RICHARD STRAUSS IN BOSTON.
Lang had done many performances of Strauss’ Enoch Arden during 1902 which showed that he was famiiliar with the works of Richard Strauss. At the Symphony Hall recital that the composer gave with his wife and Mr. David Bispham late in March 1904, both B. J. and Rosamond were in attendance. It was a very “social” affair with all the major families being present. The social reporter wrote: “Mme. Strauss de Abna was looking finely in her Cleopatra robe of white satin, with a tunic of white lace. The unlined lace yoke was spangled with gold and outlined with dark embroidery.” (Herald (April 3, 1904): 34, GB) Later in the month “His friends, countrymen and symphony orchestra members gave him a pleasant evening.” (Herald (April 20, 1904): 2, GB) A reception and dinner was given at the Hotel Lenox for about 80. “Among the most noted persons present were prominent officers of thr German societies around Boston, members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, B. J. Lang…and many others.” (Herald (April 20, 1904): 2, GB)
B. J. (teacher-aged 65) and Rosamond (teacher-aged 24) returned from Europe (Liverpool) on the REPUBLIC arriving September 2, 1904. (Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943) Also listed just above B. J. was John H. Gutterson, age 39, teacher, and after Margaret was Mr. F. H. B. Byrne and Miss Alice S. Larkin. Bryne had traveled with B. J. during the summer of 1897.
THE CECILIA: 1904-1905.
The opening concert of the season was on Monday evening December 12, 1904. The work was La Damnation de Faust by Berlioz, but conducted by the French conductor, Edouard Colonne (1838-1910). He was known for his interest in Berlioz when that composer was better known in Germany and England than in France. He also supported Wagner and Saint-Saens, two composers also championed by Lang. As the choir had sung this work less than a year and one-half before, the notes were probably well in place. The performance was dedicated to Franz Liszt in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth. The program book of 24 pages included the complete text in English and an unsigned program note of two pages. On the program’s back page was an announcement of the next concert-the Requiem by Dvorak to be given February 6, 1905. (Program, Johnston Collection)
It was the custom to print the financial data of each family in Boston-both the worth of the real estate and also the personal worth were included. The figures for the Lang family were:
Real Estate Personal Estate
1890 $21,500 $65,000
1900 $21,300 $90,000
1901 $23,100 $95,000
1902 $21,300 $100,000
1904 $21,200 $110,000
1905 $21,200 $115,000 Figures from the Herald of each year.
6 NEWBURY STREET STUDIOS.
In 1905 Lang faced eviction from his studio at 153 Tremont Street as the building was “to be torn down in 10 days.” He listed his studio instrument for sale: “New splendid church organ, built by Hastings for B. J. Lang’s studio. Is for sale at $950; unprecedented opportunity for a church; 2 banks of keys, 2 1/2 octave pedals, 18 registers; warranted in perfect condition.” (Herald (April 15, 1905): 14, GB). Lang then bought 6 Newbury Street, which became his teaching studios and also the studios of many of his pupils after he made extensive improvements. The property, which adjoined the St. Botolph Club, had been a private home. “It is one of the very few Back Bay estates on Newbury Street that has an extensive frontage, being a four-story octagon brown-stone front brick house.” (Globe (April 30, 1905) 46)
RUTH BURRAGE ROOM-MOVED.
In 1905 came the announcement that the Ruth Burrage Room was now located in the Steinert Hall building with the pianos and the use of the room being a gift from Messrs. M. Steinert & Sons. With its library of “four-hand and eight-hand music for two pianos intended for the use of persons who play such music tolerably well at first sight…Information about the rules for the use of the room may be obtained from Mr. B. J. Lang, 6 Newbury Street.” Since the library had first opened, there were frequent additions which came from the Miss Ruth Burrage bequest. (Herald (September 24, 1905) 37, GB) An earlier article in April 1905 has mentioned that the scores would be available “as a free circulating library at Mr. Lang’s new studio, 6 Newbury Street.” (Herald (April 23, 1905): 38, GB) Certainly having Steinert host the library and provide the pianos was a much better solution.
THE CECILIA: 1905-1906.
The 165th. Concert of the choir was on Monday evening, December 11, 1905 where Bruckner’s Te Deum was given its first Boston performance. Also on the program was The Blessed Damozel by Debussy and The Departure of Hiawatha by Coleridge-Taylor. This last work had been premiered in London in 1900 and later that year first sung in Boston by the Cecilia. The highlights of the Monday, February 5, 1906 concert were listed as Saint Mary Magdalen (Boston premier) by d’Indy, The Waters of Babylon by Loeffler together with a Bach motet and a capella pieces by Dvorak, Parker, McCunn and Franck. (Program: Johnston Collection)
For the third concert of the 1905-1906 season the group presented a mixed program which featured the cantata St. Mary Magdalene by Vincent d’Indy who had recently visited Boston. Miss Rose O’Brien was the mezzo soloist with the piano and organ accompaniment provided by “Miss Ingraham and Mr. Whelpley respectively, and [which] added much to the effectiveness of the whole.” (Globe (February 7, 1906): 4) The reviewer called the concert “another artistic success” which could be “placed to the credit of Mr. Lang’s well-drilled organization.” (Ibid) Philip Hale found the “soloists unsatisfactory,” but he did note that “Some are inclined to sniff at a concert of part songs, and many so not realize the fact that the diligent practice of such music is necessary to the health if a chorus….The fine qualities of the Cecilia chorus were shown in full last evening in the part songs…for the music of these pieces called for delicate gradations of tone and rhetorical and poetic effects as well as for euphony, sonority and scrupulous accuracy in attack and intonation.” Hale did not care for the d’Indy: “it has little or no importance.” (Herald (February 7, 1906): 7, GB)
On Monday evening April 2, 1906 The Cecilia Society presented La Vie du Poete (The Life of the Poet) by the French composer Gustave Charpentier which was scored for chorus solo, voices, three orchestras and organ-Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist. Also on the program was Taillefer, a Ballade by Richard Strauss which used chorus, solo voices and orchestra. The Charpentier had been premiered in Paris during the 1892-93 season where it had five performances. The Strauss had first been performed at Heidelberg in 1903 with the first American performance being given by the New York Oratorio Society in 1905. This was its Boston premier according to the Globe. (Globe (February, 7, 1906): 4). The Charpentier was also probably a Boston premier, but the program book does not say this. (Johnson, First lists neither)(Program, Johnston Collection).
LAST CECILIA CONCERT.
Lang’s final concert with The Cecilia was on April 9, 1907 when he led John Paine’s opera, Azara. In spite of “extraordinary unpleasantness of the weather,” the concert had “the aspect of a gala event.” (Globe (April 10, 1907): 9) The work was composed during Paine’s leisure time during the decade 1890-1900, but “it has never been found practicable, for one reason or another, to stage it as yet.” (Ibid) How appropriate that Lang should make a “World Premier” the content of his last concert! One of the headlines for the Globe review said: “Presentation Fitting Climax for Director Lang’s Work.”(Ibid) Wagnerian in style, “the work contains much of recitative and yet frequent passages of exquisite melody that deeply stirred the auditors.”(Ibid) The “American Grove Works List” gives the date of May 7, 1903 for a concert performance of this work; it also gives the composition dates as 1883-98 with a publication date of 1901 by a firm in Leipzig. (AM Grove, Vol. III, 461) Paine did not live to hear Lang’s performance-he had died on April 26, 1906. (Ibid) Philip Hale’s review mentioned that 60 players from the Boston Symphony accompanied the work. (Herald (April 10, 1907): 7, GB) He also mentioned that Paine had seen the work published and had hoped to see the work “performed either in the Metropolitan Opera House or in some theatre of Germany,” but this was not to be. “The composer died having heard only performances of the ballet music and other excerpts.” (Ibid) This would seem to contradict the May 7, 1903 performance mentioned above. “Mr. Lang was welcomed when he came upon the stage by warm and long continued applause. There were other demonstrations of the good will entertained toward him by the Cecilia audiences and of the appreciation of his services in the cause of music during his long and honorable career as conductor of the society.” (Ibid)
RESIGNS FROM THE CECILIA. RAISED $1,000,000+ FOR THE ENDOWMENT.
In the spring of 1907, Lang retired as conductor of The Cecilia Society. He was then 69. “On May 9, 1907, upon his retirement after 33 years service, he was presented a hall clock from the chorus and bound volumes of Cecilia programs from the directors.” (Hill, History, 10) The Globe article called the gift “a magnificent mahogany hall clock standing about eight feet high and furnished with all the fashionable attachments such as moon and tide indicators.” (Globe (May 3, 1907): 9) Dr. Henry C. Baldwin credited Lang “with having placed the Cecilia at the head of the list of singing societies of its kind.” (Ibid) An article in Herald dated January 25, 1907 entitled “Lang Will Give Up Baton of Cecilia” mentioned that his leadership had spanned 31 years [or 33, see above] and was ending with B. J. helping to raise $40,000 as an endowment fund (The same as raising c. $1,070,000 in 2018)- $5,000 of this was contributed by Lang himself (c. $133,500 in 2018)(Transcript article January 25, 1907), and he added another $1,000 to this fund in his will. “The result of his work in raising the endowment fund which he has just completed will be his leave-taking of the society whose concerts he has conducted since its organization.” (Herald, Friday January 25, 1907) “On 25 January, the day after Benjamin Johnson Lang’s retirement from the Cecilia conductorship, the Transcript ran an article titled ”Two Musical Generations.” Lang, it acknowledged, was the last link between the current musical generation in Boston and that of thirty or forty years before. ”Boston is a larger, more diversified formal life now. The change was inevitable. It is part of the broadening, richer, and more aesthetically hungry life of a democratic new America.” Bostonians continued to struggle with the transition. By 1923 Loeffler was disgusted: ”Boston is getting stuffier and stuffier and will soon graduate to the astounding grade of ‘the largest village on earth'” (Fox, Rebellious Tradition, 230)
Elson, writing in the Advertiser, gave his view of Lang’s leadership of the Cecilia Society: “The history of the Cecilia Society will show that no other choral society in America has been so active in producing new works. If the Handel and Haydn Society made musical history in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Cecilia Society certainly did this in the last half.” (Elson quoted in the Musical America (April 27, 1907): 4)
Many eminent guest-conductors had led the group including “Bruch in 1882, Parker in 1889, Dvorak in 1892, Henschel in 1902 and Colonne in 1904.” (Pratt, 156) To mark the end of his conductorship, the chorus asked B. J. if they could present a concert in his honor. As President of the group Arthur Foote wrote on March 16, 1907:
Dear Mr. Lang,
Thirty-one years ago, the Cecilia Society began its concerts under your direction. The Society desires to express to you in some way its appreciation of what you have been, and what you are to it and to the cause of music in Boston. The directors therefore ask you to allow them to give a concert in your honor, at such time and in such circumstances as may be agreeable to you.
Lang’s answer of March 18 was:
Dear Mr. Foote,
I thank the Cecilia most heartily for its kind proposal of a concert in my honor. If the Society will sing at a performance of the Children’s Crusade, it will give Pierne’s beautiful work in a peculiarly fitting way, and give great pleasure to… Yours sincerely, B. J. Lang.
An article in the Globe wrote of the upcoming concert: “Rarely has a combination of pleasant events, creditable enthusiasms and worthy objects come together for hard work more happily than in the plan for a concert next Wednesday night in Symphony Hall in honor of B. J. Lang, on his retirement from the conductorship of the Cecilia Society…No musician in Boston is better known or more loved than he.” (Globe (April 14, 1907): ?) The concert was given on Wednesday night, April 17, 1907 to benefit the Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children by the Cecilia Society, nine soloists, a chorus of 100 children, and sixty players from the Boston Symphony. Tickets were $2, $1.50, and $1, and could be ordered from the fifteen members of the Auxiliary Board of Managers that included Mrs. John L. Gardner of Fenway Court. The “audience and chorus arose to welcome Mr. Lang as he came to the conductor’s stand. He was forced to bow repeatedly, and it was only after prolonged applause that the performance could begin. After the second movement of the work, the moment’s intermission was much protracted by the presentation of flowers and wreaths, and the enthusiasm was repeated at the close of the performance.” (Herald (April 18. 1907): 9, GB) The Herald’s Social Life page described Lang “standing before a sympathetic, distinguished and deeply interested audience…There was no speechmaking, only graceful bending of the head in acknowledgement. Everyone seemed to feel the deep significance of the occasion, and Mr. Lang must certainly have been gratified by such a tribute, evidently so heartfelt. ” (Herald (April 21, 1907): 27, GB) Then followed a long list (66 lines!) of socially important people and what the women wore, with it noteing that “Mrs. B. J. Lang, in black voile with white lace, and Miss Rosamond Lang, in gray with lace of the same tone” were in the audience. (Ibid) Margaret was not mentioned-was she singing in the choir?
Photo 1907 by Odin Fritz. (Herald (April 18, 1907): 9,GB)
The success of the Children’s Crusade is reflected by other later performances of the work. Four years later: “Thursday evening, February 16  is the date set for the second concert of the Cecilia Society and the Boston Symphony under the leadership of Max Fiedler. The work to be given then will be Gabriel Pierne’s musical legend The Children’s Crusade that the Cecilia has given twice in recent years with much success. In addition to the chorus of the Cecilia Society, there will be a chorus of 100 children and the entire Symphony orchestra will be employed. Edmond Clement, the distinguished French tenor, will make his first appearance in concert in Boston on that occasion. (Globe (January 29, 1911): 49)
Lang continued to support the Cecilia through attending its concerts. In March 1909, under a social column headline of “Cecilia Concert Attracts Usual Brilliant Company” included “Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Dixey, Mrs. Dixey in black liberty with white lace…Mr. Arthur Foote and his daughter, Miss Katharine Foote…Miss Frances Horton, whose niece, Miss Phyllis Robbins (one of the best singers in the Vincent Club),[owner of the farm in New Boston that Malcolm eventually bought] is a member of the Cecilia chorus…Mr. B. J. Lang and his daughter, Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang…Benjamin Whelpley and George W. Chadwick.” (Herald (March 28, 1909): 31, GB)
KING’S CHAPEL VESPER SERVICES.
Several writers mentioned the beautiful, moving services that Lang prepared for the Sunday afternoon Vespers during his time at King’s Chapel. The Herald gave specifics of one such service. “The vespers at King’s Chapel last Sunday drew a large and fashionable audience. Mr. Lang gave parts of the [Bach] Passion music, including a bass aria sung by Mr. Cartwright, with a violin obbligato by Miss Bessie Collier, and the beautiful soprano air sung by Mrs. Rice with a flute accompanying.” (Herald (March 24, 1907): 34, GB)
AMERICAN MUSIC EDUCATION.
In 1907 Lang was interviewed in an article entitled “The Advance of Musical Education in America” written by H. J. Storer. Lang recalled the musical situation in Boston c. 1860. “On my return to America, I began teaching and playing in Boston, and for fifty years I have been active. There was absolutely nothing in the way of a musical atmosphere here in those early days. I was successful from the start, perhaps owing to enthusiasm, with a natural aptitude for doing pioneer work at a time when things were ripe for musical development. My enthusiasm led me to carry through projects to which I had set myself to carry through, and felt they must succeed. In this way I gave the first performance of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust and the Requiem, several concert performances of Wagner’s Parsifal, Brahms” Requiem, and other works, most of which were, I believe, played for the first time in America as well as Boston. I have also played for the first times at least two score or more concertos for piano and orchestra, besides introducing a large number of other piano works.” (Storer, article) Lang further recalled that “When I was young, perhaps I was the only one in Boston who could play certain of the larger works for piano and orchestra; now you may find many, even among those living on the back streets, who can play such works fairly well. Here, at least, is an evidence of the advance that has been made during my years of teaching. In these days the student need not go to Europe for technical training of any sort; he can get it here, – all he needs.” (Ibid)
To honor Lang’s 70th. Birthday the Globe ran an extensive article that covered aspects of his whole career beginning with his early teachers, his various organ positions: “I’ve been paid for going to church ever since I was 12 years old.” (Globe (December 22, 1907): 33) Also covered were his major conducting responsibilities, his extensive piano-teaching career, and his musical wife and children. “When a mere boy Salem, his father being taken suddenly ill, young Lang was at a moment’s notice obliged to take so many pupils that every day and every hour were devoted to teaching.” The interviewer probably asked him to state the reasons for his success.” He has been long accustomed to making each moment count. With constant industry and a marked business ability, he has prospered in a material way and no doubt his life-long abstemious habits have enabled him to carry his endless list of pupils. Few artists live to the age of 70 without the use of spirits, tobacco, tea or coffee, as Mr. Lang has done.” (Ibid) A year later, under a headline of “B. J. LANG 71 YEARS OLD” the article was much shorter, but it did mention that “Mr. Lang is in excellent health and full of vigor and energy.” The next paragraph noted the many pupils, both “past and present” who had called at Lang’s studio at 6 Newbury Street or sent good wishes “by mail and telegraph…A profusion of flowers bore evidence of the widespread regard in which he is held by those nearer home.” (Globe, December 29, 1908, p. 3) The Herald headline was “Benjamin Johnson Lang Felecitated on his 70th. Birthday…Aside from a family celebration at his home on Brimmer Street the night before, Mr. Lang observed the event very quietly…”There is nothing to say except that I am very grateful to my friends for remembering what an old man I am”…On Sunday evening he was one of the chief speakers at the memorial service for Mr. Daniels, [Mabel Daniels” father] late president of the Handel and Haydn Society, which organization Mr. Lang has served for more than 30 years as organist, conductor and now as honorary member.” (Herald (December 29, 1908): 14, GB)
MASTER OF ARTS DEGREE FROM HARVARD.
B. J. was one of two Master of Arts Degree recipients at the 1908 Harvard graduation ceremonies. President Eliot read the degree citation: “Benjamin Johnson Lang, musician and composer, church organist at 15; as teacher, organist and conductor for many years the servant and guide of the best singing societies in Boston.” (Herald (June 25, 1908): 14, GB) The Journal had a one-line comment: “Harvard did well to honor Benjamin Johnson Lang, the greatest single power for good that music has had in Boston for many and many a year.” (Journal (June 25, 1908) 6, GB)
FINAL CONDUCTING APPEARANCE.
“His last appearance as a conductor was on Feb. 12, 1909, when he conducted the BSO and a chorus at a Lincoln Memorial Service at Symphony Hall.” (Pratt, 268) The chorus numbered 200. Lang conducted the same music from Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise that he had conducted almost fifty years before at the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. “It was fitting that in it should have been the scene: ”Watchman, will the night soon pass?” ”The night is departing, the day is approaching.”” (Transcript article May 1, 1909) Lang was presented with a bronze bas-relief of Abraham Lincoln mounted on a base of green marble by the chorus which took part in the Lincoln exercises sponsored by the city at Symphony Hall on Feb. 12, 1909. This was a copy of the well-known head of Lincoln by V. D. Brenner done in 1907. The inscription said: “B.J. Lang, from the Chorus at the 100th. Lincoln Anniversary, 1909.”
THE CECILIA AFTER LANG.
That bright future and the emphasis on new works was continued during the conductorship of Arthur Fiedler who prepared the chorus for the world premier of Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms which had been commissioned by Kousevitsky and the BSO and presented on December 19 and 20, 1930. “The Boston Symphony introduced new works before 1930, but it rarely-if ever-commissioned them. Even before the turn of the century the orchestra gave the world premiers of many American works, mostly by Boston composers, and, of course, American premiers of the newest compositions from Europe. Serge Kousevitzky’s decision to commission a groups of new pieces from the leading composers of the day to celebrate the orchestra’s first half-century began a tradition that continues to the present.” (Ledbetter. Program Note, Symphony of Psalms) Kousevitzky believed in the work so much that he repeated it in the same season on February 20 and 21, 1931, and also at the New York concerts of March 5 and 7, 1931. Further performances, all with the Cecilia Society Chorus were performed in 1932, 1936, 1939 and 1942. (Ibid)
Thompson, Life of Ethelbert Nevin, 27.
B. J. died at his home on April 4, 1909 at 8 Brimmer Street (his home for the last twenty-five years-he also had a summer home on 600 acres in New Boston, New Hampshire, “passing away just as the bell in a nearby church was striking the hour of 9″ after suffering from a heavy cold for three weeks that turned into four days of pneumonia; his three children were at his bedside, but his wife was confined to her bed due to a fractured leg that had happened three weeks before while returning from church. He was 71 years old.” [71 Years, 3 Months, 7 Days-Death Certificate] The Death Certificate listed the Primary Causes of Death as: Lobar Pneumonia for 4 days and Pericarditis (Sack around the heart) for 2 days. A Contributory Cause was Osteitis Deformans (Paget’s Disease-enlarged bones-a form of arthritis) which he had been suffering with for an unspecified number of years.
On Wednesday night he had attended the opera. Though he wasn’t feeling well, he wished to accompany his daughter to the performance and the next morning he was unable to rise from his bed.” (Herald, Obituary, April 5, 1909) “It is told the Listener that on Palm Sunday evening, while B. J. Lang was dying, the quartet at the Old South were singing the Hymn of Praise, which he (probably for the first time) did at the original Old South thirty or forty years ago.” (Gould clippings) Less than a week later, at the BSO concerts of Apr. 8 and 10, Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music was played in his memory. The Mozart opened the program, and was followed by world premier of Chadwick’s Theme, Variations, and Fugue for organ and orchestra. Also on the program was another Boston premier, “Spring” from Musical Picture for Orchestra Opus 34 by Glazounoff. How appropriate that the concert should include two premiers-this was probably more a tribute to the work of bringing new music to Boston done by B. J. than was the playing of the Mozart.
The various obituaries contained a variety of mis-information. The Journal article of April 5 listed the three children, “Malcom, Rosmond and Mary Ruthven,” each spelled wrong. (Journal (April 5, 1909): 1 and 3, GB) It also had the dates of B. J.’s organ positions incorrect with him being “at the Old South Church for twenty years, and following this he played for a short time at Dr. Everett Hale’s South Congregational Church.” (Ibid) The article in the Herald of the same date was longer than that in the Journal, and much more detailed, however it did list Margaret as Mary. (Herald (April 5, 1909): 1, GB)
The funeral at King’s Chapel included music sung from the galleries by the groups with which B. J. had been associated; the Cecilia Society, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Apollo Club with Wallace Goodrich (who succeeded Lang as conductor of the Cecilia Society) from Trinity Church as the organist. The “volume of sound produced by so many trained voices probably never before was heard in King’s Chapel… Void of all display, save for quantities of beautiful flowers, and with as simple a service as possible, the funeral of Benjamin J. Lang, musician, teacher and conductor, was held this forenoon. The service took place at eleven o’clock from King’s Chapel, and long before the time for opening the doors, a crowd awaited an opportunity to pay reverence.”
Rev. Howard N. Brown, minister of the church where Mr. Lang had so long been in charge of music, met the body at the porch. Over the black broadcloth casket was thrown a purple pall, on which rested several fronds of sago palm, this final preparation having been made by Mrs. John L. Gardner, who, with a few assistants, had previously arranged the mass of floral tributes around the casket.” (Funeral notice-Transcript, Apr. 9, 1909) The Journal added: Mrs. Gardner placed a large floral harp of roses and ferns sent by the Boston Symphony in a central position and then arranged other “choice pieces” from the Handel and Haydn Society, the Cecilia Society, the Apollo Club, and the Baermann Club around it. She also placed a purple pall over the coffin while it was in the vestibule “before the body was borne into the sanctuary.” (Journal (April 8, 1909):. 7, GB) The three children sat in the front row, but Frances could not attend because of her recent fall. Except for accompanying the hymns, the organ was silent, “as though its very silence were a mute tribute to him whose fingers were so familiar with every detail of its keyboard.” (Transcript, Op. cit.) The hymns were the choruses O’er The Strife and Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand accompanied by Wallace Goodrich.
Various newspaper reports mention those in attendance who included the crème de la crème of Boston musical, literary and artistic life: A. Lawrence Lowell, President elect of Harvard; the Manger and Assistant Manager of the Boston Symphony and its founder, Maj. Higginson; organists George Whiting, Benjamin J. Whelpley, Arthur Foote, E Cutter, Jr., H. G. Tucker and S. B. Whitney; Mrs. John L. Gardner (Isabella Stuart Gardner); Miss Elizabeth Porter, Courtney Guild and Clayton Johns. (Herald (April 8, 1909): 3, GB) A further article in the Herald gave the names of additional attendees: Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Dixey, Mr. and Mrs. Henry M Rogers (Clara Doria), A. Wadsworth Longfellow, Timothee Adamowski, Ralph Adams Cram, and H. L. Burrage. (Herald (April 11, 1909): 28, GBB)
Many articles appeared soon afterwards. The Herald wrote a wonderful summation of Lang’s life and work:
The Globe ran an extensive article just one day after Lang’s death. “He loved all music that was good, making no arbitrary distinctions against any school or composer, and in the last half-century probably introduced more new music into this country than did any other one man. In his devotion to music, and trained appreciation of what is best, his many-sided ability, he held a place that will not be easy to fill.” This same article also mentioned that Lang was a member the “Thursday Club, the St. Boltoph Club and several New York social organizations…He had had the personal acquaintance of Wagner and Liszt, Sir Sterndale Bennett and Michael Costa, Rubinstein, Widor and Saint-Saens. And on his more than 30 trips to Europe he made the acquaintance of nearly every present-day musician of prominence abroad. (Globe (April 5, 1909): 1)
The Transcript article, entitled “The Distinction of Mr. Lang,” centered on the fact that “From the beginning to the end his working world was the little world of Boston and no other.” The article began with: “It was the paradox and the distinction of Mr. Lang’s career that while he did all his work in a single city and was little known elsewhere, the range of was wider than that of any other choral conductor of his time in America, and perhaps in all Europe.” The two groups that he led were mentioned and the Cecilia was highly praised. “By years of training he brought the Cecilia in particular to the accuracy, the finesse, the elegance of choral singing that have made it unusual among such choirs.” Of his work as a pianist: “As a concert pianist of the sixties and seventies, he had been quick to add new pieces to his repertory.” This emphasis on new works also applied to the choral groups that he conducted. “To Mr. Lang our public owes a long line of choral pieces that it might not otherwise have heard and that traverses the whole course of modern and ultra-modern choral from Berlioz and Schumann through Strauss and Debussy. To him no less it owes its first adequate performances of such great masterpieces as the two great masses of Bach and Beethoven. From him came its first knowledge of Wagner’s Parsifal, albeit in concert form, and, at the ”production concerts” of the nineties, its first acquaintance with the orchestral music of Debussy, and of other daring composers who were battling for a hearing…Few, if any, in Europe in our time have matched his record in the number and the interest of these compositions.” (Transcript)
The day that Lang died, George Whitefield Chadwick, at that time the head of the New England Conservatory, wrote in his Diary: “April 4th. B. J. Lang died this evening of pneumonia after an illness of four days. He had been losing his grip for two or three months and his time had come. He died peacefully and without suffering, seventy-one years old. Probably there never was a more ambitious man than B. J. Lang. He had excellent talent, especially for the technical side of piano playing, great perceptive powers and good brains for study. There was not a lazy bone in him, and he accomplished more by his energy and indomitable will-power than many people can do with genius. His playing was interesting musically and at times, when he forgot his mannerisms, powerful and effective. He was ambitious as a composer and is credited in Scribner’s Encyclopedia with having composed oratorios, symphonies and other large works, although I never have met anyone who ever has seen or heard any of them. He was a loyal friend to any one who needed him, even to those who had no claims to his friendship, and his personal life was that of a true-hearted, cultured, decent gentleman, a type of musician none too common in this day and generation. He had some bitter pills to swallow in his life, and one of them was to be succeeded by me as organist of the South Congregational Church where he had been organist for a very great number of years. He had his revenge however for they ”fired” me out subsequently!. On March 21st. he wrote to me ‘You ought to thank God for your sense of humor, and it is always good-humor too.’ We were always good friends in spite of a few spats, in which I think that he always got the worst of it, but liked me all the better for it.” (Chadwick, Unpublished Memoirs) Chadwick had known Lang professionally and personally for over thirty years. A second entry dated Wednesday, April 7th. noted: “Funeral of Mr. Lang at King’s Chapel; very simple and dignified; no music except the congregational hymns. Wallace Goodrich played the organ.” (Op. cit.)
Reginald C. Robbins writing on November 5, 1909 very effusively sees B. J.’s role as a local and national one. “Primarily and professionally a musician, Mr. Lang was throughout his long and wonderful career, as genuinely, as effectually musical as any man of his generation. In every department of musical technique an expert, in every side of musical life an active, organizing and leading force, he has impressed upon the culture of this city and his nation an insight and power which demonstrate beyond the possibility of cavil the presence in this person of musical talent, of musical genius, of musical inspiration as the dominating spiritual meaning of every moment of his life. And with this mighty contribution to the sum of our civilization only addition and extra praise to Mr. Lang can accrue, when we consider in him a conduct and character equally admirable… Musician wholly, he was also kindness counselor and most discerning friend.” (undayted, no newspaper noted)
A short newspaper article entitled “Here in Boston” told that “A little bunch of lilies of the valley was sent to Symphony Hall, on Saturday, with a note unsigned and requesting that they be laid in the seat-in the second row of the first balcony on the right near the stage-that the late Mr. Lang had occupied for many years at the evening concerts. The request was fulfilled, the flowers remained on the seat through the evening, and they were then sent with a word of explanation to Mr. Lang’s family.” (Undated article)
An article by Frances E. F. Cornish in the April 22, 1909 Christian Register entitled “Mr. Lang as Church Organist” said: “During the last week in Boston words of just praise for the wonderful life and character of Mr. B. J. Lang have been spoken, -words which while they show love and appreciation can but faintly express, after all, the deep sorrow and the lasting gratitude of countless people. Mr. Lang’s personality was in truth so rich, so original, so many-sided, that when we think of him we in turn touch the inspiring teacher, the forceful leader, the generous friend, and these qualities blend into the whole character which we have loved and honored. Yet to many of us it was as organist at King’s Chapel that he was particularly close. Here he was not the interpreter of the music of others, but expressed himself: here his powers were especially and intimately revealed. Those who have worshipped in the churches where he played have realized how truly music may be the handmaiden of the Lord. To very many souls, seeking after spiritual comfort, his playing brought uplift and peace. Who that has heard his aspiring improvisations-a form of expression in which his genius was peculiarly happy-can ever forget the moments of solemn beauty, the exquisite harmony that seemed like the breath of a living creature, the triumphant rush of glorious sound, which swept the worshipper with it, as it seemed, into the very presence of the King of Kings.We shall never hear the like again, and in our sorrow for the loss of a friend we also deeply mourn the loss to the world, in that this creative power of radiant beauty is gone. For us all life has been enriched because of this great gift, and is the poorer for its loss.”
Even the music programmed at King’s Chapel after Lang’s death was reported in the papers: “Kings Chapel-At 10:30 A. M. Easter Psalm (chant), the Te Deum in F major, Tours; Jubilate in F major, Arthur Foote, and the choir will also sing a musical setting by Woodward of Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar in memory of Benjamin Johnson Lang, who died on Sunday, April 4, and who for so many years was organist at this place of worship. The organ numbers will include a portion of the first part of Resurrection music from Gounod’s oratorio,The Redemption, and for a postludium the chorale Unfold, ye Portals from this same work. Choir-Mrs. Alice Bates Rice, soprano; Mrs. Bertha Cushing Child, contralto; George Deane, tenor; Earl Cartwright, baritone.” (Newspaper notice)
B. J.’s career and standing in the musical community was probably best summed up by the remarks of Margaret who at the age of 95 wrote to Barbara Owen that “He was an example in all ways: honor, uprightness, and principle… he has left with me a standard of cultivated beauty.”(Owen, 59) But, Foote had already written over 65 years earlier that “Lang was a musician of great gifts and very versatile; a composer of originality, who would have been considered one of our leading men had he published.” (Foote, Auto., 45) In a 1911 article Margaret “said that the last work with which he [B. J.] was interesting himself [just before his death] was the translation from the Italian of a book on Gregorian music.” (Christian Science monitor, March 25, 1911) She also noted that the last work he conducted with the Cecilia Society was by a contemporary French composer.
B. J.’s concern extended beyond his own pupils. “”B. J.” as we liked to call him, was never weary of doing kind things, quietly. He was President of the Oliver Ditson Fund For Needy Musicians, and it was astonishing to see the amount of time and trouble that he would take in investigating cases of destitution; he insisted on first knowing that an applicant for aid was deserving, and when that was the case no amount of pains was too great for him to take. In matters of that sort a good heart is not enough, there must be a good head, too. In that charity his keen intelligence as well as sympathy will be sorely missed.”(Transcript, May 1, 1909)
An obituary article in the Springfield Massachusetts newspaper had a couple of negative comments: “His gift was not for the piano, where his touch was faulty and lacking in delicacy. He was much more at home at the organ, and his church work was quite as important as his directing of choruses. As a drillmaster of singers he had much success, and was a great favorite with his choruses; with the orchestral instruments he was never on such easy terms. As a teacher he was popular and successful, and he was a social favorite. In all these ways he exerted a great influence on the musical life of Boston, surviving from the old simple days which John Sullivan Dwight has depicted in his critiques into the most complicated and sophisticated musical Boston of the 20th. century.” (Springfield Republican (April 5, 1909): 5, GB) Certainly this last comment was a very important one, for throughout his career Lang kept up with the changes in the musical world universal. His interest in French music in his later years was reflected in his conducting of Debussy for the Chickering Concerts.
The Journal obituary mentioned that among “Mr. Lang’s personal friends were Wagner, Liszt, Rubinstein and Saint-Saens.” It also mentioned : “For twenty-five years [from c. 1884] he has lived in Brimmer Street, Boston, having also a summer home with 600 acres in New Hampshire.” (Journal (April 5, 1909): 3, GB)
The Apollo Club was the first to honor Lang as they had a concert scheduled the day after Lang’s funeral. “Each program was provided with a memorial insert, giving the facts in Mr. Lang’s musical career…It is worthy of note that at this 203rd. concert the only original member of the club present at its formation by Mr. Lang in 1871, George C. Wiswell, still sings among the basses.” The final number in the concert was Gounod’s Gloria, and after that their conductor Mr. Mollenhauer led the group in Sullivan’s Long Day Closes. “The great audience stood reverently and departed silently without applause.” (Globe (April 8, 1909): 6)
The Cecilia Society gave its first concert of the 34th. Season on Thursday, December 2, 1909 as a tribute to Lang. The new conductor, Walter Goodrich chose Mozart’s Requiem and the “Grail Scene” from the first act of Parsifal. Among the soloists in the Mozart were soprano Mrs. Edith Chapman Gould and bass Leverett B. Merrill. Gould made a collection of articles about Lang which is now are part of the HMA collection, and Merrill had been Lang’s bass soloist at King’s Chapel. (Globe (December 3, 1909): 6) “The chorus of the society will be augmented on this occasion by many singers who were at one time or another [were] associated with Mr. Lang.” (Herald (November 14, 1909): 4, GB) The Herald noted: “He was happy conducting the Apollo Club; he enjoyed his seasons with the Handel and Haydn; but his heart and soul were in the Cecilia…The city owed much to Mr. Lang. He worked for musical righteousness when music was not fashionable. He knew not the word discouragement. His tact and shrewdness enabled him to enlist in his cause not only the sympathy but the substantial backing of those who were acquainted with his perseverance, industry and courage. Thus was he often enabled to bring about praiseworthy results when others might have failed.” (Herald (December 3, 1909): 8, GB)
The next night, Friday, December 3, 1909, the Harvard Musical Association remembered Lang with a “In Memoriam” Concert played by the Hoffmann Quartet: Jacques Hoffmann, First Violin; Adolf Bak, Second Violin; Karl Rissland, Viola; Carl Barth, Violincello. The concert opened with “Andante funebre e doloroso ma con moto” from Quartet Op. 30 by Tchaikovsky, and continued with Quartet in E Flat major by Dittersdorf, Quartet Op. 14 by Alexandre Winkler (first Boston performance), and finally the “First Movement-Allegro” from Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 59, No. 1. It was certainly appropriate that a first performance should be part of a program in honor of Lang.
Late in August the Herald ran a story, “TWO ESTATES APPRAISED.” It listed stocks and bonds valued at $575,037 and real estate of $59,500 which included $40,000 for studio building at 6 Newbury Street, $11,500 for the 6 Brimmer Street home and $8,000 for his father’s house at 93 Waltham Street. There were also securities of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. worth $32,226 and of the Boston Elevated Co. worth $33,250. (Herald (August 28, 1909): 11, GB)
The Cecilia Society, the Apollo Club, and the Handel and Haydn Society each received $1,000 in his will, and after other bequests, a trust fund of $150,000 was established for the benefit of his widow while each of the children also had trusts created for their benefit. The total estate valued over $600,000 (equivalent to over $12,000,000 today), a rather incredible amount for the time, especially considering his profession. An article entitled “Benjamin J. Lang Left Big Estate – Inventory Places Late Organist’s Property at Total of $634,587-About $375,000 Worth of the Property Is in Stocks and Bonds” goes on to state that “According to the inventory filed at the Suffolk Registry of Probate, the property left by B. J. Lang is estimated at $634,587.The personal property, consisting of gilt-edge stocks and bonds, is rated at $575,087, and the rel estate at &59,500. The real estate includes the property at 6 Newbury Street, $40,000; property at 8 Brimmer Street $11,500, and the house at 93 Waltham Street [which had been his father and stepmother’s home] $8,000. Two of the largest items in the personal estate are holdings in the stock of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Boston Elevated, valued at $33,226 and $33250, respectively. The appraisers are A. Palmer Browne, John L. Saltonstall and Alfred J. Rowan.” (Journal (August 28, 1909): 6, GB) Elson described him as “a perfect organizer. He was a man of enterprise beyond any European comprehension.”
In B.J.’s will (1909-#145059) he gave Margaret “my autographs of eminent people, framed and unframed and my Parsifal cup” while to Malcolm he gave “music and books, my body of programs and notes, and the Handel and Haydn Society watch.” A watch chain had been given to B. J. at a reunion of the Handel and Haydn chorus members held on June 14, 1865. Speeches were made, Gilmore’s full band performed, various gifts were presented, and F. G. Underwood “then presented to Mr. B. J. Lang, organist of the Society, a handsome gold watch chain, prefacing it with an admirable speech, to which Mr. Lang responded…The reunion was the happiest social gathering that has ever been held under the auspices of the Society.” (BMT (July 1, 1865): 100 and 101) To Rosamond he gave “Music and books remaining, my silver box of Liszt’s hair, my Cecilia silver cup… and my music watch.” $5,000 each was given to Harvard and Yale to benefit their Music departments. He further gave $10,000 each to the Handel and Haydn Society and the Cecilia Society and $5,000 to the Apollo Club.
Among the properties that were disposed of was: “In South Boston, the frame building and 3750 feet of land, all rated at $5,600, of which $3,200 is on the land at 764 East Fourth, corner of M. Street, have been purchased by Annie L. Ray, who took title from Frances M. Lang.
(Herald (December 30, 1910): 5, GB) If this is OUR FRances, it would be interesting to know why the family owned this property in the center of South Boston.
LANG’S INFLUENCE LIVES ON.
The programming of the Boston Singing Club’s 1909-10 Season reflected the model established by Lang. The first concert included Bach’s Thou Guide of Israel and the first performance of Chadwick’s Noel. The second concert was a miscellaneous selection while the final concert was Bach’s St John Passion “with Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch and others assisting with old-time instruments.” (Globe (November 28, 1909): 51) The conductor was Lang’s longtime pupil, H. G. Tucker. Mrs. Isabella Stuart Gardner donated money to the Boston Public Library to set up the “Gardner Fund in Memory of Benjamin Johnson Lang.” A special bookplate was created. (Un. of Delaware William Augusus Brewer Bookplate Collection)
HALL OF FAME.
In the fall of 1909 the Globe ran an article asking for nominations of 50 New Englanders for “Boston’s Hall of Fame.” Among the first to be nominated were Nathan Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Lang. “His devotion to all that is best in music, his pioneer work for the last 50 years in bringing new music to Boston, the influence of a truly great soul ex—ted at all times for the uplifting of musical ideals of not only Boston, but the whole country, entitle him to a lasting place in the hall of fame. Permit one of his pupils to suggest his name. Worcester, Sept. 17, R. C. R.” (Globe (September 20, 1909)