Established Musical Force: 1891-1901. S.C. Topics, W. C.-41,135.
- PART 1 Social Events. Apollo Sings for the Funeral of John H. Stickney. Cecilia Sixteenth Season: 1891-1892. Apollo Club Twenty-first Season: 1891-1892. Parsifal: Second Time. Boston Symphony Orchestra Chorus.
- A French Life of Wagner. Harvard Musical Association New Home. Lang’s Critics. Cecilia Seventeenth Season: 1892-1893.
- Apollo Club Twenty-Second Season: 1892-1893. Lang on Piano Playing. 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Cecilia Eighteenth Season: 1893-1894.
PART 2 Apollo Club Twenty-third Season: 1893-1894. Edward Burlingame Hill. Lang’s Musical Talks. Hook and Hastings Studio Organ. Cecilia Nineteenth Season: 1894-1895. Apollo Club Twenty-fourth Season: 1894-1895. New Boston Farm: First Summer Season-1895. Ship: Typical Journey. Cecilia Twentieth Season: 1895-1896. King’s Chapel: Easter and Christmas1895. Apollo Club Twenty-fifth Season: 1895-1896. Farm: Second Summer Season-1896. American Guild of Organists. Handel and Haydn Society-Lang as Conductor. “Best concert in its history.”
- PART 3 Lang- Musical Dictator of Boston. Cecilia Twenty-first Season: 1896-1897. Apollo Club Twenty-sixth Season: 1896-1897. Etude Interview with Lang About his Teaching. The Ditson Fund. Farm: Third Summer Season: 1897. Europe-Summer Trip, 1897. Cecilia Twenty-second Season: 1897-1898 Apollo Club Twenty-seventh Season: 1897-1898.
- Family Portraits.
- Apthorp Lecture. Bayreuth. Bach Concerts. Cecilia Twenty-third Season: 1898-1899.
- PART 4 Apollo Club Twenty-eighth Season: 1898-1899. Murder. Cecilia Twenty-fourth Season: 1899-1900. Apollo Club Twenty-ninth Season: 1899-1900. Missa Solemnis-Beethoven. Cecilia Sings at Symphony Hall Dedication. Popular Taste in Music: Can It be Cultivated and Refined? Summer 1900. Musicians’ Aid Concert. Student Apes the Master. Ex Governor Wolcott’s funeral. Cecilia Twenty-fifth Season: 1900-1901. Hiram G. Tucker Concert. Farm: Summer Seasons 1897-1901. Ruth Burrage Library of Orchestral Scores. Miss Helen Henschel’s Boston Debut Recital. King’s Chapel:Elijah.
- Apollo Club Thirtieth Season: 1900-1901.
- B. J. Resigns from the Apollo Club. Concerto Performances Through 1900.
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. Mrs. 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.
(Boston) Gericke, Wilhelm: The Autumn Sea. November 22, 1899. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(Boston) arr. Grieg: Fair Toro, a Norwegian folk-song. March 22, 1899. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(World) Lang, Margaret: The Boatman’s Hymn. January 18, 1893.
(World) Lang, Margaret: arr. second “orchestral accompaniment” for Estudiantina by Paul Lacome. (Yearbook, Vol. 10, 15)
(Boston) MacDowell: Bonnie Ann, Opus 53, text by Robert Burns (?). March 22, 1899. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(Boston) MacDowell: Dance of Gnomes. Words by MacDowell. March 3, 1893. Bomberger: MacD, 176. “Enormous success.”
(Boston) MacDowell: Midsummer Clouds, November 30, 1898. (Advertiser (December 1, 1898): 4, GB)
(Boston) Massenet, Jules: The Monks and the Pirates. November 22, 1899. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(World?) Osgood: In Picardie. May 3, 1893. (Advertiser (May 4, 1893): 5, GB)
(Boston) Parker, Horatio W.: Three Words. November 22, 1899. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(Boston) Wahlgemuth, Gustav, arranged by: Secret Love. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
(Boston) Williams, C. Lee: Song of the Pedlar. Premier mentioned in the November 23, 1899 Advertiser review. NEW, not on lists.
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. The familie’s regular Lang Sunday afternoon open houses/musicales were listed under “Events In Society” on the “Personal and Social Gossip” page of the Sunday Herald. March 5. Musicale. Mrs. B. J. Lang, 8 Brimmer street. 4.[PM] (Herald (March 5, 1893): 23, GB) There were also 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 had 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)
The 22nd. Annual Meeting was held at the club’s rooms, 2A Park Street on Tuesday afternoon, June 7. Those elected were: President-Arnold A. Rand; Vice President-George H. Chickering; Clerk-Arthur Reed; Treasurer-Charles Howard; Librarian-John N. Danforth, and Musical Director-B. J. Lang. (Journal (June 8, 1892): Vol. LIX, GB) For all the years that Lang conducted this group, he only had a year-to-year contract!
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. For the audience a 20-page program/libretto with four pages of photos was available. Published by Edward Schuberth & Co. in New York, it had the German and English texts translated by John P. Johnson side-by-side.” 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: 1892-1893.
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)
Dvorak as he would have looked to the choir. From Music Magazine, September 1893. Johnston Collection.
“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)
On March 5 and 8, 1893, for a “Miscellaneous Program with Orchestra,” Margaret Ruthven Lang prepared a second “orchestral accompaniment” for Estudiantina by Paul Lacome. (Yearbook, Vol. 10, 15) The first arrangement had been made and performed December 6, 1889. (Program-Johnston Collection) “Miss Lang’s second scoring of the accompaniment of Lacome’s Estudiantina is very effective-the first was quite good enough, for matter of that-and shows no little skill in handling the orchestra.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) (Why did Margaret destroy all her orchestral pieces?) The first half of the concert was Bruch’s Scenes from Frithiof’s Saga (with orchestra), which was “a work ever welcome, perhaps the best thing the composer ever did.” (Ibid) There was also a piece by John R[einhold, 1859-1925) Lund entitled March to Battle for choir and orchestra. “Of the pieces with orchestra Estudiantina was the most successful and required an encore. In the Frithiof the voices were overburdened by the players, so that much, if not most, of the vocal effect was lost. A most questionable arrangement of singers and players was had by which the forces were divided, the voices being on the left of the conductor, and the instruments on the right.” (Globe, Davenport undated review). This proved to be very unsatisfactory. The Gazette also mentioned the awkward placement of singers and orchestra. Pieces by Chadwick and MacDowell were also performed. The Gnome Dance by Mr. MacDowell, is a quaint and exceedingly clever idea, worked out with fine skill and humor, and Mr. Chadwick’s The Boy and the Owl is delightful fooling. Both compositions were cordially received. MacDowell did not attend the concert and he regretted this as it was reported that his piecee had an “enormous success.” This was confirmed in an unusual manner. When MacDowell later met Chadwick he was looking very sour (Chadwick’s piece had followed MacDowell’s). (Bomberger, MacD, 176) “Miss Lang’s orchestral arrangement of Lacome’s Estudiantina shows admirable understanding of instrumental effects, and is an able and a dainty bit of work, that was redemanded and repeated.” (Gazette, undated and unsigned review) Philip Hale mentioned that Lang had to turn to face the orchestra and then turn back to direct the choir. “As a result there was a lack of precision, and the orchestra, as a rule, overpowered the singers.” (Journal (March 9, 1893): 10, GB) Hale then suggested his solution: “The singers should be close to the audience; the orchestra should be seated on an inclined platform behind the singers. Then the conductor can control the men; he can govern the singers and subdue the noble rage of the players.” (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.
Lang was now a free-lance piano instructor as he had been “let go” in the summer of 1891 by the new Director of the New England Conservatory, Carl Faelten who had taken over upon the death of the founder, Eben Tourjee. Faelten “had severed ties with some of Boston’s most prestegious musicians, including Carl Zerrahn, B. J. Lang and Eugene Thayer, insisting on full-time teachers.” (McPherson, 50) He quickly established his own private studio and his reputation attracted an audience as mentioned below. “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)