.” (Journal (May 4, 1893): 7, GB) This was a programme was of a lighter nature which included a new part song by the Boston conductor/singer/composer, G. L. Osgood entitled In Picardie. It was praised for its melody and graceful harmony. “The lights and shades in this number were deliciously artistic.”(Ibid) The assisting artist was the violinist Henri Marteau whose selections were of a lighter nature to fit with the rest of the program.
The 23rd. annual meeting was held at the club rooms at 2A Park Street on June 6, 1893. Those elected were: President-Arnold A. Rand; Vice-President-George H. Chickering; Clerk-Arthur Reed; Treasurer-Charles T. Howard; Librarian-Robert T. Harlow; Musical Director-B. J. Lang; Committee on Music-Allen A. Brown for three years; Committee on Voices-L. H. Chubbuck and Henry Basford for two years. (Journal (June 7, 1893): 6, GB)
LANG ON PIANO PLAYING.
“The ‘talk’ announced by Mr. B. J. Lang at Chickering Hall yesterday afternoon upon ‘Piano Playing. Its Cause and Effect,’ proved a vastly interesting occasion to an audience which filled the auditorium selected for this event. Mr. Lang chatted in a delightfully informal fashion about the vices and virtues of piano playing, and spoke in his usual frank fashion about his performances in such matters. He gave practical demonstrations of his theories upon the pianos, told anecdotes of tests he had applied to show how much prejudice has to do in judging of the pianos of various makers, related his experiences, and altogether gave much interesting and valuable information upon the subject selected for his talk.” (Herald (November 11, 1893): 10, GB)
1893 WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION IN CHICAGO.
The conductor Theodore Thomas was the musical director of the Exposition. One aspect of the program was a call for American composers to submit their compositions for possible inclusion in one of the many orchestral concerts scheduled throughout the event. At first just Thomas was to evaluate the compositions, but in order to avoid criticism, he formed a seven member committee to make the decisions. He was one member, and the choral conductor of the Exposition was another, and then there were three Americans, and Lang was one of the three. The other two positions were filled by the English conductor/composer A. C. MacKenzie and the French composer Camille Saint-Saens. (New York Tribune (September 19, 1892): 4, GB). One of Margaret’s compositions was selected-her Overture: Witichis was played on Saturday July 29, 1893 at the Popular Orchestra Concert #45 at the Festival Hall, conducted by Theodore Thomas with the Exposition Orchestra. It was repeated August 4 at a Music Hall Series concert. (Guion) The work was played again on August 30th., this time conducted by the Concertmaster Max Bendix who had been promoted to the post of conductor after Thomas quit on August 12. “Mr. Bendix, hearing that Mr. B. J. Lang was in Chicago with his family, sent to ask if they would like to hear the Wichitis overture played, and arranged for it to be the first piece on the program of August 30, at 12 noon, Mr. Lang having an organ recital a little later on the afternoon, and it was to be the last day at the fair.” (Musical Courier, January 1895) The orchestra concerts continued for one more week: September 2-7, but after that the orchestra was disbanded for lack of funds. “When Thomas resigned, many contracts were cancelled in order to save money. Had his plans been fulfilled, conductors Hans Richter and Arthur Nikisch, and composers Alexander Mackenzie, Jules Massenet and Camille Saint-Saens would have appeared in the later months of the fair.” (Ibid)
The Music Hall, located at one end of the Peristlyle, was 246 feet long, 140 feet wide, and three stories high. Snap Shots, F. Dundas Todd, 1893. Unnumbered pages. The audience seating was 2,000 to 2,500; their was space for an orchestra of 120 and a chorus of 300; there was also a smaller hall of 500 seats which was used for chamber music and recitals. Snap Shots, F. Dundas Todd, 1893. Unnumbered pages. The Peristyle was the welcome gate for those arriving by boat. The Music Hall is on the left, and at the opposite end of the Peristyle was the Casino, which was a visitor welcome center. The Casino and Music Hall mirrored each other in design. The total cost for the two buildings and the Peristyle was $200,000.
The fair covered 633 acres and admission was 50 cents; it had 14 major buildings, most being in the Beaux-Arts style, and each was covered in white stucco which led to the nickname “The White City,” but neither of the concert halls were among the 14; the total number of buildings was 200 with 65,000 exhibits; the admission was 50 cents; one major exhibit included Bach’s clavichord and Mozart’s spinet; 43 states and territories had independent buildings as did 23 foreign countries; America’s answer to the Eiffel Tower was the giant Ferris Wheel, designed and constructed by the Pittsburgh bridge-builder, George Washington Ferris, Jr. There were 36 passenger cars, each with 40 revolving seats and with standing room, space to accommodate up to 60 people-thus a total capacity of 2,160; other new inventions included electric lamps, elevators, burglar alarms and irons and products which are familiar today, such as Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue-Ribbon Beer, Aunt Jemima syrup and Juicy Fruit Gum, made their first appearance; Edison built an 82 foot Tower of Light which displayed over 18,000 bulbs; electricity was relatively new, and this was reflected by having one of the major buildings, The Electricity Building. During the six months that the Exposition was open, over 27+ million visitors attended (when the total population of the USA was 63 million) and this was during an economic depression that was to last four years. At the end of the six months there was a surplus of $1,000,000 that was returned to the 30,000 shareholders. (The World’s Columbian Exposition, internet site)
A four-manual organ of 63 ranks, Opus 700, was installed in the 7,000 seat Festival Hall which was also called the Choral Hall. The stage area was large enough to seat a chorus of 2,000 and an orchestra of 200. It was built by Roosevelt Organ Works of New York, but had a name-plate of the Detroit firm of Farrand & Votey who had recently bought the Roosevelt company. The instrument was not finished on time. In fact the dedication was on July 30, three months after the opening of the Exposition. Thus all of the recitals were pushed into the second half of the Exposition. with a frequency of about two every three days. The total budget for and organ rental and the recitalists was $12, 079.50. With the organ rental costing $10,000, this left only $2,079.50 for fees for the players. In fact only $1,925 was spent-this gave an average fee of $31.05 per recital. A second large organ was planned for the Music Hall which seated 2,000 and was the site of classical concerts, mainly orchestral. Theodore Thomas made sure that the design of the stage area would not allow for an organ! The Festival Hall instrument was actually on loan (rental) to the Exposition for a fee of $10,000, and it was later sold to the University of Michigan for $15,000 and installed in University Hall. This was a win-win situation; the University got a bargain and the organ builder was able to cover the total cost of the instrument, $25,000.
Choral/Festival Hall. Snap Shots, F. Dundas Todd, 1893. Unnumbered pages. Stage seating of 2,500 and audience seating of 6,500. There were no galleries. “A large foyer extends around the building, giving ample room for a promenade.” (White and Ingelhart, 410) The budget had a sum of $175,000 to hire an orchestra of 144 players for the six month period of the fair. Thomas used many members of the Chicago Orchestra (predecessor of the Chicago Symphony) of which he had just been named as conductor. The plan was to use the orchestra in 300 concerts during the period of the Exposition. (Ibid, 412)
Clarence Eddy was the official organist of the Exposition which gave him the responsibility of selecting the other organists who were to give recitals. In the end there were 21 organists from 14 different cities who gave a total of 62 official recitals. Eddy gave 21 and the French organist, Alexandre Guilmant, making his first American tour, gave four recitals. Two other Boston organists played-George E. Whiting gave three early in the season, Louis A. Coerne gave one and Lang played one recital late in the season. (Smith, 23)(Hammann, 26) The date was Wednesday, August 30, at 12:30PM. His program was more severe than most with three Bach pieces to open, then the Schumann Fugue on B-A-C-H, his own transcription of Mendelssohn’s Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, an Improvisation, and then a final piece, his transcription of Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont. Alexandre Guilmant was in the audience-probably Lang had met him on one of his many European visits. One reviewer noted that Lang was not among the “many-fingered race of modern organ virtuosi, but he is a solid and artistic player.” (Friesen, Stopt Diapason (April 1983, Vol.4, No. 2): 15) Another questioned the place of transcriptions: Lang’s two “show the same old endeavor to make the organ masquerade as an orchestra, which calls to mind the fable of the jackdaw with the one peacock feather in its tail.” (Chicago Daily Tribune (August 31, 1893): 4, GB)
Attending an organ recital at Festival Hall was a challenge for the listeners. The intramural trains that past the building every minute took the opportunity to add their musical contribution by plowing their whistle. In loud passages this was not noticed, but in soft sections the effect was off-putting for both the player and the audience. At the end of each performance the hall’s ushers would shout “Out, out—get out, quick”; did they allow for encores? (Friesen, Stopt Diapason, June 1983, Vol.4, No. 3, 10) A final distraction was having the ushers put up flags during the concert which necessitated that they shout to each other across the room! (Op. cit., 13) The charge for these concerts was 25 cents and the audiences ranged in size from a full house for Guilmant to a very small house for some of the American players. It didn’t help that the recitals were at many different times. Lang’s time was 12:30PM, but the four recitals just before him were at 3:00PM, 12 noon, 4:30PM and 1:00PM. (Friesen, articles in Stopt Diapason).
The Cecilia Society was among 39 American choirs and seven instrumental organizations to take part in the Exposition; the Apollo Club was also invited. Their membership was noted as being 175 while the Apollo total was 65. Carl Zerrahn brought three groups: the Handel and Haydn Society (410 singers), the Oratorio Society of Salem, MA (250 singers), and the Worcester County Musical Association (500 singers). Boston was represented instrumentally by the Boston Symphony of 75 players conducted by Arthur Nikisch and the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. The only other New England groups to take part were the Haydn Society from Portland, ME conducted by Hermann Kotzschmar (125 singers), and the Arion choir from Providence, RI conducted by Jules Jordan (400 singers). (Upton, Musical Societies, 79)
CECILIA EIGHTEENTH SEASON: 1893-1894.
Boston premiers continued with the oratorio St. Francis of Assisi Op. 36 by the Belgian composer Edgar Tinel (1854-1912) given at the Music Hall on November 23, 1893 with Mr. Almon Fairbanks as the organist. The American premier had been given less than a year before in New York City conducted by Walter Damrosch. Henderson in the New York Times of March 19 said: “It is simply a natural advance on the path in which the oratorio has traveled ever since its birth.He has made his advance under the lines indicated by Mendelssohn. He has adopted the Wagnerian style of instrumental accompaniment. But the simple truth is that the work does not appeal forcibly to the general musical public.” (Johnson, First, 367) Hale in the Journal noted that the piece had been cut, but of the performance he wrote: “First of all, the warmest praise may be awarded justly to the women of the chorus. Their body of tone was fresh, beautiful and sonorous. they sang with intelligence and with skill. The men were not heard to such advantage. Their attack was often timid…at times they were inaudible…With the exception of Mr. Ericsson F. Bushnell, the solo singers were not equal to the task imposed on them…The orchestra worked faithfully, but many rehearsals are necessary for a satisfactory performance of such a difficult work.” (Journal, undated) Warren Davenport called the sections that were omitted “the most striking numbers,” but he too wrote that “the chorus did admirably,” and that Mr. Bushnell was the best soloist “meriting thereby the warm applause he received.” Davenport wrote extensively of “the poor success” of Mr. Ricketson who had “no sense of the rhythmical demands of the role, to say nothing of an inability to even keep the time…It was well that Mr. Lang paid no heed to the singer in this case, but kept firmly in hand the orchestra and let the singer tag along in his own way.” (Globe, undated) The Courier praised the choir, thought “the solo work was inadequate,” and then spent the remaining half of its space to how badly the orchestra played. “The orchestra played away unintelligently and without distinction, overpowering the soloists, and making a thick, muddy mess of sound even when only the strings and wooden wind [sic or clever] were employed. (Courier, undated) The Transcript wrote of the piece: “We could find nothing particularly remarkable in it,” but “the performance was inexpressibly fine, in so far as the chorus was concerned; the chorus singing was absolutely superb at every point. the orchestra was far less satisfactory.” This review ended with a plea for more financial support for the choir so that it could continue to present “important choral works” without having to deal with “ridiculously insufficient orchestral rehearsing, and with solo talent that, on th average, barely comes within the boundaries of the excusable.” (Transcript, undated) Elson in the Advertiser noted “The roll of such works [Boston/American premiers] which this organization has first presented in Boston is a very large one, and scarcely any famous composition for chorus and orchestra has failed of a Boston hearing, thanks to its officers and energetic conductor. St. Francis d’Assisi by Edgar Tinel, is not the least of these, and its initial performance was an event of much importance in our musical annals.” He cited the ladies of the choir who “sang very finely…There were moments of timidity in some of the difficult numbers, and a number of places where the ensemble was not perfect, but this was to be expected in a first performance of so great an oratorio…where the scoring is the boldest ever attempted in an oratorio.” (Advertiser, undated) President Thorndike described the work in his 1894 Annual Report: “Its splendid beauty and religious impressiveness, the richness of its harmony and orchestration, and the height and nobility of its inspiration have been sufficiently described by the critics. Its length required vigorous cutting to bring it within the limits of one evening; but the curtailment was judiciously done by our conductor…The chorus singing was well done, the women winning especial praise; the solo work, entirely by singers from without the Club, was in the main adequately performed; and the orchestra, thanks to good conductorship, did far better than might be expected from somewhat meagre rehearsal of a very difficult composition.” (1894 Annual Report)
The second concerts of the season were give on Wednesday January 24 and Thursday, January 25, 1894 at the Music Hall with Charles P. Scott as the organist, Arthur Foote as pianist, and Miss Currie Duke as violinist: “She made a very favorable impression.” Two Boston composers were represented: Miss Duke played Mrs. Beach’s Romance for violin and piano and the choir sang “a brief and pretty trio for female voices by Mr. Clayton Johns, which was carefully and expressively given.” This reviewer felt that while the performance was “creditable to the organization,” it “was not fully up to its best standard.” (Anon. review) However, another reviewer began by saying: “Those who were fortunate enough to have tickets to ”The Cecilia” on Thursday evening heard one of the best concerts given for a long time by the society…The chorus of ladies were very picturesque, and added much to the appearance of the stage, as they were all costumed in light colors, blue, pink, and white, which was very effective.” No word on what the men wore. Miss Duke played “with so much success that she was obliged to respond with an encore. Mr. Lang accompanied her in his most finished manner.” (Anon. review)
The choir appeared again in Salem on Monday February 5, 1894. This was mentioned in the program for the choir’s 100th. Concert-March 1894. “It remains to add to the history of the Club that it has never, except in two instances, sung outside of Boston. Upon these two occasions it sang in Salem, desiring to pay tribute to the old music-loving town which gave birth not only to its conductor, but to others whose names have often appeared upon its programmes.” (100th. Concert Program)
In March 1894 “our male chorus assisted at a concert of the Apollo Club in Nicode’s cantata, The Sea, and shared the honor which always attends a performance of our renowned brother society.” (Anon. review)
”Membership sometimes ran as high as 200 voices, but it never went below 100, but it was still referred to as the ‘small’ chorus in Boston as the Handel and Haydn Society often did Messiah with 500 singers. (Gould-Our History part 3, 3) Until 1900 no tickets were sold to individual concerts and thus no advertisement was needed. Tickets were sold by the season to 300 “associate members” and each singer was given 6 tickets per concert to be distributed to friends. Thus the Cecilia performed to full houses, but fundraising was always needed to balance the books. In most seasons an orchestra was employed for only two of the four concerts and many works with orchestral accompaniment were performed only with keyboard accompaniment. As a final gift to the choir, B.J. headed an Endowment Drive, which was able to raise $40,000, but even this support was not enough to guarantee the high ideals of Lang. The $2,000 yearly income from this endowment covered Arthur Fiedler’s salary of $600 per concert but little else. Luckily the Boston Symphony covered all the other major expenses. In 1894 the Board wrote that it hoped to pay its conductor $1,000 per season, but Lang never actually received more than $500, and often this amount was returned to the group via “purchase of tickets or direct contribution.” (Gould-Our History part 2, 3)
The March 15, 1894 concert was the 100th. since the founding of the group in 1874. To mark the occasion the same work was performed in 1894 that been presented in 1874-Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. Schumann’s Selections from Faust were also performed. The program for that concert gave a three page history of the group and then listed the current singers – Soprano: 55, Alto: 47, Tenor: 45, and Bass: 50. Among the tenors was Edward C. Burrage and among the basses was H. G. Tucker. Neither Frances nor Margaret were singing members at that time. “The vocal capacity of the Club has been greatly improved both in quantity and quality since its early days, when its hundred voices found it hard to cope with the full orchestra of the Harvard Association or to fill the great space of Music Hall. It has now nearly two hundred voices. The vocal parts are well balanced; and each part, by dint of strict conditions of admission and of ruthless weeding out of useless material, is of excellent quality and power.” (100th Concert Program) The choir had continued since 1874 “outliving three or four organizations working in the same field, which have begun and ended during its existence.” (Ibid) During its first twenty years “its presidents have been Charles C. Perkins, S. Lothrop Thorndike, A. Parker Browne, and George O. C. Coale.” (Ibid) The Gazette found the Schumann “dull and almost tiresomely monotonous,” which generated applause that was “very slight and merely formal at that,” but the Mendelssohn “was much better done, and was far more favorably received.” Woolf had to include his usual comment on Lang’s conducting: “On Mr. B. J. Lang’s peculiar methods of conducting, it is unnecessary, and would be wearisome to dwell again. They are admirable object lessons to young conductors, on what to avoid.” (Gazette, undated) Warren Davenport wrote: “As a choral body last evening it must be said that it acquitted itself admirably. In the Faust number the singing was excellent, when the difficulties of the work are considered…The singing of the club in the Walpurgis Night, with one exception, was excellent.” The orchestra again was panned: “The playing throughout the whole performance was devoid of precision, expression, and proper attention to the firm and definite beat of the conductor. [Interesting evaluation of Lang’s conducting] The unheeding attitude of the players, with eyes fixed upon their music or with attention divided among themselves, produced results that might be expected from a circus band only, while the total disregard of the conductor’s movements can be referred to as little less than disgraceful. Mr. Lang’s endeavors were of the best, and with the chorus accomplished admirable results. The accompaniment was a blot on the performance.” (Globe, undated)
Also in March 1894, for the third concert of their season, The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz was performed. In his Annual Report for 1893-94, President Thorndike referred back to Lang’s presentation in 1880 which had been “his own private undertaking.” He had asked the critic Apthorp which performance had been better-Apthorp thought that the first in 1880, while Thorndike thought the second in 1894, “But why make comparisons. Both performances were excellent, even remarkable.” (BPL Lang Prog.)
“On April 13 and 14 our ladies, with Mrs. Smith and Miss Whittier [members of the soprano section of Cecilia] in the solo parts, cheerfully accepted Mr. Paur’s invitation to sing the fairy music in the Midsummer-Night Dream, and made the symphony concerts for those days more than usually attrctive.” (1894 Annual Report)
The final concerts of the season were given on Wednesday evening May 2 (Wage Earner Concert) and Thursday evening May 3, 1894 at the Music Hall with Almon Fairbanks as the organist. Edward MacDowell played his Shadow Dance Opus 39, No. 8 and March Wind Opus 46, #10, but Warren Davenport wrote: “Mr. McDowell [sic] was not at his best,” but “he was recalled after the performance of his group of pieces.” (Globe, undated) Hale reported that MacDowell also played pieces by Bach, Chopin, Alabieff-Liszt and Geisler in addition to his own compositions. “He gave much pleasure, and he was twice recalled.” (Journal, undated) The Transcript wrote of the soprano soloist, Miss Anita Muldoon, who was new to Boston: she “made a very favorable impression…She has a rich voice of considerable compass…she uses it uncommonly well, singing musically and with a great deal of ”temperament.” Mr. MacDowell’s pianoforte playing was a delightful feature of the concert and excited well-merited enthusiasm; he was twice recalled. The club sang admirably as ever, proving itself to be, as of yore, a chorus of which Mr. Lang may well feel proud.” (Transcript, undated) President Thorndike’s Report referred to MacDowell’s playing, saying that all the pieces had been “presented with great brilliancy of technique and charm of expression.” The choir had sung the Eia Mater by Dvorak, Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer, and “sundry part songs of the usual sort.” (1894 Annual Report)
“The Cecilia Society often gave evidence of its affection and regard for Mr. Lang. Twenty years of service as conductor were marked on May 24, 1894 by a reception when he was presented an inlaid mahogany table and carved chair from the chorus.” (Hill, History, 10) In 1901, when Arthur Foote was the President of the Cecilia Society, he was responsible for a commemoration on May 9, 1901 at the Hotel Vendome that honored Lang’s twenty-five years as conductor. Foote made the main speech and presented to Lang a silver bowl [that was passed on to Rosamund on B.J.’s death]. The Herald noted the event: “All Boston surely sends laurels to the festival which the Cecilia holds on Thursday, at the Vendome, in honor of Mr. Lang…The club began its existence under his leadership, and owes to him its present well earned fame…The club opened the season with the Beethoven mass at the dedication of Symphony Hall, and also sang farewell to the old hall at the last Symphony concert there. These things suggest the intimate relation this society holds with the life of the community, and to what a noble position and outlook it has been brought by the leader to whom it pays loving tribute.” (Herald (May 5, 1901): 30)
The May 1894 Report of the President noted that the club had just finished its twentieth year, eighteen years of that being an independent group. “I am sorry to have to find fault with the attendance at rehearsals, and I recommend to the officers having charge of that matter a more strict enforcement of the by-laws provided for the case. The constant attendance of the best musicians is as necessary as that of the poor ones, in some respects more necessary. It isn’t enough that they already know their parts. What would happen if a dozen of the best string players in the Symphony Orchestra were to attempt to offer that excuse for non-attendance at rehearsals?” He then urged that more members be used for solo parts: “We have sometimes made a mistake in going outside for work that could be done just as well from within the Club. The course suggested would, moreover, benefit the Club itself. We should get many valuable additions if it were clearly understood that the only chance of singing at a Cecilia concert would be by joining the Cecilia.” (1894 Annual Report)
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) 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.” (Ibid)
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 trip of ???? in the ship ???? 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 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.
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. 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!
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.” (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)
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 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 first 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) This was certainly to be the case. 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 concerts Lang was unable to conduct because of pneumonia, and, without rehearsal, George W. Chadwick conducted the Messiahs. The February Elijah 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.” (History-Vol. II, 69) 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. 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 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.
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)
“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) This meeting elected officers for the coming year, but no one would stand for the post of President. E. P. Boynton, “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)
The Herald wrote on September 19 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.
LANG-MUSICAL DICTATOR OF BOSTON.
Lang occupied a major place in the musical world of Boston, and various other musicians were envious of the power that they thought Lang wielded. George W. Chadwick’s comments have been noted earlier. Another Boston organist, Henry M. Dunham, thought enough of his own career that he wrote an autobiography. In a Chapter entitled “Centers of Musical Activity” he wrote: “Further up on Tremont Street, and still opposite the Common, musical activity centers in the Chickering pianoforte warerooms and the studio of Mr. B. J. Lang. These places were the centers of activity for the musically inclined aristocracy of Boston, the headquarters, one might say, for the Cecilia Singing Society and the Apollo Club, both of which organizations owed their creation and fame to Mr. Lang, their conductor.” (Dunham, 77) Dunham then continued that he played the organ part for Haydn’s Creation during the period that Lang conducted Handel and Haydn Society. This would seem to be a generous offer on Lang’s part as Dunham was certainly not one of his pupils, and Lang had many pupils who could have done the job. Lang’s good deed did not soften Durham’s views. “Mr. Lang was neither a great pianist nor organist, and yet he was in considerable demand as soloist on both these instruments…For many years we dubbed him ”The Musical Dictator of Boston,” which in a large degree was true.” (Dunham, Ibid)
W. J. Henderson in the New York Times wrote of another who thought that Lang exercised too much power. “There is something curious about Boston. At any rate, many artists who please New York find the atmosphere over there altogether too cool for them. Lillian Carlismith, for instance, spent some six years in the hub of the universe in a desperate struggle against those three fates, Gertrude Franklin, Gertrude Edmands, and B. J. Lang, and finally she gave it up and came to New York…This year she has sung in concert two or three times, and her voice and style have evoked hearty praise. But she will find New York a hard field to plow, too. It is not quite as full of cliques as Boston, but one must pull wires here to get started in music. This is unfortunate-wrong, indeed-but it is true.” (New York Times (January 24, 1897): Sunday Supplement, SM 14).
CECILIA: TWENTY FIRST SEASON 1896-1897.
The opening concert was on Friday evening December 4, 1896 with full orchestra at the Music Hall. This was the choir’s 121st. concert and the featured work was Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride with George J. Parker singing the role of the Spectre-it was the third time that he had performed this part. The Herald [Woolf] didn’t care for the work, but noted that “The chorus singing was excellent throughout in admirable quality of the tone and th clearness and steadiness of its work generally,” but then found fault with the choir’s “persistence with which it emphasized the first beat in a bar…The orchestra acquitted itself with a strongly manifest attention to its task, but it was not always together, owing to causes which are too familiar to dwell upon again.” All orchestra shortcomings were Lang’s responsibility and they were due to “the apparently irremediable eccentricities of Mr. Lang’s use of the baton. The audience, a large one, applauded often and warmly.” (Herald, undated) Hale in the Journal wrote that this was the fourth time that Mr. Parker had sung the work-the Boston premier on May 13, 1886, the second time on March 17, 1887, the third time on December 2, 1889 and now this performance. Hale also did not like the work: “I confess that the more I hear the cantata the less truly dramatic does it seem to me. Dvorak often shows on Olympian indifference to the sentiment of the text, which is presumably the same in Bohemian as in English. There is no true blending of music and drama.” Of the performance: “The chorus singing was most excellent last night in these respects: body and quality and balance of tone, pure intonation, and precision of attack. If in phrasing, and such included matters as accentuation and punctuation, they fell short occasionally of reasonable expectation, it was because they followed the conductor’s instruction; for the chorus of the Cecilia is made up of singers of more than ordinary intelligence, nor do I know a chorus anywhere that is capable of finer and more effective work under wholly satisfactory and favoring conditions.” Hale then cited a couple of places where the choir sang forte rather than the marked pianissimo, and blamed Lang “who does not insist rigidly at rehearsals on a proper following of the dynamic indications” probably because he was busy training the choir in all the positive aspects that Hale had listed earlier. Hale seems to not allow for any conductor decision that does not follow exactly what he sees on the page, whether or not that marking is effective or chorally appropriate. Hale spent a long paragraph listing the faults of the soloist Mr. Max Heinrich [who had also sung at the Boston premier]:”Last night Mr. Heinrich was guilty of offences for which there is no pardon.” (Journal, undated)
A review for their Wednesday evening [Wage Earner] February 3, 1897 Music Hall concert began: “Listening to the Cecilia is such a restful musical pleasure; there is never a moment of insecurity or suggestion of a possible flaw in their performance.” (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 8)
The second concert, February 4, 1897 at the Music Hall included Phippen and Lewis as pianists and Mrs. H. H. Beach as soloist. She was the accompanist for the first Boston performance of her own The Rose of Avontown for women’s voices, and she also played a group of solos by Beethoven and Chopin in place of “Mr. Proctor” who was “ill and unable to play.” (700) Hale in the Journal said of the Beach work: “This composition is indeed a pleasing one, written with skill that is not ostentatious. The emotion is gentle and becomingly womanly…The performance was all that could be desired so far as the chorus was concerned; and I know of no female chorus that for purity and beauty of tone, courage and intelligence under a difficult task, and general musical sense can equal the women of the Cecilia.” (Journal (February 5, 1897): 3, GB). There must have been much applause when this was read at the next Cecilia rehearsal. Of Beach’s piano selection: “She appeared to her best advantage in the waltz [Chopin in E Minor]. In the Chopin prelude and in the variations by Beethoven there was little or no tonal color, and there was frequently metallic attack, as well as rigidity in phrasing.” (Ibid) Elson (?-the review is marked “Adv,” but this does not sound like Elson) in the Advertiser began negatively: “The chorus is poorly balanced, the male section being far more ready and dynamically stronger than that of the ladies. The sopranos have sweet voices, but only half enough of them; the altos are colorless and slow. Mr. Lang is not magnetic or inspiring as a conductor, but his taste in programme-making and shading is unquestionable.” The Beach piece was a positive: “Nothing but praise can be said regarding the composition or its performance-both interesting and artistic…Her [Mrs. Beach’s] accompaniment to her own composition was quite a part of its success. Conductor, chorus and pianist seemed in sympathetic, friendly accord, resulting in a beautiful ensemble in every sense of the word…Mr. Phippen’s accompanying of Madam Wyman’s songs were noticeably excellent.” (Advertiser, undated) Pieces by two other Boston composers were included-George L. Osgood’s Christmas carol, Listen, Lordlings, Unto Me, and a solo song by Mrs. Clara Rogers, River Floweth Strong, My Love.
Friday , March 12, 1897 saw the first performance in Boston of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in D. Op. 123 which had not even been mentioned in the previous Annual Report of repertoire for the following year! In fact, what had been planned was a repeat of Massenet’s Eve, but “it occurred to the Musical Council to do something for the third concert a good deal better…It had been mentioned hesitatingly in the Musical Council for a number of years. Mr. Lang had taken care that it should not be lost sight of. It had always been passed over with the feeling that by-and-by we should be stronger. But at last the Council was convinced that the time had come.” (1897 Annual Report) Sung at the Music Hall accompanied by members of the BSO, the soloists were Helen B. Wright, Lena Little, Frederick Smith, Arthur Beresford with Franz Kneisel, violin and Arthur Foote, organ.With so many other premiers having been offered by the Cecilia, it is strange that it took this long for this work to be sung in Boston. Wright and Smith were members of the choir! The New York first performance had been in 1872, and it was sung in Cincinnati at the May Festival with a chorus of 600 in May 1880 (Johnson, First, 55). The Cecilia sang this same work at the dedication of Symphony Hall on October 15, 1900 conducted by Gericke. One review said: “The performance was one of the finest the Cecilia has given; finer than its recent one of Berlioz’s Danremont-Requiem. And, considering the character of the work, such a performance is a triumph like few for any choral society. We have listened carefully to two performances, score in hand; we could not detect a single false entry in any of the parts, we heard only a very few timid and ineffectual ones. The quality of tone was in general fine, smooth and musical, at times brilliant; expression marks were regarded and implicitly obeyed. And just here let us thank Mr. Lang for two things: for his never exaggerating Beethoven’s pianissimo, not hushing it to that double and treble pianissimo which belongs solely to more modern works…Mr. Lang had the artistic feeling to allow Beethoven to speak as he speaks in the score, underscoring nothing, putting nothing in job type…The Cecilia may well be proud of being able to take a soprano and a tenor from its own ranks for the quartet in the Missa Solemnis; few even of the great singers of the world care to attack these terrible parts. The whole solo quartet did wonderfully well…Finer even than the individual performances of the four singers was their excellent ensemble; they sang together, as if they had long known the music and one another…In a word Mr. Lang and the Cecilia may be fairly proud of each other. Together, they have given one of the greatest works in existence, not impeccably, but solidly and intelligently well. They have made a date in the musical history of Boston.” (Anon., undated) Hale basically said that the work was not worth all the trouble taken to present it. He found the soloists inadequate and of the choir: “The chorus, too, was brave and its performance was often surprisingly good; yet in the terrible fugues in the Gloria and Credo the singers were so tired, especially the sopranos, that the result was unmusical in that there was no clear walk of the parts, no pronounced attack of the subject. I know of no chorus in this country that would have made a more courageous attempt or accomplished as much.” Hale then raised the question of whether doing such a difficult work was worth it. “For the sake of the record, let us then rejoice that the Missa Solemnis has been attempted in Boston. I do not believe that repeated hearings or even incredible performances would turn the vocal score into a marvel of strength and beauty, or convert the dry, thick, at times brutal orchestration into a glory for all time.” (Journal, undated) The Gazette recorded that: “Many extra rehearsals had been devoted to the preparation of the mess [!], and the performance was most honorable to the Cecilia.” The solo quartet “undertook the great tasks of the solo quartette and acquitted themselves excellently. There was a good-sized orchestra from the Symphony, which took much pains. Mr. Kneisel assumed the violin obbligati and Mr. Lang directed with intelligent and correct command.” (Gazette, undated) The Courier said of the work: “It is not a loveable work,” and not how difficult the work was. “The singers are to be congratulated for attempting to do what they were incapable of doing well. The work is most trying and most difficult…He knows what he wants and if singers are unequal to the demands, so much the worse for them…We have now heard the Missa Solemnis; let us now be grateful that the hiatus in our education has been filled in and the work done.” (Courier, undated)
The fourth concert was given on May 6, 1897 at the Music Hall with Phippen as accompanist and Adele aus der Ohe as piano soloist. Part of the program was Margaret’s Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down of which Hale in the N.Y. Musical Courier wrote: “Mr. Lang is not a good understudy for the Roman Father. If he were he would not have allowed his daughter’s amorphous, colorless, rhythmless piece to go into rehearsal.” He also complained: “Miss Aus der Ohe, I intreet you, extend your repertory! For heaven’s sake leave the exasperatingly familiar rut!” (N.Y. Musical Courier, undated) In another review Hale wrote: “Miss Lang’s part-song, Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down is without rhythm or color; a dull thing, clumsily written, amorphous.” Of Miss Aus der Ohe, after disparaging her Bach and Mendelssohn, he wrote: “She played her own superb Etude, in which she displayed amazing brilliancy, and a Rhapsodie of Liszt, which called forth thunderous applause.” (717-719) Under the title “Last of the Cecilias” the Transcript wrote: “The Cecilia Society is always heard at its best in these short selections, and last evening’s performance was no exception to the rule. The programme included nine choral numbers, mostly from the modern school….Miss Margaret Lang contributed a musical setting of Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down which was well received. The musical scenery along the brook was very pretty, if not diversified….The work of the chorus was excellent throughout…Of Miss der Ohe’s piano numbers it need only be said that they were of her usual standard.” The Liszt “gave abundant opportunity for a brilliant display of marvelous technique…Altogether the concert was one of the most successful of the season.” (Transcript, undated) Another review said of Margaret’s piece: “Miss Lang’s song appeared to please, perhaps because of the spirit and dash with which it was sung.” Of the pianist: “Everything she does is backed by an honest sincerity which makes her performances wholly enjoyable. She was much applauded, and after her first appearance responded graciously to an encore. After her second appearance she received many recalls. There was a large audience present, but it was not especially demonstrative, except over the playing of the soloists. ” (Anon., undated) President Thorndike wrote: “Miss Lang’s Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down, written with the scholarship and musical feeling which always mark her compositions, was sung with spirit, and received great applause.” (1897 Annual Report) Of the accompanist Joshua Phippen, the President wrote that the choir was “indebted for such valuable service.” (Ibid)
President Thorndike began his Annual Report of May 27, 1897: “The Club has not only maintained but has added to the distinction of its record. It has in its third concert, to use the language of one of our friendly critics, ”made a date in the musical history of Boston.”” [with the Missa Solemnis performance] He continued: “There are today few, perhaps no choirs of two hundred voices on either side of the water capable of finer and better work.” Again, as in the report of the previous year, he gave credit to Lang: “Mr. Lang may well be proud of what he has made the Cecilia, as the Cecilia has always been proud of Mr. Lang.” Of the Wage Earner Concert tickets we wrote: “It is manifest that the plan is a failure and entails a distinct loss.” He then announced that he was retiring as President after sixteen years as he felt that the choir would be “made stronger by the infusion of fresh blood, and the time always comes when the elder should give place to the younger.” He called his time with the choir “the pleasantest years of my musical life and [these musical] friendships [are] not easily forgotten.” (1897 Annual Report)
APOLLO TWENTY-SIXTH SEASON: 1896-1897.
In mid May the Club performed at Steinert Hall and the Herald noted that Lang’s Hi-fe-lin-ke-le was included. “It is not often that Mr. Lang comes before the concert-going public with an example of his powers as a composer, and when he breaks through the rule, the event calls for special recognition. In reply to an inquiry from a correspondent who was not present on the occasion, it may be stated confidently that Hi-fe-lin-ke-le is not a musical setting of one of Sir Edwin Arnold’s eastern poems, nor did its inspiration take root in Omar Khayam’s famous work. The oriental aspect of the title is misleading. the piece is merely a bit of musical humor, and its name has no more significance than has ”tooral-looral-loo” or ”tra-la-la-la,” and was doubtless thrown off in a moment of mirthful leisure, showing the composer, as it were, ”en pantoufles.”” In truth, these nonsense syllables were part of the original Swedish text and had nothing to do with Lang’s inspiration. The correspondent asking the original question then went on to ask if the work was published. “Mr. Lang has published few of his compositions: in fact, as far as can be ascertained, none of them except some of the earlier inspirations of this genius, which are now difficult to obtain a sight of except in the cabinets of collectors.” This piece is itself from an earlier period having been premiered by the Apollo Club in 1884 and then published by Charles Homeyer some time after. Did the author of this article actually know of other Lang pieces that were published?
The Herald Social Page called the concert “a love feast…The place was crowded with every musician, music publisher, singer and player, past and present, we should think, in Boston. It was really a great occasion for them socially, as well as artistically. Mr. Lang seemed particularly happy in his part of the work, and there was an enthusiasm and a good fellowship in the air which were delightful. Mr. George H. Chickering was a prominent figure in one of the boxes, and Mrs. Gardner was in another with Mr. Proctor and a fellow-musician. The lady wore a hat which was loaded with roses, and a black and white silk blouse.” (Herald (May 16, 1897, 26, GB) The previous Sunday the Herald Society page had noted that his concert had “aroused especial enthusiasm, as the programme was made up of requests, so that everyone enjoyed over again an old favorite. Mr. Myron Whitney had a perfect ovation after his noble rendering of the Two Grenadiers, and Mr. George Parker, another past member of the club, had a most gratifying reception.” (Herald (May 9, 1897): 27, GB)
The concert was repeated on Wednesday, May 12th. The Herald noted that Joshua Phippen was the piano accompanist and played a solo by Paderewski. “The programme was received with much appreciation, and the hall was well filled…with guests of the conductor and the active members.” (Herald (May 13, 1897): 6, GB)
ETUDE INTERVIEW WITH LANG ABOUT HIS TEACHING.
The interviewer began with this introduction: “Among the many conversations and discussions about things musical The Listener indulges in, few have proved as interesting and instructive as the little talk he arranged especially for The Etude with Mr. B. J. Lang from Boston.” (Etude, May, 1897, online, 8/9/2011) Next Lang’s weekly schedule was mentioned. “Mr. Lang’s entire week-day is filled with piano and organ teaching; his Sunday with two church services at historical King’s Chapel, where he is the organist and director of the quartet choir. His evenings during the winter are given to rehearsals with the three singing societies he directs,-the Handel and Haydn Oratorio Society, the Apollo Club (a male chorus), and the Cecilia (a chorus of mixed voices),-the three constituting as well-trained and thoroughly enjoyable ensemble singing as is to be found in America. Each society gives four or five concerts every season.. Imagine such an amount of rehearsal work on top of teaching and playing. Mr. Lang’s endurance is an object of wonder and admiration, spiced with envy in some quarters…Mr. Lang’s studio where he teaches is a large sunny apartment, fitted up with a pipe organ at one end, a grand piano not far distant, a great cheery open fire-place, and some interesting pieces of furniture. On the walls hang pictures signed by celebrated artists who presented their children of paint to ”friend Lang,” also framed autograph letters and poems from authors now famous. There we sat, while the afternoon sun streamed in across our flow of talk, Mr. Lang looking unworn and vigorous as though ready for anything, his kindly Scotch-blue eyes showing now and then a twinkle of bon camaraderie, suiting well his fresh, clear skin and friendly looking grey beard, set off by a dark velvet smoking-jacket which he wears for comfort while teaching.” (Ibid)
The first question asked of Lang was “Who should Take Lessons.” “Well, if I could have my own way I would enforce legislation that would debar all people who were not musical from studying the piano.” Lang then decried the “pounding, pounding, pounding” that was not only a curse but lowered “the general tone of art as well.” In order the his time and the time of the pupil was not wasted, “I frequently take pupils on a three month’s probation so that we may both be certain before we go ahead,” and if musicality was not present, the pupils were told this. “Perseverance and industry without native talent many mean brilliant success in some kinds of work, but to my mind they do mean anything of the sort in the world of art.”
Lang then showed The Listener a unique aspect of his teaching. “I have two grand pianos, side by side, one the regulation height, the other built lower just so the end of the keyboard will fit under the end of the pupil’s…In this way I make illustrations of phrasing. The pupil plays a phrase unmusically-I say, ”Listen, this is how the way the composer meant it to go.” Then I repeat the phrase on my piano, showing where her fault lay, giving my idea of the best way to play it. This arrangement was my own idea, and I save an infinite amount of time and strength by it.”
The next question concerned the use of a silent practice clavier, a practice that was popular at the time-some pupils spend a whole year using them. Lang noted that the ear of the pupil would not be developed by such a machine, and if used at all, it should be for a limited amount of time.
“How do you advise pupils to memorize music” asked The Listener. The answer: “Memory is not a talent, it is a habit…As soon as children can play pieces they ought to be made to memorize them.” His method was to learn the notes as an actor learns his words, by “indelibly impressing every note on the brain.” Lang then told of one pupil who had no success memorizing a piece after three weeks of effort. “I had her sit down at the piano with a piece she had never seen before; then I told her to commit the notes as she would words. We worked together until, at the end of fifteen minutes, she knew four pages, and understood for the rest of her life what memorizing meant.”
THE DITSON FUND.
Among Lang’s other responsibilities was being President of the Ditson Fund which provided financial help to musicians in need. The Annual Meeting for 1897 was held late in May at the home of Mrs. Oliver Ditson. Lang was reelected President and Trustee. The other Trustees were Arthur Foote and A. P. Browne. Not all the money available had been distributed, but “in the near future more deserving cases will be brought to the notice of the officers.” (Advertiser (May 28, 1897): 9, GB) Other donors had been inspired by Ditson’s bequest and had added donations of their own putting the Fund in a very positive position.
FARM: THIRD SUMMER SEASON 1897.
In the summer of 1897 former pupil and now family friend Richard C. Dixey and his wife Rosamond were guests. Helen Hood’s visit during July 1897 was remembered by an original song, Reminiscence. Apthorp and his wife Octavie both signed with verses on July 10, 1897, followed by the third visit of Edward Burlingame Hill who left an eight measure piece for piano, A Hedge Log[?] Danca. Severance Burrage returned for a third time, July 31-August 4, 1897 and drew two flowers found on the farm. The following week saw three more Burrages-Ruby M. Burrage, Alice Burrage and Eleanor ? Burrage. The conductor Georg Henschel’s visit on September 16, 1897 was remembered with a verse and a three measure musical quote. Arthur Foote, on September 24, 1897 also left a four measure theme.
LANG’S SUMMER TRIP TO EUROPE-1897.
RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) CAMPANIA.
B. J. did not spend the whole summer with the family at the farm. On July 23, 1897 he arrived in Liverpool, having sailed from New York on the CAMPANIA. The passenger list puts his profession as musician and he seems to have been traveling along. However, B. J. and Francis H. B. Byrne shared a room on the LUCANIA which sailed from Liverpool back to New York on August 21, 1897. According to the Boston Directory Byrne was a neighbor of Lang as he lived at the foot of Brimmer Street, 5 Otis Place, and his work address was given as 791 Tremont Street. This was the Chickering Piano Factory. The Herald reported in August that “Mr. B. J. Lang and Mr. Arthur Foote are both enjoying themselves hugely at Baireuth [sic]. Mr. Lang expects to be home about the 1st of September, and Mr. and Mrs. Foote and their daughter will come back the last of that month.” (Herald (August 22, 1897): 27, GB)
RMS LUCANIA. Cunard. Was the same dimensions and specifications as the CAMPANIA. Was the largest passenger liner afoat when launched in 1893. 2,000 total passengers: 600 in First (Saloon); 400 in Second and 1,000 in 3rd. 1894 to 1898 was the fastest ship crossing the Atlantic. Below: Wikipedia, accessed February 17, 2019.
Below: RMS LUCANIA at sea. Wikipedia, accessed February 17, 2019.
CECILIA TWENTY-SECOND SEASON: 1897-1898.
1897-1898. Bruch’s Odysseus was again performed, this time on Thursday evening, December 2, 1897 at the Music Hall with orchestra. The Gazette didn’t like the work: “It is not cheerful; it makes no strong appeal either to the heart or the head; it is without color or inspiration,” but of the performance: “It was well sung throughout, the chorus work being excellent. There was no dragging, no lack of unevenness of attack, and the singing was spirited and very effective.” Many of the soloists were given positive comments. (Gazette, undated) The President’s Report of May 1898 noted that choir members were used for eight of the twelve solo parts. Hale in the Journal also found the work “dull” but praised the choir. “The performance, so far as the chorus is concerned, was excellent in quality of tone, balance of parts, precision of attack.,” while the “orchestra played about as it pleased.” (Journal, undated) Just before this concert the Transcript had an article giving the “Reasons Why the Cecilia Suspended” the Wage Earners Concert for the 97-98 Season. “The two great causes of the abandonment of the concerts were a lack of interest on the part of the wage-earners themselves, and the misuse of the tickets by those to whom they were intrusted for distribution.” It seems that “agents of business houses distributed the tickets among their personal friends instead of to wage-earners.” Thus the Club losing “attendance at their own regular club concerts.” (Transcript, undated)
The Cecilia provided the chorus and solo singers for a performance at Harvard of Athalie by Racine. Mendelssohn’s music was used and the orchestra was composed of members of the BSO. The performances were given under the direction of the Harvard’s French Department, and held on the evenings of December 6, 8 and 10, 1897. The cast was a combination of students, graduates, the Department’s Instructor “together with Miss Louise Cushing and Miss Mary Coolidge of Boston, who will play respectively the parts of Athalie and Joas. (NY Times (November 7, 1897): 11)
The second concert was on Thursday evening January 13, 1898 at the Music Hall with orchestra, and the repertoire was Brahms-Song of Destiny, Humperdinck-Pilgrimage to Kevlaar, [first Boston performance-had been done in NYC and Milwaukee in 1896:Johnson-First Performances] and The Swan and Skylark by Goring Thomas [first Boston performance-had been given by Zerrahn and the Worcester County Music Association on September 23, 1897, this Worcester performance was cited as the third time in this country: Johnson-First Performances]. The Herald reviewer praised the concert: “The chorus again distinguished itself by the precision, the steadiness and the admirable color of its singing,” with special praise going to the women’s voices who “can hardly be overpraised…the concert, taken altogether, may be ranked among the best that the organization has ever given. The audience was large and appreciatively bountiful in its applause.” (Herald, undated) T. P. Currier in the Journal found the Goring Thomas to suffer “for want of contrast. It is too much alike.” Two choir members were had solos in this concert were praised: Miss Palmer’s contralto solo “was well sung,” but the size of her voice was “hardly equal to the task of filling Music Hall,” while Mr. Townsend “was no less successful with the bass solos. The orchestra played for the most part admirably. The concert was wholly creditable to the club and its conductor.” (Journal, undated) The Gazette found the Humperdinck “pleasing and gracious” and the Goring Thomas “delightful, full of poetic imagination and artistic charm…The work was interpreted in the most satisfactory manner the chorus calling for particular praise. It sang with unusual spirit and fine intelligence…The concert throughout was most enjoyable, and there was hardly a fault of commission or omission to mar the pleasure. from beginning to end the chorus was admirable. There was full harmony between it and the orchestra, and it is a pleasure to record the Cecilia won a triumph that was well deserved. The art level was the highest yet reached by this society.” (Gazette, undated) It would seem from the tone of this last review in the Gazette that a new reviewer had been hired by that paper.
Schumann’s The Pilgrimage of the Rose was the main work presented on Thursday evening March 3, 1898 at the Music Hall with Foote as the accompanist-the other works were unaccompanied. The Transcript wrote: Foote “did full justice to the most beautiful poetic feature of this composition.” Most of the soloists were praised, but “Mr. Dunham was hardly the right man in the right place. The tenor part is not a particularly grateful task, but it need not be monotonous, tame and stiff.” (Transcript, undated) The Courier review was based “only upon the report of a listener on whose tried judgment we depend.” This person felt that the work was passe, and should only be sung in “a small space as it was meant for and its leading singers should be accomplished not less than well-intentioned. But the Cecilia had to depend mainly upon its own members for soloists, whose performance naturally lacked something of the authority of experienced singers. The chorus acquitted itself honorably as usual, and the male choir showed especial volume and richness.” (Courier, undated)
For the final concert of this season, “an opportunity will be afforded a small non-membership public to attend the final concert on Wednesday evening April 27.” The major work was Arthur Sullivan’s The Golden Legend which had only one previous Boston performance, on May 8, 1887 by the Boston Oratorio Society conducted by Frederick Archer. At that time Hale wrote: “Twas a dull night.” (Johnson, First, 350) Zerrahn had also given the work with the Worcester County Musical Association on September 23, 1896. (Ibid) The Cecilia concert used professional soloists and “a large orchestra from the Boston Symphony players,” and Mr. B. L. Whelpley as the organist. (Anon., undated)
The Courier wrote that the performance “was chiefly meritorious for its fine, equable, rich and noble choir work…The orchestral support was correct enough so far as reading the notes went, but beyond that it cannot be commeneded…Mr. Whelpley got remarkably fine effects from the organ.” (Courier, undated) The Gazette thought little of the Sullivan work, but noted: “The best work of the evening was that done by the chorus that sang with unusual spirit, purity of intonation and intelligence. The soloists were less admirable; they sang in dry and perfunctory manner, and without any particular respect for the work in hand.” Of the orchestra: “The playing was without color or grace, and if any guidance were given to them they were inexcusably careless in not paying heed to it. The audience was good-natured and frequently gave applause where it was not deserved.” (Gazette, undated) Hale wrote that the soloists were inadequate and that one of them, Mr. Heinrich “was indisposed, and fainted while singing Lucifer’s mockery of the pilgrims.” He also noted that the orchestra “played without attention to dynamic indications…It was the fault of Mr. Lang, who, keeping his eyes fixed curiously on the score, gave no cues, gave no signals for dynamic gradations, but beat time mechanically, and often with an injudicious and unmusical choice of tempo. There was a good sized audience and applausive [!] audience.”(Journal, undated) On the other hand the Globe reported: “The chorus parts as a rule deserve commendation. The attacks were prompt and the lights and shades were well defined and smoothly sung….The orchestra performed its duties well and the whole performance was a credit to the club.” (Globe (April 28, 1898): 6) For this concert there was also a social notice which recorded: “Miss Gertrude Edmands, who is always one of the best dressed of our local singers, was in deep yellow and white brocade, opening over a petticoat of white lace.” This notice also recorded that among those in the audience were the choir’s former president, Mr. Lothrop Thorndike, Mr. and Mrs. William Winch, and Mrs. Gardner. (Anon., undated)
The Transcript called the Sullivan “a decidedly weak work…It sounds old as the hills, without the dignity of age…Nowhere in the work does Sullivan strike a distinctly dramatic note…The performance by the chorus last evening was admirable in the extreme, admirable at all points…In rich fulness of tone, precision and vigor of attack, beauty of light and shade, the choral performance left nothing to be desired. The orchestra played with unusual smoothness, for men who had made up their minds to be uninterested in their work, but almost constantly too loud for the solo voices, and exasperatingly monotonously.” (Transcript, undated) The Annual Report of May 26, 1898 presented by the new president Arthur Astor Casey reviewed the Wage Earner Concert cancellation admitting that their cancellation had not added to the ranks of Associate Members in an amount “important enough to be significant,” but he listed the advantages that these concerts did provide to the choir. “They are useful, in the first place as dress rehearsals,” and secondly, “they add to the work of the society a larger motive of public spirit.” For these reasons he had recommended that they be reinstated, which they were. (1898 Annual Report) Among his overall comments was one about the men: “I have heard, and I believe it to be true, that the male chorus never has sung so well as it has this winter, and that the chorus as a whole has never sung better. Upon this result of their labors we must congratulate both leader and chorus.” (Ibid)
In the fall of 1898 it was announced that the Wage Earners Concerts would resume on Monday nights with the regular member concerts being on Wednesday nights.. “As before, the club proposes to give precisely the same concerts in all details to its audiences of wage-earners that it gives to its associate members.” (Anon., undated)
APOLLO CLUB TWENTY-SEVENTH SEASON: 1897-1898.
A miscellaneous program opened the season, but the soloist, not the choir was the “Glory of the Occasion.” (Advertiser (December 12, 1897): 5) The choir’s “shading was generally excellent…and there was a splendid robustness in Grieg’s Discovery…there were many encores during the concert,” but the French bass M. Plancon was “a revelation.” (Ibid) He sang six songs in all, one of which included a trill “as pure as Melba’s.” This “astonished the sudience into enthusiasm, whereupon our flexible basso ceased trilling and became thrilling, giving Schumann’s Two Grenadiers in a manner that was simply stupendous.” At its end the audience “began cheering. Such a scene of enthusiam has never been seen in a club concert, and very seldom anywhere,” and those who attended would remember it for the rest of their lives. (Ibid)
The second concert was on January 26, 1898 and it included pieces by three Boston composers, one of whom was an Apollo member. This member, J. K. Smyth, composed a barcarolle entitled The Canoe Song which was described as “very pretty and expressive,” and after its performance the composer “was obliged to acknowledge the very hearty applause with which it was receieved.” (Advertiser (January 27, 1898): 2) H. W. Parker’s My Love was encored and Chadwick’s “little ditty” The Boy and the Owl was called “a dainty little bit of humor,” and was well sung.” Performance standards were stressed; “admirable company of singers…precision of attack…artistic shading…sympathetic shading,” all combined “to produce a most enjoyable performance.” (Ibid) Except for the final piece which was called trivial; “to see and hear a hundred men, the majority of whom are-well, not youthful, sing an ever-recurring refrain of ‘Tra la la’ is not what one can call inspiring.” (Ibid)
The third concert was on March 23, 1898 and had the soprano, Miss Trebelli as the guest soloist. “The program was not one of sustained interest throughout, though much of it gave sincere pleasure.” (Advertiser (March 24, 1898): 8) The most classical piece in the program, di Lasso’s Villanella, was encored. The comment on Chorus of Spirits and Hours was: “Much of the Dudley Buck music is strong and dramatic, while the remainder seems undeniably dull and heavy.” (Ibid) Almost half of this review was about the soloist which was summed up by this comment: “Miss Trebelli left nothing to be desired, and by those of last night’s audience who appreciate true artistry, it will not soon be forgotten.” (Ibid) The choir ended the program with a Lang favorite, the double chorus from the music to Oedipus by Mendelssohn.
On May 4, 1898 the club gave its 159th. concert. “A very large audience testified its most enthusiastic appreciation of an excellent and well rendered programme.” (Daily Advertiser (May 5, 1898): 8, GB) The review noted that the club had lost “a dozen or more of its voices, some of the best,” but so good was the performance that “it was scarcely noticeable.” In fact, the “choir reaffirmed its right to be considered one of the best male choruses of its size and character in the country.” It was “a tribute to Mr. Lang, to whose care is due the precision of attack, and brilliancy and vehemence of the ensemble and masterful ease of phrasing.(Ibid) There were three vocal soloists, and E. Cutter Jr. was the pianist and B. L. Whelpley the organist. No mention was made that any of the pieces were premiers. “Every number was received with loud plaudits and several encores were given.” (Ibid)
The Herald “Social Life” section had a paragraph concerning the concert. Musically, it mentioned that the solo tenor from New York, Mr. Evan Wiliams “was in superb voice, and carried all before him,” whereas his appearance at the Cecilia concert the week before had been marred by a cold. A list of notables who were in the audience was next, and the final comments centered on Isabella Stewart Gardner. “Mrs. Gardner occupied a prominent balcony seat with Mrs. B. J. Lang. On her head was an odd creation of a bonnet tied under her chin, made of rose tulle and black plumes, the latter standing well up in front of her head.” (Herald (May 8, 1898): 26)
In the middle of April 1898 William F. Apthorp gave a lecture at Steinert Hall on the subject “Musical Criticism.” The Social Life section of the Herald covered this event noting that there was “prolonged and hearty applause” at the end of the lecture which was attended by “an exceedingly fine and cultivated audience…There was not a dull moment in the talk of nearly an hour, and it abounded in delicious wit and humor.” Among the fellow critics in attendance were Mr. Louis Elson, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Hale, and Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Ticknor. Among the important members of Boston’s musical circle noticed were Mrs. Apthorp, the Langs and Miss Lang, Mrs. Gardner, Mr. Perabo, Arthur Foote, Miss Lena Little, Mrs. Iasigi (Mrs. Apthorp’s mother) and Miss Iasigi (Mrs. Apthorp’s sister). It would be interesting to know how many audience members were the subject of the “delicious wit and humor.” (Herald (April 17, 1898): 27, GB)
Foote relates a story about Bayreuth in the summer of 1898 [or 1893] when he and Lang snuck into the orchestra pit between acts of Gotterdammerung. ”The day was hot, everyone being in shirt-sleeves, and we could see how differently the majestic Richter behaved (the orchestra being quite out of sight of the audience). He shouted to different players and to the singers, gave them cues, and was quite a different person from the one we were used to seeing in the concert room. It was a remarkable experience. We were observed sitting in our corner, but the liberty we had taken was winked at.” (Foote, Auto., 78)
Spring 1898. Frances wrote in her Diary: “Lel wants to perform, next winter, all the Bach Concertos on a Harpsichord, which is to be sent from Paris. I do not smile on this idea, as he has given up piano playing in public, and he is before the public so much anyway, with the 2 singing societies, his organ playing etc. and etc…Lel is going on with his plan, only has decided to ask different musicians to play. Erard + Co. in Paris will send the harpsichord here.” (Diary 2, Spring 1898) On December 1, 1898 and January 12, 1899 Lang arranged two Bach Concerto Concerts performing on the Erard harpsichord imported from Paris which was done “by the kindness of Messrs. Chickering and Sons.” (BPL Lang Prog.) The purpose of these concerts, which were held at the Association Hall at three o’clock, was the “enlarging of the Ruth Burrage Library by the addition of full orchestral scores for the home use of Musicians.” (Ibid) As usual Frances and family members were involved in the details. “I worked almost all day on the Announcements for the Bach Concerts. They are very handsome. The work of Updyke…Directed envelopes all day. Bach concerts.” (Diary 2, Fall 1898)
At the first concert Lang and Madame Hopekirk played the Concerto in C Major for two keyboards, Lang played the Concerto in D Minor on the harpsichord, and Lang, Mr. Foote, and Mr. Proctor played the Concerto in C major for three keyboards. At the second concert Lang and Madame Szumowska played the Concerto in C Minor for two keyboards, Lang played the Concerto in F Major on the harpsichord, and the concert ended with Lang, Mr. Baermann, and the BSO conductor, Mr. Gericke performing the Concerto in D Minor for three keyboards. The accompaniment for all the concerti was provided by an orchestra under Mr. Kneisel. “The subscription list will include the first names in Boston, as Mr. Lang’s clientele is a distinguished one, and orders are pouring in at the Music Hall.” (Herald-Social Life (November 13, 1898): 31, GB)
These early music performances were not the first for B. J. At a concert at Bumstead Hall on Sunday April 12, 1896 he included the Bach Concerto in C Major for Three Pianos which he followed with the Prelude in C Major by Bach and the Allegro in C Major by Handel which were performed on a harpsichord built by the Boston keyboard maker, Chickering. The concert finished with Bach’s Coffee Cantata using members of the Handel and Haydn Society. A note at the end of the program stated “except in some portions of the cantata, for which Mr. Lang will play accompaniments from Bach’s figured bass, the original instruments will be used.” (Anon., undated)
CECILIA TWENTY-THIRD SEASON: 1898-1899.
December 5 and 7, 1898 saw the American premier at the Music Hall of Verdi’s Te Deum for Double Chorus and Orchestra whose world premier had been only a few months earlier in Paris, March 20, 1898! Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist and Miss Sara Anderson the soprano soloist for this concert. Verdi’s Stabat Mater and other shorter works were also on the program. (Cecilia program) Hale approved of the Verdi pieces, noted that the soprano “evidently gave pleasure to the large audience, [but] was not the Miss Anderson who triumphed at the Worcester Festival,” and ended his review with his now familiar complaint: “But, as we know, orchestral rehearsals are few before Cecilia concerts, and Mr. Lang is not at his ease before an orchestra.” (Journal, undated) H. M. Ticknor gave more credit to Lang, but echoed the rehearsal problem: “Mr. Lang conducted and obtained more faithful attention from the orchestra than the Symphony men always give to a leader not their own; but the Verdi hymns needed much more rehearsing than any of our choral societies can afford to pay for.” Ticknor also faulted the choir’s diction. “A mere stream of pulpy vowels without distinctive consonants means so little.” (Courier, undated)
The second concerts of the season (134th. in all) has given on Wednesday evening January 25, and Thursday evening January 26, 1899 at the Music Hall with two new accompanists, Miss Alice Coleman and Miss Laura Hawkins. Mr. Melville Horner sang Margaret’s song, The King is Dead and the choir sang Love Plumes His Wings. [for SSAA choir] Elson wrote that “there had not [been] a single weak number on the programme…Once more the Cecilia has done a good deed for Boston’s music. When one remembers how many new works have been heard here because of the energy of this society, it seems as if a very large debt of public gratitude was due to this organization.” Of Margaret’s choral piece: “Love Plumes His Wings is a dainty bit of composition, well worth the singing, and the female voices gave it with felling and finesse.” (Transcript, undated) The Herald headline was: “Fine Volume and Quality of Tone of the Singing of the Chorus—Miss Rock Piano Soloist.” This review recorded that there was “a very large audience present, and applause was generous and well deserved. The chorus sang in tune throughout the evening, with a fine volume and quality of tone. It sang expressively too, and was a credit to itself and its conductor.” Miss Rock played twice in the concert “in a manner which provoked the heartiest applause.” Nevin’s Wynken, Blynken and Nod was also part of the program. (Herald, undated) The Globe wrote: “The concert attracted a large and appreciative audience to the Music Hall last night. Mr. B. J. Lang’s marked ability as a conductor of chorus music was demonstrated anew…Miss Moulton’s love stanza, Love Plumes His Wings was given new meaning by Miss Lang’s melodious setting of the words…Miss Frances Rock assisted at this noteworthy concert, giving three piano compositions.” (Globe (January 27, 1899): 5)
The third concert was La Damnation de Faust by Berlioz, and “On account of the unusual expenses incurred to produce [this work], by reason of the artists engaged and an enlarged orchestra, a certain number of tickets will be placed on public sale at the Music Hall Box Office on and after March 1. Price, $1.50 and $2 each.” (Anon., undated) The performances were on Monday evening March 13, and Wednesday evening March 15, 1899. The Transcript wrote: “We think the performance, as a whole, the best the Cecilia has yet given of the Damnation, indeed, the best that has been heard since Mr. Lang’s first productions of the work here, in the Music Hall in 1880, and in Tremont Temple in 1881…It is getting past the time for praising the Cecilia chorus; their wonderful excellence in singing is becoming proverbial. The orchestra did better than usual…What was evidently lacking was sufficient rehearsing of all save the chorus.” (Transcript, undated) The Advertiser also praised the choir: “The work of the chorus from the very outset to the very end was admirable and always full of merit.” (Advertiser, undated) However, Hale began with the headline: “A Poor Performance of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust in Music Hall Last Night.” he continued: “The performance last night was neither coldly accurate nor brilliantly wrong. It was colorless, dull, slovenly. Let me first of all praise the chorus for what it was allowed to do.” He continued with more praise of the choir, especially in unaccompanied works, but then wrote that when the group did orchestrally accompanied works, “it’s life is taken away by a stick, and it is sacrificed, as upon an altar and in the presence of the people.” (Journal, undated) That is certainly a new way to comment on Lang’s conducting. Another review began by saying that this was “a performance which had marked merits and serious faults, but was upon the whole interesting and creditable. The many delicate points and fine shades of the score were not to be found in the rendering, can not be denied. But probably the heaviest blame for this should rest rather upon the singers than the conductor.” The writer, possibly a choral singer himself, then remarked on how often the conductor would call attention to points of interpretation only to have them forgotten and/or ignored the next time through. “One might fancy that common sense had temporarily deserted many of them.” He then mentioned the orchestra players, who knowing that little can be covered in the in-adequate rehearsals provided, “will play neglectfully, even if they are not wilfully recalcitrant. A strong, obstinate and quite expert leader might get better results than are generally obtained, but we doubt if even such as one could come very near to perfection.” (Anon., undated)
The fourth concert broke the usual pattern of a Miscellaneous Program with just piano accompaniment, instead, The Transfiguration of Christ by Perosi was given on April 14 and 26, 1899 at the Music Hall with Mr. B. L. Whelpley as the organist and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Perosi was then only twenty-six but was already the Music Director of St. Mark’s in Venice. This performance was a Boston and American premiere-it had only been premiered in Italy a year earlier, March 20, 1898. A story written before the performance began with: “No event in the musical annals of Boston has ever been attended with greater or more deserved interest than the production of the Perosi oratorio by the Cecilia on the 27th.” [Actually April 24 and 26-Annual Report ] This writer noted that London, which was known to have much experience with “oratorio composers” and praised this work should account for much more than then the “grumblings of the Viennese” audience. “Everything concerning the new composer is being read and discussed with an interest thoroughly Bostonian. There remains little to be said until we hear what he says for himself.” (Anon., undated) Hale’s review included interesting comments about Italian concert life. “We heard an oratorio by Perosi last week. How do you account for the success of the work in Italy? Perosi has two powerful backers; The Church and a rich and indefatigable publisher.” [Ricordi] He then suggested that The Church wanted to have the “dramatic intensity” of modern Italian opera “used in its own service,” but “unfortunately Perosi does not show himself in the works that I have heard to be a musician of either technical proficiency or marked temperament.” From the first “to the very last note of this story of the demonic child there is not a beautiful or moving phrase, there is nothing in recitative or in accompaniment that excites any emotion whatever, religious or dramatic, there is nothing that suggests religious contemplation or leads to it…It is a bitter disappointment. For we all hoped to hear religious music that would move and uplift; and we heard music that is inherently, continuously and irretrievably dull.” After all this (and more) Hale had no space to say anything about the performance itself. Another Hale review said: “Verdi’s most effective Te Deum, sung for the second time at these concerts, brought relief, pleasure, and the heartiest admiration” after the Perosi where “the singers had performed bravely their repulsive tasks. Mr. Herbert Johnson, to whom fell the burden of the evening, sang with marked purity of voice and style. Alas! he had nothing to sing but notes-notes-notes.” (Journal, undated) Another reviewer noted the advance publicity which suggested that “a new musical genius was expected.” But, this reviewer felt that the composer handled “his art like a thoughtless amateur…To compare him to Palestrina, as his admirers have done, is to indulge in the most crushing satire…The concert ended with Verdi’s Te Deum, and it gave the audience the opportunity of judging between genius and incapacity.” (Anon., undated) After the concert Richard Bliss of Newport, writing a Letter to the Editor of the Daily News noted: “It can scarcely be denied that Perosi has been absurdly overpraised by his countrymen,” but Bliss was concerned that all the Boston critics (except Louis C. Elson) “had been not only supercilious in tone, but [also] unfair and indiscrimination in substance.” Bliss did acknowledge that the work “seems to me like a number of musical fragments written at different times, and finally tacked together. That many of the individual parts are of great beauty does not make the work as a whole satisfying.” Of the performance: “The vocal parts were excellently well done, both by the soloists and choiristers. But here praise for the execution must cease. The orchestra played with a carelessness and indifference that is astounding.” At the end of his letter he returned to the choir: “The singing of the choristers was admirable, and their work was worthy of the highest praise.” (Daily News, undated)
This season also saw the choir taking part in performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on March 10 and 11 when the male voices took part in Liszt’s Faust Symphony, and on April 7 and 8 when “the full chorus, enlarged for this occasion, sang in the Manfred by Schumann.” Finally the choir “again enlarged, sang in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the BSO…This makes a total of fourteen concerts which the Cecilia has taken part in this season.” These additional concerts were reported in the Annual Report of May 25, 1899 where it was also reported that “a contribution of one thousand dollars a year for the next five years has been secured from anonymous subscribers, to enable the Society to rearrange its system of sale of seats in such a way as to make receipts larger and the amount of work smaller, at least, than the amount you have done during the last year…The resumption of the ”Wage-earner Concerts” had been an entire success…The increased demand, it is interesting to note, seemed to come from teachers in the public schools.” President Carey then announced that due to having had to miss so many meetings, he was stepping down as President after only two years, but “I shall always feel the liveliest interest in the welfare of the Cecilia, and the greatest sympathy with it in its problems.” (1899 Annual Report)
APOLLO TWENTY-EIGHTH SEASON: 1898-1899.
Henry Basford, the club’s secretary sent out a notice to Associate Members dated October 3, 1898 saying that “the system of reserved seats adopted for our concerts three years since will be continued the present season. There will be no assessment.” The cost of a season ticket for four concerts was $6 for seats on the floor of Music Hall in front of the balcony and for seats in the front row of the first balcony. For all other seats, the price was $4.
The November 30, 1898 concert opening its 28th. Season was performed “before a large and cultured audience. The (active) club membership is full, and among the 75 voices were never a better array of talent. Mr. Lang’s 28 years’ leadership of this organization bears richer and finer fruit every season.” Clarence Ashenden, a baritone, sang the solo in Lachner’s Abendlied-“never has the solo been given so superbly.” MacDowell’s Midsummer Clouds was given its Boston premier, and “Mr. Lang graciously repeated it. The theme is of weird beauty.” (Advertiser (December 1, 1898): 4, GB) “Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. accompanied on a piano of too muffled a tone.” (Courier, unsigned review of December 4, 1898) Two pieces were by Boston composers. The concert opener, Mr. H. W. Parker’s Blow, thou Winter Wind-words by Shakespeare had “much of the wintry glitter and crackle into his pianoforte score, but caught felicitously the urgent pressure of the opening words of each strophe and gave a lively touch, quite in a good old English manner, to the refrain, the club bringing out clearly his changes of fancy.” (Ibid) After speaking of Arthur Foote’s success more as an instrumental composer rather than as a choral composer, the Courier continued: “But we cannot recall nothing which so touched us with a true and tender pathos and a poetry accordant with that of the words, as this chorus, rising and falling as the pulse of the ages poet swelled and sank through the stanzas, as the great yet gentle thought of death and its mighty outgoing tide grew in his soul.” (Ibid) He was writing about Foote’s setting of Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar. The former Boston composer, Mr. E. A. MacDowell wrote both the words and music for Midsummer Clouds-it was described as “a not particularly interesting study in four and five part harmony, quite ungracious for singers.” (Ibid) This was a first Boston performance and Lang “graciously repeated it.” (Record, December 1, 1898, unsigned review) The Transcript had a short notice that described the choir as “improving from year to year…it could not improve. Certainly it is now at its best. The singing last night was, almost throughout, of a very high order of excellence.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) Short notices begin to be written for the Society Columns. In the Herald Miss Sara Anderson, who had been so successful at the recent Worcester Festival, was described as a “very handsome woman, and her stage presence is charming. She is a tall blonde, with an erect figure and a perfect neck, which her low-cut gown, without ornamentation, showed to perfection.” (Herald, undated and unsigned society notice.) The full particulars of her dress were then described and the final half of the column listed the names of many in attendance.
For the January 18, 1899 concert with E. Cutter, Jr. as accompanist, the main work was Damon and Pythias by the English composer Prout. The soloists were from the choir-all did well-“Mr. Lang conducted inspiringly and Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. accompanied finely at the piano.” (Courier, January 22, 1899, unsigned review) The Courier said no more about the Prout and make sparing comments about the rest of the program. The BSO conductor, Mr. Gericke provided a part-song, O World, thou art so fair a sight called “smooth and pleasant and well laid down for the voices” and the final chorus was from Brambach’s Alcestis “which was as flat as a flounder,” (Ibid)
The March 22, 1899 concert had E. Cutter, Jr. as accompanist and the tenor, Mr. Whitney Mockridge as the assisting artist. This was the third concert of the season and it attracted the usual large crowd. “Mr. Mockridge soon attached to him his audience by reason of a great sweetness of tone and some display of intelligence in phrasing.” (Advertiser, undated) The reviewer thought that he might have had a cold as his sound was thin, the lower notes lacked color while the “higher notes range from thinly metallic to piercingly sweet…It is but fair to say that he improved steadily during threw evening.” (Ibid) His greatest triumph of the evening came in the aria “Onoway! Awake Beloved” by the English/African composer Coleridge Taylor “which secured a recall and an encore.” (Ibid) The two club soloists, Mr. Ashenden and Mr. Townsend were in excellent voice. The choral highlights included two first performances; Fair Toro by Grieg, and Bonnie Ann by MacDowell. The first “is a beautiful piece, weirdly mystical, Scandinavian in fact,” while MacDowell’s piece was “spritely and tuneful.” (Ibid) Orlando di Lasso’s Villanelia or Echo Song also secured the choir a recall.
The final concert of the season was sung on May 3, 1899 with Miss Marie Brema, soprano as the assisting artist; her special accompanist was Mr. Isidora Luckstone who had accompanied the Apollo for one concert, January 28, 1896. The choir accompanists were Mr. E. Cutter, Jr., piano, and Mr. B. L. Whelpley, organist. Miss Brema chose to do the Schumann cycle of eight songs, Frauenliebe und Leben, Opus 42, a work of some twenty-five minutes that some thought did not belong in such a large hall as the Music Hall. However, her performance proved the critics wrong. “The audience listened in rapt, unbroken silence to the end, and then applauded and recalled the singer with unmistakable heartiness,” (Transcript, May 4, 1899 unsigned review) Two of the choral pieces were repeats from other concerts; the opening piece was Chadwick’s Song of the Viking (sung February 15, 1886 and April 29 and May 4, 1891) and the final piece was Damrosch’s Danny Deever (sung May 4, 1898) which the Courier said they sang with “snap and go.” (Courier, undated) Mr. Edward A. Osgood was the baritone soloist in the Damrosch. (Program, Johnston Collection). The Chadwick was described as an “old-fashioned rattler.” (Ibid)
“June 25th. We went up to Boston because of a nose operation that Malcolm had to under go, the next day. June 26th. Went with Malcolm to the Doctor’s. He was given Cocaine after a long preparation. The bone had to be sawed through. At the end of the an hour all was over and we returned to the house. “[in Boston. This put Malcolm in Boston for the event of the next day] Frances Lang Diary Excerpts.
Sometime between 4AM and 6AM on Tuesday June 27, 1899 B. J.’s father killed his second wife with an ax at their home. As none of the five boarders heard anything, she must have been struck while asleep. She had been planning a week’s visit “to some friends. The thought that his wife was to be away from the house this length of time, it is now believed, preyed upon the mind of the old man, which of late years has been noticeably weak.” Once he was in his cell he kept repeating the words: “She was going away, was she?” and then would laugh in “an utterly childish manner.” As B. J. was at he New Boston farm, Malcolm, then aged twenty was sent to the prison. Upon seeing his grandfather his question was, “Why grampa!” A telegram was sent to B. J., and the family met at the prison that night together with their family doctor, Dr. Frank E. Bundy (who had been Lang’s physician for 25 years).” (Herald, (June 29, 1899): 10, GB) When the police had arrived at the scene, Lang Senior had been preparing to kill himself. “Mr. Lang was straddling the window sill, forty feet below was the bricked rear yard. A leap would have meant instant death…The case is looked upon by police as one of the saddest they have ever been called upon to investigate.” (Ibid)
(Herald, (June 28, 1899): 12, GB). The Herald also had drawings of the house, the bedroom and the servant who found the body.
The house that they shared was a five-story rooming house at 93 Waltham Street. The the first floor had three rooms-a parlor, a sitting room and a bedroom. “The house was owned by Mrs. Lang, [see next]who was somewhat of a businesswoman, and made a good income by letting the remaining rooms on the upper floors to lodgers.” (Ibid) A servant, Delia Hannan had a room on the top floor. She is the one who first found Mrs. Lang dead. The Journal wrote: “They have lived happily together for years, the property being owned by B. J. Lang. It is a three-story brick building with basement kitchen. The Langs occupied the first floor and the servant girl had a room upstairs two flights. The balance of the house was rented to lodgers.” (Journal (June 28, 1899): 1, GB)] This same article also mentioned that early in “his life he was a shoemaker…Mr. Lang has been in feeble health for a long time, but had made arrangements to visit his sister, Mrs. Sarah A. James of this city, within a few days. She is 85 years old and very feeble.” (Ibid) In fact the house did belong to B. J. On January 6, 1882 he had bought the mortgage, which covered the buildings and the land, for $10,000. (Journal (January 14, 1882): 6, GB)
Two days after the murder the Journal reported that Chief Inspector Watts felt that “after hearing the statement of the accused man, [he] was not satisfied with the theory advances that he is insane.” Supposedly certain information had come into his knowledge that made him think that the case “should be thoroughly looked into.” (Journal (June 29, 1899): 10, GB) It was never revealed what this special knowledge was. An article about Lang’s arraignment noted: “The old man is short so that he had some discomfort in leaning his arms upon the rail….’Poor old man’ said an old friend of the family, who had a seat inside the lawyers’ enclosure. That was probably the feeling of most of those who caught a glimpse of him.” (Advertiser (June 29, 1899): 8, GB)
Some of the Boston papers had published lengthy and lurid stories concerning the event which led The Musical Courier to recount the story in one paragraph of eight lines. “It seems that these details should be sufficient for all purposes, and it was anything but kind in the daily press to have made such sensational articles and scare heads as it did, for a man who has stood as B. J. Lang stands ought to have been shown some consideration in a community where he has lived the length of time that he has. The sympathy of The Musical Courier is herewith extended.”(The Musical Courier (July 5, 1899): 10)
Father Lang was arraigned, committed to the common jail, “there to be held without bail to await the disposition of the Grand Jury in July…Mr. Lang, it is said, is 84 years of age, but is so well preserved that he could readily pass for 70, or even 60.” (All quotes from postings on the Family Tree Maker’s Genealogy Site: Descendants of William Wardwell. 8/9/2011)
Just over a month after his arrest, he was judged insane and thus no trial was needed. (Herald (July 9, 1899): 17, GB) He was sent to the Worcester State Hospital where he spent the remaining ten years of his life, dieing on December 11, 1909, aged 93, (Death Certificate) eight months after the death of his son B. J. on April 4, 1909.
For many years “the elder Lang was the organist at St. James’ Church, Salem. [The parish, a Catholic one, only began in 1850, and B. J.’s Diary of this period make no mention of this church] At one time he kept a music store in Salem. He moved to Boston previous to the civil war. The news of the murder was a great shock to the older people of Salem, who knew Mr. Lang very well and who held him in great esteem.” (Herald (June 28, 1899): 12, GB)
CECILIA TWENTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1899-1900.
A renewal announcement dated October 1, 1899, sent by the group’s Treasurer, Edward C. Burrage (B. J.’s brother-in-law) to Associate members noted that this season would be the last “in the present Music Hall.” All concerts were to be on Wednesday nights, and the “assessment for the season” was to be $15. The Executive Committee of nine members for this coming season included Arthur Foote as President, and among the at-large members, two choir former presidents, Arthur Astor Carey and George O. G. Coale. (814) Wednesday, December 6, 1899 saw the Boston premier of Parker’s oratorio Legend of St. Christopher, Opus 43-the world premier had been just the year before.“This work was performed at virtually every festival in America in the decade following its premiere.The unaccompanied chorus ‘Jam sol recedit’ is considered Parker’s finest achievement.” (Johnson, First, 285) The orchestra was members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and B. L. Whelpley was the organist with the composer conducting. The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Lang were in the audience was noted in a society column which also recorded that “to look over the audience one would scarcely imagine than anything else musical of special import was going on.” The piece “met with the triumph it deserved.” Also in the audience were Mr. and Mrs. John F. Winch, Mr. Gericke conductor of the BSO, Prof. Carl Faelten of the New England Conservatory and Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Rogers (she the former singer Clara Doria). “Mrs. Caroline Shepherd, the soprano, was handsome in white silk, with lace, which was incrusted with crystals, and pale blue velvet on the bodice.” (Anon., undated) Elson in the Advertiser wrote: “A considerable audience listened to the orchestral rehearsal of The Legend of St. Christopher on yesterday afternoon. It is pronounced one of the most remarkable pieces of work yet produced by Mr. Parker, and in his warmest and most melodious vein.” Referring back to the recent Cecilia Perosi performance, Elson gave his opinion that “we need not go to Italy to look for new masters of oratorio.” Of the performance: “The orchestra was kept well in hand by the composer, who conducted the performance, and was enthusiastically greeted by the audience. The chorus sang the difficult work wonderfully well.” Elson then went on to say that he preferred Chadwick, Strong or MacDowell for purely instrumental works,” but he felt that this work by Parker should “make a high place, and at once, in our native repertoire and in the scant list of good contrapuntal works of the modern world.” (Advertiser, undated) Apthorp in the Transcript felt that Parker composed too easily: “He is too often satisfied with saying a thing, without considering whether it might not be said better. His very ease often seems like carelessness…The performance last evening was generally very good, indeed, solo singers and chorus sang capitally, and the orchestra seemed, for once, to have forgotten its determination to play no better than necessary.” (Transcript, undated)
The second concerts were on Monday evening January 22 and Wednesday evening January 24, 1900 at the Music Hall with Mr. Whelpley as organist and Miss Laura Watkins as pianist. On the program were a Bach cantata which the Courier reviewer found boring-“a trying work.” The three soloists were choir members, and the bass of Mr. Weldon Hunt was described as a “fine voice.” Also on the program was the Vision of the Queen by the contemporary French woman composer Augusta Holmes which the reviewer found “contains much graceful writing, the fresh, female voices blending with the harp, violoncello and piano, [to] form a most delightful body of sound.” The accompanist was praised: “Miss Hawkins is to be congratulated on her fine rendering of the sonatina in the Bach cantata, as well as on her able accompaniments.” (Anon., undated)
Major Boston premiers by the Cecilia continued in 1900 with Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, Op. 30 by Coleridge-Taylor (composed only two years before when the composer was only 23 years old) being sung with orchestra at the Music Hall on March 12 and March 14, 1900. An autograph full score of this work is in the Boston Public Library collection (Johnson, First, 115). The concert opened with the first American performance of the Overture to the Song of Hiawatha, Opus 30 (1899) by Coleridge-Taylor. (Globe (March 15, 1900): 8) The concert also included the Ballad-Cantata Phaudrig Crohoore by Charles Villiers Stanford with the Irish tenor Evan Williams. (Cecilia program) The Globe described the piece as “a rollicking Irish ballad-cantata” set “most melodiously…It is good dialect, good comedy and good music all in one.” The sopranos were singled out for praise, and all in all, “audience, singers and symphony orchestra players alike” shared “in the enthusiam evoked by Mr. B. J. Lang’s spirited conducting.” (Globe (March 15, 1900): 8) Apthorp in the Transcript didn’t like either of the choral works, “but the performance is another matter; it seemed to me that I had never heard the Cecilia sing so utterly superbly at every point before, great and beautiful things though it has done in the past. There was everything there that completely fine choral singing should do, and nothing that it should avoid. The orchestra, too, played far better than usual. In fine, no composer could ask for anything better.” (Transcript, undated) The Courier was mildly positive concerning the choral works, but also praised the performance. “The club sang wonderfully well in every way, attaining often more vigor and determination than they usually show.” (Courier, undated)
The season ended with Monday April 23 and Wednesday April 25, 1900 performances at the Music Hall with Miss Laura Hawkins and Miss Alice Coleman again acting as piano accompanists.
On April 30, 1900 the choir was officially incorporated in the state of Massachusetts, and the word “Society” was added to its name. (Hill, 8)
APOLLO TWENTY-NINTH SEASON: 1899-1900.
In mid January the club sang at the Music Hall and the Herald “Social Life” page wrote: “There was a great audience, and an exceptionally interesting and well rendered programme. The club had the valuable assistance of Mr. David Bishop. His singing aroused real enthusiasm.” A list of “some of those” who attended included: “Mrs. B. J. Lang, Miss Margaret Lang [but no Malcolm or Rosamond], Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, Mrs. Clarence E. Hay and her daughter [wife of the soloist often used by Lang] and twenty-one others. (Herald (January 21, 1900): 31, GB)
On Wednesday March 7, 1900 the club gave its third concert of the season with E. Cutter, Jr., pianist and B. L. Whelpley, organist. “From the moment when the large audience greeted Mr. Lang until the close of the last song, the usual genial Apollo Club atmosphere prevailed, and almost every number on the programme was enthusiastically received.” The reviewer thought that the lighter numbers fared the best. “In contrast to these more serious numbers [by Schumann, Brahms and Wagner], the second group consisted of” pieces by Foote, MacDowell and Van der Stucken. The guest soloist was Miss Gertrude Stein who brought along her own accompanist. (Advertiser (March 8, 1900): 8 GB)
The fourth and final concert was “in accordance with the time-honored custom, a miscellaneous one.” It was also the group’s farewell to the Music Hall. Three pieces from the club’s early days opened the program; Schubert’s The Lord Is My Shepherd, Schumann’s Gipsy Life and Handel’s Crown With Festal Pomp. Elson felt that the highlight was “Jam sol recedit” from Hora Novissima by Horatio Parker, “a number of which any composer in the world might be proud, and one of the very best achievements of the American muse.” (Advertiser April 26, 1900: 8)
CECILIA SINGS AT SYMPHONY HALL DEDICATION. BEETHOVEN MISSA SOLEMNIS.
The exterior of the hall some thought severe: “Some wit has suggested that the architecture might be called Puritanin instaed of North Italian Renaissance.” (Advertiser (September 22, 1900): 8) In size, “the dimensions are almost the same as the old hall, the variation being only a foot each way.” (Ibid) The interior of the hall was also one foot longer than the Music Hall which allowed and increase of over 172 seats [2569 instead of 2397]. The acoustics were perfect: “A person in the second balcony, far back, can hear conversation carried on in ordinary tones on the stage.” (Ibid)
The seats for this first season were auctioned off, and two tickets in the first balcony, “on the right-hand side, near the front of the house” had been bought for a premium of $560 each.” (Herald (September 21, 1900): 9) The normal price was $12 for the series of 24 concerts. These seats were well located for hearing by the occupants and for seeing by everyone in the hall. The owner of these tickets had been kept secret, and so everyone, 3,000 sets of eyes, were most interested to see who would sit in them. At the first regular concert of the season Mrs. “Jack” Gardner appeared escorted by the pianist Mr. George Proctor. She had paid just over $47 ($1,343 in 2018’s money) for each of the tickets, and this compared to other concert-goers, some of whom were able to pay 25 cents for the “rush” seats available on the day. Mrs. Gardner’s seats were not too far from those bought by the Lang family.
Postmarked 1906. It looks like the ladies of the Friday afternoon performance arriving. Johnston Collection.
Postmark not readable. This example has both an early auto on the left and a horse-drawn carriage to the right. Johnston Collection.
Postmarked 1935-cars look older. All men in the scene-no women. The two men standing in the street on the right don’t seem to be worried about the traffic. Johnston Collection.
“No more brillant or important event has ever figured in the musical history of Boston, it is quite safe to say, than that which occurred in so eminently successful a manner last evening-the formal inauguration of Symphony Hall.” (Herald (October 16, 1900): 1) After the opening Bach chorale, Mr. Higginson gave a “report.” He noted that the land had been bought back in 1893, and the Directors pondered long over what might be the best design. The “Greek Theatre” design by their architect, Mr. McKim was eventually put aside for the rectanular box design much like the Music Hall and also like the concert hall in Leipzig. They tried to include a smaller hall for chamber music, but this was not possible. The original cost was to be $500,000 of which when $410,700 was subscribed, construction began. In the end the total cost was $750,000 which required the Directors to take out a mortgage for $350,000. (Op. cit., 7) For the first ten years the hall was leased to Mr. Higginson who would “meet [the] costs of administration, taxes and all charges, and to pay to the stockholders the rest of the receipts.” (Ibid)
Between the Cecilia’s 24th. and 25th. Seasons the Missa Solemnis was repeated for the opening of Symphony Hall. One story, written before the concert which was on October 15, 1900, pointed out the honor that was being shown to the choir in being part of this concert, and that “it is also a fully deserved recognition of the society’s rank in the musicianship of Boston. Mr. Lang put it to a vote whether they would undertake the great Mass or a less exacting work. The Mass was chosen unanimously…One hears reminiscences of how Mr. Lang met his singers four and five times a week, when the Mass was sung so successfully several years ago; but all that hard study tells now…Mr. Gericke is much pleased with the work of the club, and in speaking to them of their singing in the Ninth Symphony, said that ”nothing had given him more pleasure.” (Anon., undated) For the choir the work was very difficult, “and its difficulties throw even the trials of the Ninth Symphony into the shade.” (Advertiser (October 16, 1900): 1) “The Cecilia has invited guests, all personal friends, to assist in the dedication, and a large representation from the Apollo Club responded to Mr. Lang’s invitation. Every singer is pledged to attend all rehearsals, which are arranged for May and late September…Mr. Lang is to be congratulated on such a consummation of the work to which he has given himself so steadfastly, so generously for so many years.” (Anon., undated) Another newspaper reported many of the same facts, and ended with: “Mr. Lang receives some of the honor he deserves, not always accorded to prophets, in the honoring of his club.” (Anon., undated) The performers were the BSO, Mr. Kneisl, solo violin; Mr. Goodrich, organ; the Cecilia Society [275 voices]; and Mme. De Vere, Miss Stein, Mr. Williams and Mr. Bornstein. (Advertiser (October 8, 1900): 7)
A non-musical writer asked that “Perhaps a more cheerful work than the Mass might have been chosen for such an occasion…There are long sketches of elaborate effort, than weary rather than delight…The technical difficulties of the whole work are huge; so exacting that it is seldom presented at its possible best, as it was very nearly last evening. It really seems as if the results hardly repaid the trouble…Mr. Gericke achieved a spendid success with the chorus.” (Herald, Op. cit, 7) Then words of praise for Lang; “It was a genuine triumph of chorus drilling…The occasion was a brilliant one, musicially and socially, and a new and interesting page has been turned in the musical history of Boston.” (Ibid)
HOW CAN POPULAR TASTE IN MUSIC BE CULTIVATED AND REFINED?
This was the title of an article in the Globe early in 1900. Lang, at the age of 63 was among the Boston “experts” who were called upon to answer this question. His answer began: “So far as Boston and vicinity is concerned, in view of what Mr. Higginson is doing with his orchestra, the Cecilia Society with its wage-earner concerts, and the public schools in their preliminary way, I am surprised that it is thought necessary to ask the question.” (Globe (February 25, 1900) 28) Lang did have one suggestion: “I will say, however, that improvement in general musical taste might in a measure be reached if the standard of musical material used in the large majority of our Protestant churches were to be greatly raised.” (Ibid) He ended with a rather surprising observation: “The coster, coon and ragtime songs now in vogue are not to be despised. Some of them have merit than an immense amount of more orderly music entirely lacks.” (Ibid)
The summer trip to Europe for 1900 was enjoyed by B. J. and Malcolm. One bit of excitement was that the ship that they took to Europe, the Cunard liner the Campania, was almost blown up when it struck a bark carrying explosives in the Irish Sea. In a Dispatch printed on page one of the July 23rd. edition, the writer noted: “If the steamer had struck the smaller craft fore or aft, [where the dynamite was stored], the great ocean greyhound would have been destroyed. As it was, 11 of the crew of 18 on the bark were drowned. The sunken vessel was the iron bark Embleton, bound for New Zealand…Within 30 minutes after that horrible catastrophe the passengers of the first and second cabins and the steerage had collected 700 Pounds aid for the wrecked survivors and for those dependent on the dead” (Herald (July 23, 1900): 1, GB) A week later the story seemed less exciting. “Luckily the ocean liner struck the ill-fated bark amidships, so that the damage was slight and a bad fright was the only result of the accident.” (Herald (July 29, 1900): 31, GB)
The rest of the family spent the summer at the Lang farm in New Boston. (Herald, Social Life (July 22, 1900): 31, GB)
MUSICIANS’ AID CONCERT.
On Sunday night, December 16, 1900 Lang led “a concert given by and for the Musicians’ Aid Society” at the recently opened Symphony Hall. The featured soloist was the 22-year-old Russian pianist, Ossip Gabrilowitsch who played the Tschaikowsky First Piano Concerto. The article pointed out that Lang had led the world premier of this piece 25 years before. In 1875, “when the concerto was submitted to Bergman [the conductor from New York who had been conducting the other concertos in Von Bulow’s series], he pronounced it to be impossible in the limited time. In this emergency Von Bulow consulted Mr. Lang, and, with less than 24 hours intervening, Mr. Lang directed the performance of the then new work with such success that Von Bulow cabled the first message from Boston to Moscow telling Tschaikowsky of the hearty greeting which the composition had received from the Boston public.” (Herald (December 16, 1900): 17, GB)
STUDENT APES THE MASTER.
A day after the above concert, Lang’s student, Hiram G. Tucker conducted “the third in a series of concerts” at the People’s Temple, on Columbus Avenue. “Able soloists, a large chorus and full orchestra” presented Horatio Parker’s new piece, A Wanderer’s Psalm, “which was composed for the Hereford festival [Three Choirs Festival] in England, and performed there in September of this year. It was heartily praised by the leading English critics, and the announcement of its presentation here has aroused much interest.” (Herald (December 16, 1900): 17, GB) Here we have Tucker mounting a program that was in direct competition with the programming of the Lang’s Cecilia. Coming just four months after its premier in England, Tucker could probably claim a first Boston performance, if not a first American performance. One wonders what B. J. thought.
Tucker’s selection of this work turned out to be unfortunate. While the reviews of the provincial English press were positive, those in the London papers “were considerably more discerning.” Philip Hale’s review of Tucker’s performance was also unfavorable: “This Psalm was written to order, and I regret to add that it makes the impression of perfunctory labor.” Many saw it as a watered down Hora Novissima which had been performed to great applause at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival the year before. However, The Wanderer’s Psalm “disappeared from the concert stage after the Boston concert of 1900.” (Kearns, Parker, 130)
EX GOVERNOR WOLCOTT’S FUNERAL.
Among Lang’s duties at King’s Chapel was that of playing for funerals. At the end of December 1900 Lang played this service which included the March from Handel’s Saul as processional music and the first hymn, With Silence as Their Only Benediction had words by Whittier and music by B. J. This would seem to be Lang’s last composition. For this service Lang used “the regular singers from King’s Chapel, with 12 or 14 from other churches.” (Herald (December 23, 1900): 9, GB)
CECILIA TWENTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1900-1901.
Probably hoping to build on the success of the two Coleridge-Taylor works already presented, next the choir sang the The American premier of his Hiawatha’s Departure, Opus 30 No. 4 (1900). This was sung with Boston Symphony Orchestra accompaniment at Symphony Hall on Monday December 3 and Wednesday December 5, 1900, B. L. Whelpley was the organist. (Cecilia program) The world premier had been given by the Royal Choral Society at Royal Albert Hall in London less than a year before. Also on the program was Phoenix Expirans by Chadwick with the composer conducting. A note in the program described the Chadwick work: “So fresh and lovely is it in melody, so dignified and consistent in conception, so delicate yet rich in its orchestral coloring, and so churchly yet warm in its harmony.” (824) Chadwick had been appointed conductor of the Worcester Featival and Director of the New England Conservatory three years before, in 1897. The Herald review thought the Coleridge-Taylor to be “the feature of the evening. It is a thoroughly charming work, with a delightful freshness of inspiration…The instrumentation is of great beauty, and the full resources of the modern orchestra are used with skill and knowledge…Mr. Coleridge-Taylor is yet in the early twenties.” Of the Chadwick: “Mr. Chadwick’s strongly effective cantata was heard again with pleasure and interest. The audience was large and very applausive.[?] Both Mr. Lang and Mr. Chadwick were cordially received and the soloists were generously appreciated.” (Herald (December 6, 1900): 3, GB) Hale in The Journal found that after one hearing of the Coleridge-Taylor work showed the composer to be “a man of pronounced individuality, true and deep emotion, and native instinct for rhythm and gorgeous instrumentation. No doubt his sense of rhythm and color is a birthright…for his father was a mulatto physician from Sierra Leone, and his mother was an English woman.” The Herald wrote that the “chorus writing is admirable, and some of the most lovely moments in the cantata are found in this element of the score. The music is never dull, is in perfect sympathy with the spirit of the poem, and the composer sustains his long flight with spirited ease, and ends with it with a large and splendid burst of triumph.” The review continued in this vein for a fulsome six paragraphs-possibly the writer was B. E. Woolf. (Herald (December 6, 1900): 3 or 8, GB) Of the Chadwick, which had been first given by the Handel and Haydn Society with Nordica as one of the soloists: “The cantata is one of great beauty; it is in some respects unique, with exotic flavor permeating sound workmanship…There was a good-sized and applausive [?] audience. ” (828-829) Apthorp in the Transcript wrote: “The performance was one of the best the Cecilia has ever given; chorus, solo singers and orchestra seemed animated with one spirit.” The Chadwick “struck me as still very beautiful, very vital, strong and brilliant. Even coming after Coleridge-Taylor’s more modern and resonant orchestration, it lost nothing by the comparison. Mr. Chadwick’s orchestra fits his idea as nicely as Coleridge-Taylor’s does his. Of the other things on the programme I will say nothing.” (Transcript, undated) The concert had opened with Beethoven’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Mount of Olives: “The Hallelujah would not be sung by any chorus today if Beethoven had not signed his name to it. Let us record one more instance of fetish-worship.” (Ibid)
On Sunday evening March 31, 1901 the Cecilia was part of an all-Henschel concert which included three works by the composer; Morning Hymn for chorus and orchestra, Serbisches Liederspiel, a Cycle of  Romances for Four Solo Voices and Piano, Op. 32, and the first Boston performance of Stabat Mater for Soli, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 53. Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist and the orchestra of sixty was from the BSO. Mrs. Henschel was the soprano soloist. (Anon., undated)
In mid April the choir sang Samson and Delilah “with a fine cast in which Mr. Arthur Beresford as the high priest made the marked success of the evening. The role eminently fitted his wonderful voice, and the audience showed its appreciation by a tremendous demonstration in his favor.” (“Social Life,” Herald (April 14, 1901): 31, GB) Cecilia had sung the Boston premier of this work by St.-Saens on November 28, 1894. This “Social Life” notice also included the names of “a few of those” who attended. These included Mrs. Lang and the “Misses Lang,” but no Malcolm Lang, Arthur Foote and his daughter, the BSO conductor Herr Gericke and his wife, the wife of the President of Cecilia-Mrs. S. Lothrop Thorndike, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Chadwick and Mrs. Charles Marsh. In all 33 names were listed. (Ibid)
The Transcript ran two stories about the choir’s Annual Meeting at the Hotel Vendome in May 1901 which would celebrate the choir’s twenty-five years of existence, “during which B. J. Lang has been the sole conductor.” After the business meeting there was to be music “by several members of the organization and supper will be served, and it is probable that in a purely informal way short congratulatory addresses will follow. (Transcript, undated) The second story noted that Lang had been presented “a handsome silver bowl on which was inscribed the recipient’s name, also that of the society and the dates 1876-1901…The gift emphasizes the general feeling prevalent on the part of the members that in no small measure is the past success of the organization due to Mr. Lang’s faithful service and interest.” (Transcript, undated) The Herald also did a story after the event. It recorded that long-time former President, Mr. Thorndike was present; that Miss Laura Hawkins, accompanist of the choir played; and that Mr. B. L. Whelpley played two of his own compositions. In replying to the presentation of the loving cup, Lang “said that no words could express what the Cecilia’s 25 years have meant to him. He said, however, that it is not to be considered that he has preferred them over the Apollo Club, though he has resigned the latter work while keeping his conductorship of the Cecilia, and he asked a cheer for the Cecilia’s ”elder brother.” which was given with a will. He spoke of future plans for the Cecilia. Mr. Lang was cheered to the echo. As a memento of a memorable occasion, the company was photographed in the supper room by flash light.” (Herald, undated)
Arthur Foote gave the President’s Report at the 1901 meeting-this was the third year that he had held the post. He cited the Wage Earners’ Concerts which Cecilia had begun in 1891. “It is a good thing that no change has been made as regards the “Wage Earners’ concerts. These have continued to be as much desired as ever by the audience for which they were intended. The listeners have been highly appreciative, and would have been greater if the hall could have been made elastic. No one can doubt that in these concerts the Cecilia is doing a good work, one in which it helps itself by helping others.” (quoted by Tawa, Foote, 279)
HIRAM G. TUCKER CONCERT.
Lang continued to support his pupils. Tucker emulated his teacher in presenting a series of orchestral concerts. “At the second of the series of Mr. Tucker’s concerts-which are proving so brilliant-on Monday night, the admirers of Mr. Paur [the BSO conductor] had a love feast. The demonstration of the personal enthusiasm and affection when the former conductor of the Symphony orchestra first appeared to take up the baton was remarkable in its intensity. One does not often hear such genuine applause.” Among those listed as attending the concert were Mr. and Mrs. B. J. Lang and Miss Lang, Mrs. Apthorp, Mrs. H. M. Rogers, Mrs. John L. Gardiner, Mr. George Proctor, Mr. Clayton Johns, Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Ticknor, Mr. and Mrs. George Chadwick, Mr. Perabo, and “indeed, all musical Boston. Mr. Tucker received many congratulations upon the evening’s success.” (Herald (December 2, 1900): 31, GB)
FARM: SUMMER SEASONS 1897-1901.
Emeline Burrage returned in June 1898 together with Emma Burrage as did Charles S. Homer and his wife Martha. B. L. Whelpley, a Lang piano pupil left a cartoon figure labeled “M. B. L.” and a note: “I never in my life did dream of having twice a day ice-cream until I visited Lang Farm. (It’s done me anything but harm).” Edward [?] Burrage and his wife Julia Severance Burrage visited July 10, 1898 for the day.
Another Burrage, Elsie Aldrich Burrage stayed August 8-10, 1899. One guest left a four page, typed story with pen an ink illustrations about his visit dated September 4, 1899 – the initials seem to be J. H. B. The title was “An Idle (Idyl) (Uncommon Particular Metre).” The story mentions that “your train leaves shortly, just after noon.” Arthur Foote’s daughter, Katharine was a guest in 1899.
Isabella S. Gardner was an early visitor, June 28, 1900, and she was followed in July by Emma Burrage and then Emeline Burrage. Mrs. Apthorp came on August 17, 1900.
The visit on July 27, 1901 by Frederic Ruthven Galacar, Rosamond Lang’s eventual husband, produced a four stanza poem, “A Soliloquy” in German.
RUTH BURRAGE LIBRARY OF ORCHESTRAL SCORES.
In January 1901 Lang opened this library of c. 500 scores at 153 Tremont Street. “It contains all the orchestral scores that are usually played at Symphony concerts.” The Boston Public Library had a fine collection of such scores, but “these cannot be taken out of the building.” Lang raised the money to buy these scores through two concerts given at Association Hall “about a year ago. Among those who assisted at these concerts were Mme. Hopekirk, Mme. Szumowska and Messrs. Baermann, Foote, Gericke and Proctor.” Ruth Burrage had been a piano pupil of Lang (and his wife’s cousin) who had died at a young age and left money “to be used for musical purposes.” Lang had used the original bequest to establish, 27 years before, a library of music for two pianos, and instruments on which to play this music. This was before the success of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and now he felt a need to provide different material to help young music students. “It is Mr. Lang’s idea to eventually turn over the library for orchestral scores to the Boston Public Library.” (Herald (January 8, 1901): 3, GB)
MISS HELEN HENSCHEL’S BOSTON DEBUT RECITAL
On March 30, 1901 the daughter of Georg Henschel and his wife, the former Miss Bailey, presented their daughter for her Boston debut. It was a friends and family affair. Miss Henschel was assisted by her mother with whom she sang duets accompanied by her father. “Mr. Henschel played in the duets, as he always does, like a master.” (Herald (March 31, 1901): 8, GB) Old family friends, Arthur Foote and B. J. Lang played the Variations for Two Pianos on a Theme by Beethoven by Saint-Saens. “It was very pleasant to see some of our familiar native artists once again on the concert stage as pianists, and Mr. Lang and Mr. Foote met with a hearty welcome…It is hardly necessary to speak of the well-known ability of the two pianists who are so highly appreciated by our public.” (Ibid)
ELIJAH AT KING’S CHAPEL.
Among the special Sunday afternoon services that Lang presented at King’s Chapel was Mendelssohn’s Elijah sung by a choir of 30 voices from “various churches.” The soloists were Mrs. Rice, soprano, Miss Little, alto, Mr. Merrill, bass, “all of the King’s Chapel quartet,” and Mr. Walter Hawkins of the Shawmut Congregational Church. “Mr. Lang presided at the organ and had charge of the singing.” The service was so successful, “the chapel being filled 10 minutes before the hour of beginning,” that an additional service was announced for the following Sunday which would present Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise. (Herald (April 1, 1901): 7, GB)
APOLLO CLUB THIRTIETH: 1900-1901.
Due to the sale of the Music Hall and its redevelopment, a new site for the concerts needed to be found. “For many years the Club has believed that Music Hall was too large for the production of its best musical effect, and, as Symphony Hall is considerably larger than Music Hall, the Club has voted unanimously to give its concerts the coming season in Copley Hall, on Clarendon Street, near Copley Square…Reserved seats for the season of four concerts are offered at $6.00 each. Tickets for single concerts will not be sold. Applications for reserved seats will be filled in the order received.” (Letter to Associate Members dated September 24, 1900 from the Secretary, Mr. Henry Basford.)
The first concert of Lang’s last year as conductor was given at Copley Hall on November 14, 1900. Mr. E. Cutter Jr. continued to be the choir’s accompanist and Miss Shannah Cumming was a soloist. The Boston pieces were Valentine by Horatio W. Parker, O World, Thou art so fair a sight by Gericke, The Rose Leans Over the Pool by Chadwick, My Boy Tammy, an old Scottish song arranged by Arthur Foote and The Lark now leaves his watery nest by Horatio W. Parker. The concert opened with Mendelssohn’s Rhine Wine Song and ended with Schubert’s The Almighty with Mr. Shirley as the soloist. Often a major Mendelssohn chorus would close the concert, but in this case the double chorus from Antigone, “Fair Semele’s High Born Son” was in the middle-the solo quartet was sung by chorus members, Messrs. Shirley, Faunce, Osgood and Hay. The Transcript review found the new room to be very much like being “locked up inside a Saratoga trunk; then, though small, the hall is rather dead, voices have little brilliancy there.” (Transcript, November 15, 1900 review by W(Iliam) F(oster) A(thorp)) The soloist, Miss Cumming “showed herself as a very intelligent and pleasing singer, she has a good voice and a technique which, if not masterly, is still above the average, but she has an instinct to get at the musical meaning of things, and to show forth the meaning clearly.” (Ibid) Elson noted that the seats in the new hall might fit the average Bostonian but if “a German of usual size attends, he had better take two seats!” (Advertiser, November 15, 1900 review by Louis C. Elson) Elson described the Gericke part song; “It was of a direct melody and dainty harmony that made it one of the most pleasing numbers on the programme.” (Ibid) This was the third time that the club had sung this piece-January 18, 1899 and November 14, 1900. He also cited Parker’s Valentine for “especial mention.”
The January 23, 1901 review mentioned no accompanist for the choir; the guest soloist was the contralto Madam Josephine Jacoby. “Miss Jacoby has a remarkable contralto voice, excellently trained, and she sang her numbers with that broad depth of feeling that characterizes the artist that she is.” (Advertiser, undated) Some choir favorites reappeared; Mendelssohn To the sons of Art, the Gounod-Buck The Grasshopper and the Ant, together with the new Saint-Saens A Song of Ancestry. “The chorus sang with excellent taste and precision, Mr. Lang’s efficient leadership again showing its supreme effectiveness, and he himself accompanying a few numbers at the pianoforte in masterly style. The concert was a delightful one in every respect, and the club was greeted by a large and fashionable audience of friends.” (Ibid)
After only two concerts at the Copley location, the club decided to move to the new Chickering Hall at 239 Huntington Avenue, just a block away from the new Symphony Hall. This involved reissuing all new tickets, hopefully close to the corresponding sections of the Copley Hall. “Copley Hall tickets will not be good in Chickering Hall.” (Announcement to Associate Members dated March 11, 1801)
The first concert held at Chickering Hall, the third of the season, was given on March 20, 1901 with Mr. C. P. Scott as the accompanist and the violinist, Maud Scott as the guest soloist. New works included The Sailors of Kermor by Saint-Saens translated by J. C. D. Parker and Hush! Hush! by MacDowell. The Transcript review mentioned that finally the choir had found a proper home. “The old Music Hall was ridiculously large, so much so as to be excusable only on the ground of an enormous associate membership-which had somehow to be housed….Copley Hall, its interim lodging place, has been called as much too small as the other was too large…There could have been no thought of an orchestra there…Chickering Hall seems to solve the problem to perfection. It is not too large for the best musical effect, and the acoustics seem wholly favorable; moreover, there will be ample room for an orchestra, whenever the club wishes one. It can seat all the audience needed. Never before has the Apollo Club been so well situated.” (Transcript, undated) Miss Powell’s performance was briefly noticed; “her pieces were “excellently played…and much appreciated by the audience.” (Ibid) No specifics were given.
B. J. RESIGNS FROM THE APOLLO CLUB.
In the spring of 1901 an insert in the Wednesday evening May 1, 1901 concert program at Chickering Hall (their 171st. concert) noted that Mr. Lang “positively declines a renomination” as conductor. “Mr. Arthur Brown of the Apollo Club has asked me to give him a suggestion as to what the Club might give to Lel, as the latter has decided not to continue as its conductor (It was a Tiffany lamp). (Diary 2, Spring 1901)
This final program appropriately opened with Sullivan’s The Long Day Closes followed by two choral pieces by Margaret Ruthven Lang, Alastair MacAllistair (Old Scotch Song) and Here’s a Health to One I lo’e Dear (Old Scotch Song). In the second half, Mr. Clarence E. Hay sang two of Lang’s own solo songs, The Lass of Carlisle and The Chase. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 7)
An article in 1907 updating Apthorp’s article of 1893 included “A Partial List of the Important New Music First Performed in Boston Under Mr. Lang by the…Apollo Club” listed the following: Berlioz: Arrangement of “La Marseillaise” for double chorus and orchestra. Brahms: Rinaldo. Bruch: Frithjof: Roman Song of Triumph; Salamis. Chadwick: The Viking’s Last Voyage. Foote: The Farewell of Hiawatha. Goldmark: The Flower Net. Grieg: Discovery. Hiller: Easter Morning; Hope. Lachner: Evening; Warrior’s Prayer. Mendelssohn: Sons of Art; Antigone; Oedipus. J. C. D. Parker: The Blind King. Raff: Warder Song. Rubinstein: Morning. Schubert: The Almighty; Song of the Spirits Over the Water. Schumann: Forester’s Chorus. Templeton Strong: The Trumpeter; The Haunted Mill; The Knights and the Naiada. A.W. Thayer: Sea Greeting. G.E. Whiting: March of the Monks of Bangor; Free Lances; Henry of Navarre (Gould Collection)
In 1909 Arthur Foote’s evaluation of Lang was that “As a conductor his influence was great in raising the standard of singing here. One of the first things he obtained with the Apollo Club was the clear enunciation which still distinguishes it; musically he believed (as Theodore Thomas did) that the way to educate the public was to coax and not to bully it; so that the Apollo Club pleased its audiences and was trained itself at first with German and other part songs, being thereby later able to give the great compositions for men’s voices and orchestra; in this, as often, his tact prevailed.” (Transcript, May 1, 1909)
Ethel Syford in the “New England Magazine” in April 1910 wrote: “Perhaps no other club has been so constant in its attainment of refined excellence. If I were going to speak sweepingly, I should say without fear that the three essences of American artistic refinement are the Apollo Club of Boston, the Kneisel Quartet and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The latter two by right of the quintessence of masterly achievement; the Apollo Club of Boston by virtue of its achievement and a distinctively Bostonian esprite de corps as well. The spirit of the organization is unmatched. One is conscious instantly that its audience is entirely en rapport with itself. It is a most unusual atmosphere of absolute sympathy, and a distinctive salon-like éclat which marks the Apollo Club of Boston as unique.” This quote was used in 1947 by John O’Connor in an article announcing the appointment of Nicolas Sloninsky as the new conductor of the choir. After the quote he wrote: “The same thing could be written about the club today.” (Herald (September 21, 1947): 27. GB)
The Osborne article on the Apollo Club ends with “Perhaps the spirit of the whole enterprise can be grasped in this quatrain from Oliver Wendell Holmes that concluded the 1884-85 season:
So, with the merry tale and jovial song, The jocund evening whirls itself along, Till the last chorus shrieks its loud encore, And the white neckcloths vanish through the door.” (Osborne, 40)
The Apollo Club continues even today under the leadership Florence Dunn who had become the accompanist in 1955 and then the conductor in 1969. Rehearsals are still (2006) held on Tuesday nights in the Harvard Musical Association building concert room, with a repertoire of show tunes and lighter material that is performed for various service groups in the Boston area. (Telephone call with Ms. Dunn, January 2006) The club has established a very interesting site at: http://apolloclub.org which also has aural and video examples of their work.
CONCERTO PERFORMANCES THROUGH 1900:
List complied by James Methuen-Campbell; additional information by Johnston shown in [ ]
Bach D Minor BWV 1052 (harpsichord)
Bach G minor BWV 1058
Bach A major BWV 1055 (harpsichord)
Bach F major BWV 1057
Bach Two keyboard BWV 1061 (twice)
Bach Two keyboard C minor BWV 1060 (twice)
Bach Three keyboards C major BWV 1064 (ten times)
Bach Three keyboards D minor 1063 (twice)
Bach Four keyboards A minor BWV 1065 (twice)
Beethoven Concerto in C major (four times)
Beethoven Concerto in B flat major (three times)
Beethoven Concerto in C minor (three times)
Beethoven Choral Fantasia (two times)
Beethoven Triple Concerto (two times)
Sterndale Bennett Allegro Giojoso or Caprice in E (three times)
Brahms Second Piano Concerto (once)
Bronsart Concerto (once)
Hiller Piano Concerto (two times)
Hummel Piano Concerto (in Salem c. April 1863)
Hummel Introduction and Rondo on a Russian Theme, Op. 98 (two times)
Mendelssohn Concerto in G minor (three times?)
Mendelssohn Concerto in D minor (five times)
Mendelssohn Capriccio Brillant (three times)
Mozart Concerto in D minor (once)
Mozart Concerto in E flat major (once)
Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos (twice)
Napravnik Concerto Symphonique (once)
Rubinstein Third Piano Concerto (four times)
Saint-Saens First Piano Concerto (once)
Saint-Saens Second Piano Concerto (four times)
Saint-Saens Third Piano Concerto (once)
Saint-Saens Rhapsodie D’Avergne (once)
Schubert/Liszt Wanderer (twice)
Schumann Piano Concerto (once)
Schumann Introduction and Allegro Appass. Op. 92 (two times)
Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto (twice)
Weber/Liszt Polonaise Brillant (three times and sometimes in the solo version)
Thus ended a decade of major importance in Lang’s life-many triumphs and a few bumps, the major one being his two years as conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society. By giving up his conductorship of the Apollo Club, he now had time to explore new musical experiences.