HARVARD MUSICAL ASSOCIATION. SC(G). WORD COUNT-10,821. 10/102020.
Lang premiers with this orchestra:
Schumann/Liszt – Wanderer Fantasia: February 1867
Weber/Liszt – E-flat Polonaise: April 1867
The following three works in one season:
Mozart – Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat: November 1867 (with J. C. D. Parker)
Beethoven – Concerto No. 1: January 1868
Beethoven – Triple Concerto: February 1868
Hummel – Concerto in A minor: February 1867 ???? (Johnson date) (Dwight March 2)
Rubinstein – Concerto in G major: February 1872
Schumann – Concertstuck in G minor: February 1873
Sterndale Bennett – Capriccio in E: February 1874
(Lang had played this before with just chamber accompaniment)
Hiller – Concerto No. 2 in F-sharp minor: February 1875
Saint-Saens – Concerto No. 2 in G minor: February 1876
von Bronsart – Concerto in F-sharp minor: March 1880
HARVARD MUSICAL ASSOCIATION ORCHESTRA-overview [founded soon after the 1865 festival mentioned] “had fifty to sixty players (for full modern scores)” whereas before the festival “our orchestra had run as low as twenty-four, and seldom exceeded thirty-five.”(Swan, Apthorp, 76) “The symphony concerts of the Harvard Musical Association began flourishingly, and their success went on increasing for some years. Crowded houses were the rule. This success did not, however, continue far into the seventies; the audiences began to drop off, subscriptions to decrease, and little by little the stigmata of unpopularity began to show themselves on the institution. There were several reasons for this, most, if not all, of which may be summed up in the one fact that the H. M. A. concerts were the connecting link between the old and the new musical Boston. They represented our transition period. The Association started out on pretty severe classical and conservative principles; and, when the time came for going with the current of musical thought and feeling, they continued to be strongly conservative, and even reactionary” due to the influence of John S. Wright, even though “Many influential members of the Association [Apthorp, Lang, Foote] were eager to have it join hands with what was then generally called the party of progress…No committee-man could, in the end, make head-way against his triumphant ‘system of inertia;’ the spirit of the concerts remained conservative to the end. Another reason for the growing unpopularity of the concerts was still less in the Association’s power to overcome. In 1869 Theodore Thomas began making our city flying visits with his New York orchestra, then unquestionably one of the finest in the world; and his concerts gave us Bostonians some rather humiliating lessons in the matter of orchestral technique.” Comparisons between the two orchestras only “added to the already serious unpopularity of the H. M. A. ‘Dull as a symphony concert’ almost passed into a proverb.” (Ibid) Apthorp continued to note that some new music was played but received rather coldly. When Lang showed Wilhelm Gericke the programs from the group’s 17 seasons “his astonishment at the vast field covered was unbounded. ‘I don’t see what is left for me to do!’ he exclaimed, ‘you seem to have had everything here already, much more than we ever had in Vienna!’” (Ibid)
“It was July 1837. [B. J. Lang was born December 28, 1837] Several graduates of Harvard University, ex-members of the Pierian Sodality (founded in 1808), all of them musicians, were discussing the plan of forming a society, with other Harvard graduates, to perform music among themselves, and especially to determine what they could do to encourage music at Harvard where [there] was no music department.” From this meeting came an invitation issued to “ prominent citizens of Boston” to attend an organizational meeting where the following would be discussed: “The promotion of musical taste and science in the University…cultivation of music in college…enrich the walls of Harvard with a complete musical library…[and] to prepare the way for regular musical instruction in the college.” Fifty Harvard graduates attended that first meeting in August 1837! “They drew up a constitution and by-laws, and concocted for the society the cumbersome if descriptive title of ‘The general Association of Past and Present members of the Pierian Sodality’ which title, in 1840, was mercifully changed to ‘The Harvard Musical Association.’ Yet that title is, in a sense, a misnomer since this Association never has had any connection whatsoever with Harvard University.” (Nutter, HMA Library Bulletins 3 and 4). From 1844 until December of 1849 the Association presented a series of chamber music concerts; there were six concerts per season, and the site was the Chickering Piano warehouse which Jonas Chickering provided free of charge. John S. Dwight was chiefly responsible for their success. Then, sixteen years after the chamber series had ended, in December of 1865 it was decided that a group to be known as the “Harvard Orchestra” would be formed for the purpose of giving a series of symphony concerts. “It was he (Lang) who first suggested the great series of Harvard Symphony Concerts; it was he who more than any other held the programmes up to their first high level; he has also been one of the leading subscribers since the beginning of the series. It was his influence which brought out in Boston for the first time the pianoforte concertos of Bach, and most of those of Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven, as well as the works of the newer school of Rubinstein, St. Saens, Bronsart, etc.” (Mus. Ob., 1884)
The strength of its organization was shown by the following: “(1) Disinterestedness: it was not a money-making speculation; it had no motive but good music…2. The guarantee of the nucleus of a fit audience-persons of taste and culture, subscribing beforehand making the concerts financially safe…3. Pure programmes…there should be at least one set of concerts in which we might hear only composers of unquestioned excellence…4. The guarantee to the musicians both of a better kind of work and somewhat better pay than they were wont to find.” (Dwight (Memorial History of Boston): 446)
Charles Nutter outlined the musical climate of the time: because of the Civil War music in Boston “had become almost a dry Sahara.” The Zerrahn led Philharmonic Concerts of light music has ceased, and the visits of touring groups, “once fairly numerous, were now very rare.” The choir formed by J. C. D. Parker was singing for “invited guests,” but in the area of instrumental music, only the Mendelssohn Quintette Club and the Orchestral Union, formed in 1848, were still active, but the Union “was so reduced in numbers that performances were both pathetic and ludicrous.” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 1)
At each HMA concert, a symphony by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert or Schumann was to be given. “They organized a small but good chorus and a competent orchestra, with the object of giving the Antigone chorus of Mendelssohn, the less well-known productions of Weber and Cherubini, the Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gluck’s Orpheus, etc. It was arranged to give the concerts on Thursday afternoons, from four to six, when it was late enough to light up and have the effect of an evening concert, but not too late to allow people living at a distance to get home to a late dinner. The hour was also made necessary by the fact that it was almost impossible to collect an orchestra at any other time. The plan was to give six concerts representative of the great symphonic masters.” (Howe, A Hundred, 414) Many of the musicians played in the theatres or elsewhere in the evenings. There was also a “public rehearsal Tuesday afternoons.” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 4) “The remuneration of these performers cannot be called extravagant. In a publication of ”Rules for Rehearsal” in 1866 the price paid per man for a rehearsal of two hours is given as $2.00; and for time beyond that, not exceeding one hour, $1.00.” (Ibid) There was also a stiff list of fines. “Rehearsals, unfortunately for the musicians” pockets and for the performance of the music, were often too few in number.” (Ibid)
“In 1865, when on December 28 the Harvard Orchestra opened the first season of symphony concerts, to be followed by sixteen seasons, Gen. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, Lincoln had been assassinated on April 14, and on the 15th. Andrew Johnson had taken the oath of office as President of the United States.” (HMA Bulletin No. 16, 1) But, little imagination was needed to foresee the difficulties: the scarcity of professional musicians, professional bickerings, jealousy, captious critics, an uncertain and grumbling public, financial problems. None was escaped.” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 1) Arthur Foote recorded that “The audience was mainly composed of people of the kind found in our own membership, and they were not there to be in the fashion; there were always a number of music students also, but there was no thought then of appealing to the public at large. As I remember, there were no cheap seats (twenty-five cents) as was later the case with our present orchestra. I should say that, by subscription price, tickets were a dollar, but I am not sure.” (HMA Bulletin No. 4, 2) An article in 1884 credited Lang with the creation of these concerts: “It was he who first suggested the great series of Harvard Symphony Concerts; it was he who more than any other held the programmes up to their first high level; he has also been one of the leading subscribers since the beginning of the series.” (Observer, January 26, 1884)
Gleason’s Pictorial, Saturday, December 18, 1852, 1. “The splendid new Music Hall of Boston is an ornament to our city, and is probably unsurpassed for architectural excellence and beauty in this country.” Johnston Collection.
“The first concert of the series of eight to be given under the auspices of the Harvard Musical Association took place at the Music Hall on Friday afternoon [the series had been announced for Thursday afternoons], Nov. 23. The weather was unpropitious enough, the day being dark and stormy, and the streets in the least favorable condition for pedestrians.
Frederick Childe Hassam. Across the Common.
Notwithstanding these untoward circumstances, the hall was filled with an audience of earnest lovers of music, eager to enjoy the feast of good things which the programme promised…The orchestra engaged for these concerts is large and very effective, numbering in all fifty performers, each member having been selected on the strength of his individual merits and ability as a musician, thus ensuring perfect concord and precision in the execution of the music. One noticeable feature is the great number of stringed instruments, the lack of which in many former orchestral combinations has been the cause of much complaint…In the present instance, there is a grand foundation of seven contra-basses, with a corresponding number of ”cellos and tenors, ten first and ten second violins, with the reed and brass instruments admirably proportioned to the rest of the orchestra; surely a band so carefully organized, and skillfully directed by Conductor Zerrahn, could not fail to give complete satisfaction even to those disposed to be most critical.” (BMT (December 1, 1866): 4 and 5)
Lang had worked with other orchestra groups in the years preceding 1865. In early March 1858, Lang was the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 2 in D Minor in “Another capital concert from Carl Zerrahn. It was the fourth and last of his subscription series which more nearly filled the Music Hall with listeners on Saturday evening, than either [sic] of the three preceding…The orchestra of thirty was too small for the full realization of such grand conceptions [Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony].” For the Mendelssohn Concerto, “The piano part was played with great artistic neatness and facility by Mr. B. J. Lang; his chief want seemed to be that of power of tone; many of the rapid figures we could not distinctly hear; especially of some passages for the left hand we were not sure we heard them at all; but it was, on the whole, a graceful, conscientious and most praise-worthy performance for so young [aged 20] a player, placed for the first time in so formidable a position.” (Dwight (March 6, 1858): 389) and 390) Six years later Lang played the same Mendelssohn work in “the second and last Soiree of Mr. Eichberg” which took place at Chickering Hall, “and was a considerable improvement on the first.” However, the size of the orchestra this time was only twenty-four players; “the chief want being that of the bassoon, (strange that Boston lacks bassoons).” Dwight noted that this was Lang’s second performance of the Concerto with the comment: “Mr. Lang has vastly gained as an executive and interpretative pianist since the time  alluded to.” (Dwight (March 19, 1864): 206) In the same issue, comments were made about orchestral concerts given by the Orchestral Union (no conductor mentioned) and the amateur Boston Mozart Club’s “Social Orchestral Entertainment” given at Mercantile Hall
and conducted by Mr. Carl Zerrahn. Certain problems were reflected in Dwight’s comment: “They have never acquitted themselves better; and this time the wind instruments were generally in tune.” (Ibid) A year later, the Boston Musicians’ Union presented a concert to raise funds for the “Benefit Fund for sick and needy musicians.” Close to one-hundred instrumentalists took part, but even though there were about fifty-five strings, there were also up to ten trumpets, eight horns, seven trombones, and sometimes three huge ophicleides (but still only one bassoon which played the second part with a cello playing the first bassoon part). Lang played the Andante and Capriccio Opus 22 “of Mendelssohn very beautifully on a Chickering Grand Piano of remarkable power, as well as pure sweet, musical quality, or the performance would have been lost in that place [Boston Theatre].” Dwight finished his review with the wish more such concerts be given, but with more consideration for the proper balance among orchestral sections. (Dwight (March 18, 1865): 414 and 415)
All of these experiences no doubt had a part in Lang’s push to have the Harvard Musical Association begin orchestral concerts, and it’s first concert was given on Dec. 28, 1865, with Carl Zerrahn conducting, as he did ever afterward. There were about fifty in the orchestra “with a greater proportion of strings than was usual in Boston at that time,” “The first orchestra, of fifty instruments (later increased to sixty-two) contained 8 first violins, 8 second violins, 8 violas, 5 cellos, 4 double basses, with the usual pairs of wind instruments, ”with an excellent first bassoon for a wonder,” wrote Mr. Dwight, ”and four horns. Strong hopes, even a positive promise at one time, had emboldened the Committee to expect an addition of six or eight more strings, but the men could not be got at that time.”” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 3) The first concert “included the Euryanthe Overture of Weber, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Bach Chaconne for solo violin, the Mozart G Minor Symphony, and similar entries of distinction. Even if guilty of old-fogeyism, it was all proven musical fare whose unique quality none could question.” (Hepner, 46) Nutter noted that even this new orchestra had its shortcomings: “This orchestra of 62 artists (some of them members of the theatre orchestras) were not wholly complete in its parts. Wrote Arthur Foote; ‘Where a harp was needed in the orchestra, as there was no harp player in the town, one of us would do the best he could to replace it by playing its part on an upright piano. I remember Apthorp’s performance on the cymbals when Saint-Saens’s Phaeton was played for the first time.’ Dwight continued the story in his February 17, 1866 issue: “The band were not so well up in their parts; in one instance important instruments were unwittingly or wisely silent; and this was the motive…for accepting the encore: namely, the desire to make it go better the second time-which it did-all but the aforesaid instruments of percussion.” (Dwight (February 17, 1866): 191) Apthorp was a noted music critic, not a member of the orchestra nor was Foote. On five occasions a professional oboist was imported from New York at a cost of $42 each time. “Although Mr. Apthorp appropriately speaks of this as a ‘scratch’ orchestra, there were a number of first class musicians, particularly among the strings. Bernhard Listemann, first violin, was an exceptional musician; Julius Eichberg soon became concert-master (a term Mr. Dwight felt necessary to explain to his readers) and also prominent in other matters musical; August Fries, violinist, and his gentlemanly brother, Wulf Fries, first cellist through most of the seasons and for one year in the Boston Symphony orchestra-both were members of the famous Mendelssohn Quintette; C. N. Allen, first violin; later on, Adolph Hartdegen, who had been first cellist in the Thomas Orchestra and August Kutzleb, first oboe, engaged from Leipzig, and others.” (Ibid) Arthur Foote remembered that “We were in no position to hire soloists very often, although this did sometimes happen. Boston pianists, violinists, and singers were as a rule willing to serve without being paid, while naturally members of our Association were glad to help. For instance, Lang was responsible for our hearing, for the first time, concertos of Rubinstein, Saint-Saens, Brahms, and other composers…For pianists we had in Boston, besides Dresel and Lang, Madeline Schiller, Hugo Leonhard, W. H. Sherwood, Louis Maas, John Orth, George W. Sumner, Hiram G. Tucker, John A. Preston (these last three pupils of Lang), besides, no doubt, others I do not call to mind.” (HMA Bulletin No. 4, 2)
“Over this aggregation reigned Carl Zerrahn, by profession a flutist but also an experienced conductor of several small choral societies in New England. He was a thorough musician, with a wide knowledge of classic music, ‘just the man,’ wrote Foote, ‘for an inferior orchestra.’Urbane, a firm but genial disciplinarian, much liked by his men, he conducted with authority and serenity; no dancing up and down on the podium, no wild beatings in the air of a frenzied baton; gymnastics were not welcomed by an audience in those days. He received $50 a concert. He was “six feet several inches in stature, his baton sweeping the air at the end of an arm seemingly several yards long.” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 3) The general manager (who of course was Dwight) had a better financial job if a less honorary one, for he received $600 each season. Rent of [the] Music Hall was $75 for a concert. By 1870 [the] Music Hall was crowded at each concert, yet the audience was capricious and the new music was not always pleasing to hearers lately emerged from a period of piano tinkling and flute puffing.” (Bulletin, Op. cit., 12 and 13)
Another evaluation of Zerrahn described him as “a tall, long-armed, adequate conductor…(who) having begun as a flutist, was a competent musician without much panache who had acquired a mass of orchestral experience. He had charge of the Orchestral Union, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Worcester festivals. Amiable and considerate of the limitations of the fledgling performers under his leadership, he never engaged in berating his players. Foote regarded him as ‘just the man for that time and for dealing successfully with an inferior orchestra.’” (Hepner, 42) For the second concert the Mendelssohn Antigone chorus was given by a choir of sixty that had been “excellently trained by B. J. Lang.”
At the fourth concert of the first series, March 1, 1866, a hand-written note on the program states that Lang conducted the “Double Chorus” from Mendelssohn’s Antigone. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 1)
At the fifth concert of the first series on March 22, 1866, B. J. conducted [hand-written note that he conducted on the program-BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 1] the second part of the concert that consisted of seven sections of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Music with two soloists, Miss Houston and Mrs. J. S. Cary,[who were each paid $25] and a choir of eighty women’s voices. Dwight mentioned intonation problems in the opening chords of the “Overture,” “but for the most part the instrumental pieces sounded very well.” However, Dwight felt that the choruses lacked projection: “It may have been the timidity of amateurs, or it may have been the manner in which the little choir was placed back in one corner of the stage. Yet all the music was delicious to all ears, and left a sense of airy grace and lightness, of true soul’s poetry and freedom, associated with the whole concert, which indeed was short and seemed much shorter.” (Dwight (March 31, 1866): 215)
The first season had six concerts, the second, eight concerts, and after that ten concerts made up a season with an occasional benefit. The concerts were given on Thursday afternoons at 4 PM with a public rehearsal the previous Tuesday. In the first five years, forty-eight concerts were given including thirty-four symphonies, twenty concertos, and thirty-three overtures. In reviewing the repertoire, it is noticeable that over a third of the pieces were Boston premiers. By 1873 profits had turned to losses-deficits increased, “and superior competitors such as the famed Theodore Thomas Orchestra drew away portions of the audience with their elegant playing and adventurous programming.” (Hepner, 46) In February of 1876 B. J. was the soloist in the first Boston performance of the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2. Frances recorded in her Diary that “Lel [family name for B. J.] played superbly and I never saw a sym. concert audience so aroused. The orchestra cried bravo! And the Scherzo was encored!!” (Diary, 1876) A congratulatory note from von Bulow began “My dearest friend and conductor.” (Scrapbook) Dwight’s Journal of February 19 said: “…more exciting, more entirely fresh and novel [than the Spohr Symphony] was the Concerto by Saint-Saens. We have heard no Concerto by either of the ”new” composers comparable to it in point of individuality and genius. It is very modern to be sure, and very French; but with all its technical difficulties, which are immense, and all the sensational effects, there is a spontaneous energy and life and purpose which justifies its existence.” (Johnson, First, 309) In the spring of 1876 B. J. made an offer on behalf of Hans von Bulow to assume conductorship of the orchestra for the 1876-77 season, but von Bulow then decided against this possibility. There is a letter dated April 20, 1876, in the HMS files to von Bulow from Dwight which begins: “The Concert Committee of the Harvard Musical Association learn with pleasure, through their associate, Mr. Lang, that you have expressed a willingness to conduct for them the ”Symphony Concerts” of next year, if a mutually satisfactory arrangement can be made.” It continues with five paragraphs of specifics, and ends by asking von Bulow to keep this letter confidential, and not even to mention it to his agent. However, as the document “has several erasures and interpolations,” and because there is no reply in the files and Dwight tended to save everything, even “memoranda jotted down on the backs of envelopes and on scraps of paper, and much more,” the letter was probably never sent. (HMA Bulletins No. 7, 11 and 10) “By 1878 the Concert fund which had once stood at $6,500, had shrunken to a little more than $1,000…Season after season the financial situation of the Orchestra worsened. Alternative possibilities began to be mentioned; and after another losing season in 1880-81, Henry Lee Higginson, an H. M. A. member, purchased space in newspapers in the spring of 1881 to announce a plan he had developed as an individual to assure Boston music lovers of continuing symphony concerts.’ (Hepner, 48) The Harvard Orchestra was discontinued in April 1882 (The BSO having begun in 1881) “For seventeen seasons, this well-meaning, dedicated, often bumbling venture gave Boston a chance to hear some of the highest-quality orchestral music. Unfortunately, the level of performance more often than not failed to measure up to the distinctiveness of the fare. But it filled a vacuum and a need.” (Hepner, 41) The members of the 1880 Concert Committee were: “J. S. Dwight, C. C. Perkins, J. C. D. Parker, B. J. Lang, S. B. Schlesinger, Chas. P. Curtis, S. L. Thorndike, Augustus Flagg, Wm. F. Apthorp, Arthur Foote, Geo. W. Sumner.” (Dwight (October 9, 1880): 167)
Lang was also connected to the Harvard Musical Association as a soloist. ” For more than thirty years [sic. the group only existed seventeen years] he has been a prominent figure at the Harvard symphony concerts and the like, where, as a solo pianist, he has introduced all the great concertos, many of them for the first time in Boston. He has also brought forward many half-forgotten ones, which in their days were epoch-making works. In short, his activity in this line has been that of a thoughtful educator and an enterprising artist, mindful of the best interests of the city.” (Howe, One Hundred, 428). As early as their “Third Symphony Concert” on Thursday afternoon, February 8, 1866, Lang was the soloist in the “Allegro” from Beethoven’s Third Concerto in C Minor, Opus 37, and also in the Boston premiere of the Polonaise in E Major for Piano by Weber transcribed with orchestral accompaniment by Liszt. Dwight said “The piano playing of Mr. Lang was the theme of general admiration…Mr. Lang has an excellent touch for making the piano do justice to itself in a large place.” The second piece was Liszt’s transcription for piano and orchestra of a Polonaise in E Major by Weber. “Mr. Lang played his part wonderfully well, with finished elegance and ease, keeping up the swift and shining movement without the slightest break or faltering, and overdoing nothing.” (Dwight (February 17, 1866): 19)
Apthorp wrote: “With the beginning of the symphony concerts of the Harvard Musical Association, a noteworthy change came over Lang’s local reputation as a pianist; he made giant strides in the direction of popularity. Both at the symphony concerts and at the chamber concerts he gave himself with greater and greater frequency, his playing was more and more appreciated; the old cloud that had hung over his reputation was thoroughly dispelled, and soon he not only stood but was generally recognized as standing in the first rank.” (Apthorp article in Music, August 1893, 352-353) Not everyone agreed with this assessment-writing thirty-eight years later, Henry M. Dunham wrote in his memoirs: “Mr. Lang was neither a great pianist nor organist, and yet he was in considerable demand as a soloist on both these instruments.” (Dunham, 77) However, Dunham recalled favorably Lang’s comments of his Third Sonata: “What I like about your Sonata is that you do not get there too soon. The climax comes just where it should.” This praise pleased Dunham “immensely” as it came “from the musical autocrat of Boston whose authority and judgment in things musical were unquestioned.” (Dunham, 188)
Elson, History of American Music, 235.
For the second season, there were twelve men on the “Concert Committee” who “determined on eight concerts for the next season, a subscription price of $6 and the usual $1 for single tickets, $500 remuneration to Dwight as manager, and the usual $50 to Zerrahn for each concert.” The members included John S. Dwight, Otto Dresel, J. C. D. Parker, Robert E. Apthorp, and Lang. (HMA Bulletin No. 16)
Lang’s next solo engagement with the orchestra was on Friday afternoon at 4 PM on February 1, 1867 [second season] when he played “that early Concerto [No. 2, Op. 19 in B flat] of Beethoven, one which is commonly supposed, and justly, not to take rank with the three greater Concertos which he composed afterward (Nos. 3, 4, and 5-all given in these Concerts last year)…It pleased far more than was expected…[the Cadenza by Moscheles] Mr. Lang brought out in strong light to the best advantage…But the Rondo finale, quaint and piquant, is full of vitality, and became electric under Lang’s touch…Mr. Lang really surpassed himself in this performance, which was not only one of the neatest possible and most artistic pieces of pianism but one of the most genial and intellectual interpretations of a master.” Lang also played Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasia Opus 15 as arranged by Liszt for piano and orchestra. “In the Schubert Fantasia he had room for greater breadth and power; it is abroad, large work as Schubert wrote it for piano alone; especially the opening, and the introduction of the ‘Wanderer’ melody in great, full chords, and the working up thereof, all of which Mr. Lang made most impressive.” (Dwight (February 16, 1867): 398) The review in the Boston Musical Times mentioned the “large and appreciative audience, such as one rarely sees gather at these concerts…Of the piano compositions, the Concerto by Beethoven was apparently the more thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the audience…Mr. Lang played it, as indeed he plays everything that he attempts, with all that neatness in execution and truthfulness of expression for which his playing is remarkable. In his rendition of the Schubert Fantasia, he showed himself possessed of more force and freedom of execution than he had at any previous time displayed…Mr. Lang could hardly have chosen a more acceptable composition than this Op. 15, and his fine playing won for him the enthusiastic applause of the audience.” (BMT (March 2, 1867): 19) (BPL Lang Prog.) Lang appeared again that same spring. “Mr. Lang even surpassed his last year’s rendering of Liszt’s highly colored transcription of the brilliant Weber Polonaise, with the introductory slow movement which Liszt has borrowed from the other Polonaise (in E Flat). In fine manipulation, brightness, clearness, conveying the whole spirit of the thing with utmost ease and grace, we hardly know how such a performance could be excelled. The ingenious, at times fantastical orchestration too, was on the whole well done though the pretty jingle of the triangle, which brightens up one passage, lost its effect by not coming sharp upon the beat.” (Dwight (April 27, 1867): 22)
While this appearance with the orchestral was a great artistic occasion for Lang, he seems not to have received a fee. Dwight’s report for the second season (1866-67) listed fees for seven soloists totaling $550. National soloists Carl Rosa and Mme. Urso (violinists) each received $150 while the local pianists Petersilia and Perabo each received $50 per performance while Leonhard (pianist) and the vocalists Mrs. J. S. Cary and Miss J. E. Houston each were paid $25. (HMA Bulletin No. 16) Possibly Lang’s position on the Concert Committee prompted his appearance without a fee.
Dwight reported on the HMA Annual Meeting by reprinting a story published in the January 21, 1868 Advertiser. The group had just completed its 30th. year and the meeting was the first to be held in their new library room at 120 Tremont Street. The President, Mr. Henry W. Pickering chaired the meeting, and after the record of the last meeting was read, John S. Dwight as Vice-President “read the report of the directors, which was a document of considerable length and great interest, presenting an encouraging view of the conditions of the association.” The report of the treasurer reflected “that the expense of fitting up the new room had necessarily encroached somewhat upon the income of the concert fund, and expressed a belief that the fund could be restored by proper measures during the ensuing year.” The librarian’s report, Dwight’s other job, enumerated many valuable additions to the library during the past year. “The old board was reelected which included B. J. as one of two Directors at Large. “The association now numbers one hundred and ten active members and seven honorary members. its annual supper will take place at the rooms of Mr. J. B. Smith, caterer, in Bullfinch Street, next Monday evening.” (Dwight (February 1, 1868): 184)
During their third season (according to the program) Lang and J. C. D. Parker were the soloists in the Boston premiere of Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos; this was at the November 21, 1867 concert (the work was repeated at the December 24, 1868 concert). Dwight reported that the orchestra was “materially strengthened, now numbering 56 in all, with 12 first violins, at the head of whom sat Mr. Eichberg,” the newly appointed concertmaster. “The orchestra never played better; the strings telling with more fullness and decision than before…The Mozart Concerto, for the two pianos, proved exceedingly effective…Mr. Lang and Mr. Parker played it admirably.” (Dwight, December 7, 1867, p. 151) Less than a month later, on January 16, 1868, Lang was the soloist for the first Boston performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1. This was at the fifth concert of the series and it “was one of the most fully attended and most interesting, to judge from the faces and silence of the audience-by far the best sign-rather than from the clapping of hands…Beethoven’s Concerto in C, the earliest of the five, though hitherto entirely passed over in favor of the greater ones, fully justified Mr. Lang’s choice…To speak of improvement in so accomplished a master of the instrument as Mr. Lang has been for years, would seem supercilious almost; yet we must note with pleasure the more even and subdued force which he now shows in the strong passages, without any sacrifice of contrast or emphatic point.” (Dwight (February 1, 1868): 183) Then, just five weeks later on February 27, 1868, Lang took part in the first Boston performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Julius Eichberg (concertmaster of the group) and Wulf Fries; this work was again performed on March 22 and 23, 1889. Dwight made no mention of Lang in his review, but he did compliment the group on “from first to last [presenting] the best kind of music, in programmes thoughtfully arranged to give each piece its best effect, and listened to with intent interest by audiences ranging from 1500 to near 2000 persons.” Dwight then listed the repertoire for the third season in which Lang had soloed three times: Mozart-Concerto for two Pianos, Beethoven-Piano Concerto No. 1, and Beethoven-Triple Concerto. (Dwight (March 14, 1868): 206)
Another area in which Lang supported these concerts was through pre-concert lectures. Dwight praised him for “assembling a hundred or two of his pupils and their friends on the Thursday preceding that of each concert, and, with the aid of a brother pianist (Mr. Perabo), playing over the entire programme to them with historical and analytic explanations.” December 1868 was the third winter that he had been doing this. (Dwight (December 12, 1868): 367)
This fourth season continued the success of the orchestral concerts and expanded the series to ten concerts. The twelve members of the Concert Committee pledged to buy 402 season tickets; the other members of the Association took an additional 499 while the general public took 611 tickets. “The orchestral personnel was increased from 58 to 62; their costs per concert was $671 against $650 the previous season. ” From the profits of the season, an additional $2,000 was added to the Concert Fund. (HMA Bulletin No. 16) Lang and Parker repeated the Mozart Concerto in E Flat for Two Pianos at the fourth concert, December 24, 1868; Lang’s pupil, Miss Alice Dutton appeared at the sixth concert on January 21, 1869, in Weber’s Concert-Stuck, and Lang appeared at the eighth concert on February 18 playing the Mendelssohn Concerto in G Minor. (Dwight (October 24, 1868): 334) Announcement of the coming season) Of the Lang/Parker Mozart, Dwight wrote: they “were altogether happy in the rendering of it; all was neat, clear, fluent, even, and the phrases were answered from one piano to the other with excellent precision. It was an artistic performance; and, simple as the music seems, it requires artists to do it justice. The first cadenza by Moscheles is difficult and interesting, save that it is too long. The piece was evidently much enjoyed. ” (Dwight (January 2, 1869): 374) concerning Lang’s Mendelssohn performance, Dwight noted that this particular concerto “has been more played here, and by more pianists, than any other Concerto…Mr. Lang surpassed his own mark hitherto in the rendering,- and that is saying a great deal. As nearly perfect technically and in point of taste as we ever think of asking, there was a delicate individuality in the reading which quite harmonized with that of the composition; indeed the whole interpretation had a fine, peculiar glow which made it seem that he was more than usually inspired by the music of his favorite master.” (Dwight (February 27, 1869): 406)
A local following of audience members had been built. “By 1870 they crowed the Music Hall. In that same year, Mr. Dwight, referring to the success of the previous season when over 1600 season tickets were sold, mentions the large audiences ”notwithstanding the increased price…the Thomas Concerts…the coming of Christine Nilsson.”” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 4)
Among more contemporary works, Lang was the piano soloist in the first Boston performance of the Rubinstein Concerto No. 3, Opus 45 at the Music Hall on February 1, 1872; this was part of the seventh concert in a series of ten given in 1871-72. Dwight’s review was generally positive for this piece; “Mr. Lang played it, we thought, admirably, doing the work all justice, though the task was not one of the most thankful. Hardly a work of genius, at the best half inspired, the Concerto was surely worth the pains.” (Dwight (February 10, 1872): 183) Dwight also reprinted reviews from the Daily Advertiser whose writer felt “Mr. Lang made easy work of the difficulties, playing the octaves, arpeggi and other difficulties with the utmost aplomb and with unusual fire. We could wish that he had had a more effective piece to play, say some beautiful Mendelssohn Concerto.” However, the Saturday Evening Gazette had the opposite opinion: “Whether Mr. Lang was dispirited by the nature of the work he had undertaken to perform, or whether he was not in a favorable mood for playing, we cannot say, but we were disappointed with his performance. It was not as clear as we have the right to expect from him. Many of the passages rolled from under his fingers in a mutilated form, and there was an absence of variety in his style which was almost monotonous. At the same time, there was little in the composition to inspire him, and we have no doubt his relief at its termination was no less than that of the audience.” (Dwight (February 10, 1872): 181) Another reviewer wrote: “Mr. B. J. Lang gave a very effective rendering of the Concerto,” but it was also noted that the concert “was not very well attended, nor did the performance [as a whole] greatly please those who were present.”(Dexter Smith’s (March 1872): 57) Lang continued to play this concerto. On October 20, 1879, he appeared as an assisting artist in a concert at Union Hall given by Leandro Campanari where he played the solo part with Fenollosa playing the orchestral reduction. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2)
The concert committee had been worried about this season with “formidable competitors in the field of concert-giving (enough to mention the Thomas orchestra, Nilsson, the Dolly troupe, the oratorios, Mr. Peck’s concerts, etc., etc.)” and so they reduced the season ticket price from $10 to $8, and to reduce expenses the size of the orchestra “which had averaged 63 men…[was reduced] to an average of 55 and 4/5” men. Some of the “best judges” had said that the orchestra contained a few musicians of “indifferent quality” whose elimination would both save money and improve the group. (HMA, Bulletin No. 17) Mr. Eichberg had returned as concertmaster which “was a positive gain in all respects,” and the “violoncellos were both more numerous and better than those of Thomas,” and for some unknown reason the attitude of the critics had become “uncommonly respectful and appreciative,” which was an “in strong contrast with the indifferent or carping tone which the same journals used towards us for two or three years preceding.” (Ibid) All of this led to a profit for the season of $13,618.81 of which $7,000 was added to the Concert Fund. (Ibid) Late in 1872 Dexter Smith’s magazine referred to “the ultra-classical Harvard Symphony Concerts.” (Dexter Smith’s (December 1872): 283) In January of that year, the same magazine had made mention of the “ponderous Harvard Symphony Concerts” which alternated on Thursday afternoons with the “most enjoyable Matinees at Mechanic Hall” given by Leonhard and Eichberg.” (Dexter Smith’s (January 1872): 5)
B. J. Lang’s hands. Collection of Amy Dubois.
The February 6, 1873 concert (sixth concert of the 1872-73 season: their eighth season) mixed old and new with Lang playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto #2 (second time in Boston), and during the second half played the Boston premiere of Schumann’s Concertstuck in G, Opus 92; also on the program was Rubenstein’s Ocean Symphony. concerning the Beethoven: “Mr. Lang had played it once before in the second season of these concerts, and also last year in concerts of his own, and it bears repetition. His rendering was perfectly clean, refined and delicate, showing masterly execution in the Moscheles cadenza.” As to the Schumann: “The other novelty of the programme, Schumann’s Concertstuck, a work of about half the length of a regular Concerto, proved extremely interesting, full of thought and beauty, and characteristic of its author. The instrumentation is refined and rich. Mr. Lang was fully master of its great difficulties and gave, with good co-operation of the orchestra, a very clear and satisfactory interpretation.” (Dwight (February 8, 1873): 391)
“The eighth season (1872-73) was no less successful than its predecessors.” Unfortunately, the “Great Boston Fire” happened just two days after the opening concert of that season. “During the first half of the winter, the public mind was little in the mood for concerts…Yet during the gloomy first half-season, the symphony concerts about paid their way and fared better than the oratorios, the Thomas concerts, or in fact any others given in this city…The attendance, however, even during our first five concerts was uniformly large and cheering.” (HMA Bulletin No. 17) Dexter Smith’s magazine had a different perception of the HMA concerts: “Messrs. Leonhard and Eichberg are giving most enjoyable Matinees at Mechanic Hall, on Thursdays, alternating with the ponderous Harvard Symphony Concerts.” (Dexter Smith’s (January 1872): 5) The Folio echoed the same sentiment. During this season, various short comments about the concerts had been generally negative. “The Harvard Symphony concert on Feb. 1st was as bad as it possibly could be. In the first place, the programme was poorly chosen; and then, there was not energy enough, and too much stupidity, to carry the selections through.” (Folio, March 1872) But then, one month later, a full half column review was printed with the opposite opinion. “The Harvard Symphony Concert which occurred again on the 23d inst., at Music Hall, was undoubtedly the best of the series, both in numbers and performance, and reflected great credit upon all of the members of the Association. We confess that we had almost begun to think that the triumphs of the Harvard were about ending. It was a relief to know that our opinions were mistaken ones. Those who were present will not long forget the rendering of Gade’s overture,-full of dramatic energy and effect,-never before played in America. It is a charming composition, and one destined to become popular.” (Folio, April 1872)
“The seventh of the ten Symphony Concerts, on Thursday afternoon of last week, drew a much larger audience than usual to the Music Hall, in spite of the Thomas concert in the same place only a few hours later, of which all the trumpets of the newspapers had filled the air with proclamation. This was in some measure owing to the peculiar interest of the following unique and attractive programme.” The unique character came from the two pieces played by Lang; Schumann’s Concertstuck in G for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 92 and the Capriccio in E major, Op. 22 for Piano and Orchestra by Bennett. “Mr. Lang seemed to be at his very best.” and the Schumann “gave out all its meaning and its fire under his skillful and unflagging fingers. The orchestra, too, was careful and sympathetic in its accompaniment. Bennett’s Capriccio had never been heard here before with orchestra, although Mr. Lang played it in one of his chamber concerts a few years ago…Few compositions make more trying, unrelenting claims on the pianist, and Mr. Lang proved himself in all respects entirely equal to them.” Other new items on the program were both by Boston composers: a Ballad by Otto Dresel and the Overture from Dudley Buck’s unpublished secular cantata on tales by Washington Irving. A Mozart overture and opened and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony closed the concert. (Dwight (February 7, 1874): 174) One paper noted that “The Harvard Symphony Concerts have not been profitable this season. Too dry.” (Dexter Smith’s (June 1873): 155) A year and one-half before the same paper had printed: “Messrs. Leonhard and Eichberg are giving most enjoyable Matinees at Mechanic Hall, on Thursdays, alternating with the ponderous Harvard Symphony Concerts.” (Dexter Smith’s (January 1872): 5)
Dwight’s report for the ninth season (1873-74) is lost…for the first time there was a financial loss and Dwight’s explanation would have been illuminating.” The loss was $1,206.52, and this was covered by the positive balance in The Concert Fund-the surplus from previous seasons. The orchestra was now paying soloists, and these included: “Ernst Perabo, Benjamin J. Lang, J. C. D. Parker, Hugo Leonard, all local pianists (paid from $50 to $100) and Mme. Madeline Schiller, pianist; Clara Doria, Hermine Rudersdorff, George L. Osgood (a local musician with a beautiful tenor voice) vocalists; August Fries, Mme. Camilla Urso, violinists; John K. Paine, organist playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor. Doria was the stage name of Clara Kathleen Barnett, born in England, studied in Germany, in 1871 came to America and sang in the Parepa Rosa Opera Company and the Maretzek’s Opera Company, as well as giving vocal recitals. She settled in Boston and married Henry M. Rogers, who was very well known locally and, incidentally, long a member of this Association. She was an instructor at the New England Conservatory of Music. She died in 1930. Mme. Schiller (Mrs. Marcus Benetti) was well known in England and Australia. She lived in Boston for a time and after 1865 became a noted teacher in New York. Urso, born in France, appeared in many cities in this country. She was acknowledged to be a violinist of the first rank; she settled permanently in New York in 1895. Hermine Rudersdorff, a Russian born in the Ukraine, was a pupil of Bordogni in Paris and of Micherrut in Milan, both famous teachers…She sang in the Boston (National) Jubilee of 1869, after which she settled in this city. All these musicians were of the first rank in those days; the Association never secured the services of second-raters.” (HMA Bulletin No. 18, 1 and 2)
It would seem that programming new works was a difficult task. Arthur Foote joined the program committee in 1875, just after be had received his M.A. degree in music from Harvard. He found that “Dwight and Dresel were the conservatives on the committee, while B. J. Lang, W. A. Apthorp, W. P. Blake, and I were what is today  called the ”liberal” element…When Dresel and Dwight attacked Brahms, Wagner, and Liszt, he [Foote] refused to go along. When they attempted to exclude contemporary works from the programs…he sided with Lang and proposed their inclusion.” (Tara, Foote, 88) Thirty years after the event, Apthorp remembered that “the only musician in Boston who saw daylight through the clouds and enthusiastically backed up the Brahms C minor here from the first, was B. J. Lang. But the rest of us followed him soon enough; I myself bringing up in the rear, after six years or so.” (Apthorp, BSO Program March 20 and 21, 1896, 677) The HMA orchestra had presented the American premiere of Brahms’ First Symphony on January 3, 1878, when the work was less than a year old. Apthorp’s review in the Courier called it “a work calculated to completely baffle the most intelligent snap-judgment,” and after hearing the work two weeks later, this time performed by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra we wrote, “After the second hearing, sooth to say, it does not improve on acquaintance. To call it learned is to admit that musical science is at a low ebb today…It was still depressing, over-labored, unspontaneous, with more of will than genius in it, more of enterprise and calculation than of creative spark.” However, in the 1890s, writing for a BSO Program, Apthorp speaks of a “poetic episode…utterly original melody,” and a “most joyous, exuberant Volkslied melody, a very Hymn to Joy.” (Grant, 70)
The seventh concert of the 1874-75 season was held on February 5, 1875, with Lang as the soloist in Ferdinand Hiller’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Opus 69. Miss Mehlig had introduced the work to Boston “without producing any marked impression that we can remember. This time, in the remarkably clear and finished rendering by Mr. Lang, it really engrossed the pleased attention of the audience throughout…The work was very finely brought out, both by orchestra and solo artist, and we felt that as a whole it made a very favorable impression.” (Dwight (February 20, 1875): 390) Today this work “is considered to be Hiller’s most successful composition to the genre…Despite the lack of rehearsal time, the premier in the Gewandhaus [Leipzig] on October 26, 1843 was a success. In this concerto Hiller clearly moved away from the Parisian virtuoso style…All three movements are, in their form and development, conceived in a much more multi-layered manner, with piano and orchestra dovetailing more frequently.” (Program note, Hyperion “The Romantic Piano Concerto No. 45,” 3 and 4)
Unfortunately, the “tenth season (1874-75) again met with a financial loss.” The total was $1,751.06, and Dwight listed six reasons for this position, the most important being the extra expense of the Cecilia Chorus and competition from the Thomas Orchestra which was “determined apparently to leave no stone unturned to drive us out of our hall and occupy it themselves.” (HMA Bulletin No. 18, 3)
Lang also was the piano soloist in the first American performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 22 by Saint-Saens. The performance date was February 3, 1876, at the Boston Music Hall (the work had been written just eight years before in 1868), and Dwight’s Journal of February 19 said that
“… more exciting, more entirely fresh and novel (than the Spohr Symphony) was the Concerto by Saint-Saens. We have heard no Concerto by either of the ‘new’ composers comparable to it in point of individuality and genius. It is very modern to be sure, and very French; but with all its technical difficulties, which are immense, and all the sensational effects, there is a spontaneous energy and life and purpose which justifies its existence.” (Johnson, First Performances, p.309).
“Mr. Lang proved himself fully equal to the unrelenting demands of this most trying movement [Presto-Tarantella]; and indeed his whole performance was magnificent, surpassing all that he has done before. The task was to his fancy, and he embraced it con amore.” (Dwight (February 19, 1876): 183)
Lang also performed the work with the New York Philharmonic Society conducted by Leopold Damrosch on December 9 of the same year (1876), and the New York Tribune review found that “Mr. Lang acquitted himself excellently. His execution is neat, clean, and finished and his reading very correct. The work is charming, full of grace and brightness, not deep, but with spirit and fire, and overwhelmingly difficult. Mr. Lang secured a recall and played a piece of Mozart.” The New York Evening Mail said, “Mr. Lang of Boston proved himself to be a pianist of the highest order. His rendering of the Saint-Saens Concerto was superb. He received a hearty recall and played a charming little Minuet by Mozart.” (Johnson, First Performances, p. 309) However, Dwight’s New York correspondent, A. A. C., has not as complimentary. “Mr. Lang’s performance of the Saint-Saens Concerto was not even moderately successful.*[Dwight added as a footnote] (It certainly was much more than moderately successful here in Boston a year ago; can no good come out of Nazareth?-Ed.) He has not the mechanical force necessary to the rendering of this showy ‘piece de resistance,’ and besides this, he had the disadvantage of playing after Mme. Essipoff, whose performance of the same concerto at Steinway Hall, on the
Philip Hale collection of photographs-BPL.
evening previous was a marvel of perfection.” (Dwight (January 20, 1877): 375) In Dwight’s next issue he added a further comment: “We were surprised to hear of a strong prejudice in New York against any Boston artist who should venture to use a Boston piano in the Academy of Music. Systematic disparagement in several musical journals was too evident; particularly in their rebuke of ‘rashness’ for appearing with the same piece which Mme. Essipoff had just played in a Thomas Concert, the fact being that the Essipoff performance was an afterthought, long after the announcement of Mr. Lang, and cutting in before him. -But that, in spite of prejudice, he did meet with a marked success, and won the hearty appreciation of the Philharmonic audience, if not of every party, let the following extracts from New York papers of the morning after the concert testify.” The December 12th. issue of the Tribune said that “Mr. Lang acquitted himself excellently. His execution is neat, clean, and finished, and his reading very correct…Mr. Lang secured a well-deserved recall, and in response played a piece of Tschaikowski’s.” The Evening Mail wrote that “Mr. B. J. Lang, of Boston, proved himself to be a pianist of the highest order. His rendering of the Saint-Saens Concerto was superb. He has great breadth of conception, genuine artistic feeling, and excessive manual dexterity. The clearness, precision, and accuracy with which he gave the many runs of the piece were astonishing; specially was this noticeable in a difficult double run of thirds which occurs in the presto. He received a hearty recall, and played in response a charming little minuet by Mozart.” [Which reviewer didn’t stay for the encore?] Two other reviews were quoted.
After Dwight had made the comments about his review, A. A. C. felt it necessary to write the following: “New York, Feb. 12.In reviewing that portion of my last letter which relates to the performance of Mr. B. J. Lang, at one of our Philharmonic concerts, the Journal disputes not only the justice of my opinion but also the candor of my statement, assuming it to be colored by local prejudice. In the brief paragraph which is called in question I did not attempt to discuss the general merits or demerits of Mr. Lang’s playing; had I done so I should have found much to commend. His high reputation as a musician and a pianist is known to all the readers of the Journal; therefore when he played the Concerto of Saint-Saens, as I think badly, I felt no hesitation in saying so. In forming this opinion I had the advantage of a comparison, which, although it may be odious, is inevitable. In my letter, I said that Mr. Lang had the disadvantage of appearing after Mme. Essipoff, who played the same concerto at Steinway Hall on the evening previous. Under other circumstances, my opinion of Mr. Lang’s performance might have been modified. As it was, I found his conception of the work entirely different from hers, and very weak compared with the magnetic and brilliant interpretation which I had in mind. In point of execution too he seemed unable fairly to meet and master the mechanical difficulties of the composition. Having these impressions it became my duty to sate them and I did so, I am confident, in exactly the same spirit in which I should have written of one of our resident artists, not forgetting that in Art is neither time nor place.” (Dwight (February 17, 1877): 389) Lang performed this concerto again with the Harvard Orchestra on March 1, 1877. “We were sorry that our New York correspondent was not present to hear Mr. Lang’s brilliant, finished, tasteful, and altogether adequate interpretation of the Saint-Saens Concerto, which he first introduced in this country at one of these concerts a year ago. No quality deemed wanting, whether of technique or conception…The instrument on which Mr. Lang played contributed not a little to this success”-it was the fifty-thousandth Chickering Grand built by “this old firm of which Boston has such reason to be proud.” (Dwight (March 17, 1877): 406) Dwight also had a high regard for Madame Annette Essipoff whose four concerts at the Boston Music Hall that spring had not been well attended-“concerts which exhibited the virtuosity and the interpretive powers of this really great pianist.” (Dwight, Op. cit., 407)
For the third time, the concerts produced a loss. The 1875-76 season loss was greater than either of the previous years-$2,414.05, but “again [it was] easily met by the Concert Fund,” but this left only about $2,000 left for future losses. Again Dwight cited the Cecilia Chorus as one of the factors together with the fact that “an orchestra can not be had in Boston for evening concerts owing to the engagement of the musicians in the theatres” at night. Also cited again was the comparison of the Thomas Orchestra “which, by traversing the States, is kept in practice the entire year-round” verses “our own imperfect orchestra.” (HMA, Bulletin No. 18, 3)
At the tenth and last concert of their thirteenth season (March 28, 1878) Lang, together with J. C. D. Parker and Arthur W. Foote were the soloists in Bach’s Concerto in C Major for Three Pianos with string orchestra. Dwight’s review mentions that this work and Bach’s other three-piano concerto were both introduced to Boston by Mr. Otto Dresel in the early 1850s. Dresel then included both works in a series of five concerts in November and December 1864 “drawing largely for his programmes from the instrumental works of Bach.” (Dwight (April 13, 1878): 214) The C Major Concerto was included in the opening concert and also in the third with Lang, J. C. D. Parker, and Hugo Leonard as the piano soloists. “Some years later this Concerto was played by the same artists at one of Mr. Lang’s Concerts in the Globe Theatre, with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club for the accompaniment. And again, in December 1876, in that beautiful concert given for Mr. Leonard by some of his brother artists, in Wesleyan Hall, it was played by Messrs. Lang, Perabo, and Parker.” (Ibid) For this 1878 concert using “three powerful modern ‘Grands,’ and in so vast a hall, the mere quintet of strings, with which it was originally accompanied, would not suffice. Accordingly, it was played by the whole string force of the orchestra, and with wonderful effect. There was fullness, a richness, an all-pervading sweetness and vitality of sound, which there was no escaping.” (Ibid)
The fourteenth season (1878-79) “suffered a loss of $271.94” which was somewhat offset by the fact that due to “a rise in certain securities there remained a credit balance of $1,500 in the Concert Fund. The fifteenth season (1879-80) did not fail in continuing the record of loss, this season being ion the red to the amount of $226.67…The sixteenth season (1880-81) closed with a loss of $206.43” which led to the decision to offer a reduced season at a smaller hall. Five concerts at the Boston Museum with season tickets at $5 and single tickets at $1.50 was proposed. At the same time, Higginson announced his new orchestra, and HMA responded with the following: “Voted: that this Society expresses its sincere sympathy with Mr. Higginson in his project for giving Symphony Concerts next winter, and extends its hearty good wishes for the success of the undertaking.” (HMA Bulletin No. 19, 3)
Wikipedia-12/14/10. “From a book of 1893.” Bronsart had studied with Liszt beginning in 1853-met Berlioz and Brahms. “When the concerto [Liszt’s Second] was published, it was dedicated to Bronsart.” After several years with Liszt, Bronsart then had conducting posts in Leipzig and Berlin.
On March 25, 1880, Lang gave the American premiere of the Bronsart Concerto in F sharp minor, Opus 10. Lang and Bronsart probably met while they were both Liszt’s students. Dwight reported that “Of the pianist, it demands any amount of execution, fire and indomitable energy; it has also its sweet and gracious passages, and to all, Mr. Lang proved himself quite equal…It was altogether a splendid interpretation of a work more rewarding than most of the recent ambitious compositions in this form.” (Dwight (April 10, 1880): 62) Hans von Bronsart (1830-1913) had been a pupil of Franz Liszt at Weimar from 1854 until 1858. Liszt thought so well of von Bronsart that he had him play the premiere performance of his Second Piano Concerto in 1857-Liszt conducted. As Lang had been a pupil in Germany from 1855 until 1858 and had studied with Liszt, perhaps Liszt introduced von Bronsart to Lang during that period. Von Bronsart’s concerto was premiered in 1876 in England, and the dedication was to von Bronsart’s wife, Ingeborg (nee Starck) who was also a “Liszt pupil of formidable pianist talents. ” (Vox program note, CDX 5067, 9 and 10) Another interesting connection is the fact that von Bulow had performed the concerto frequently in the late 1870s. Perhaps it was he who brought this work to Lang’s attention. Lang thought enough of this work to teach it to his pupils; Mr. Hiram G. Tucker played it at the April 17, 1888, Concerto Concert organized and conducted by Lang. Von Bronsart’s Piano Trio had been given its Boston premiere by Lang on March 20, 1879.
“The majority of the committee appointed to arrange for the seventeenth season (1881-82) resigned because of the threatened lack of sufficient subscribers,” but “Mr. Dwight dissented, characteristically. And, as usual, he had his way. The Association voted to offer five concerts with an orchestra of sixty musicians in the Boston Museum.” The financial report issued the following April (1882) showed a loss of $1,287.71. “The committee was thanked and discharged. The Concert Fund, so prudently maintained for lean years, amounted to over $1,000 and was turned over to the Association Treasurer.” (HMA Bulletin No. 19, 4 ) So ended the Orchestra whose success “over a period of seventeen seasons might be considered as its own epitaph.” (Ibid)
When not presenting premiers himself, Lang helped others do so. The first American performance of the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 4, Opus 44 was presented at the Music Hall on February 14, 1878, with John A. Preston as the soloist. Preston was a pupil of B. J. This work didn’t receive its first New York performance until three years later (Johnson, First, 310). The review of that New York performance said: “As to the concerto itself, there is not much to be said in its praise. It is well put together as one might say of a carpenter’s work, but it is after all only an immensely difficult piece of pianism which requires the interpretation of a skilled performer to deliver it all. Dr. Johnson would have been justified if its difficulties had been pointed out to him in his exclamation: ‘Difficult! Would to God it were impossible.’” (Johnson, Op. cit., 311)
Howe also states that Lang gave illustrated lectures during the ten-year period 1868 to 1878 on the programmes of forthcoming concerts. Arthur Foote mentions “Soon after I began musical work in Boston, I was made one of the committee that managed the concerts of the Harvard Musical Association, which were then approaching their end. At first, they had been very successful and had accumulated a fund that had carried them through the lean years (of which the last was 1881). Programs were conservative to be sure, but Lang, Apthorp, and I managed to have introduced a good deal that was new. Theodore Thomas, with more attractive programs and a far better orchestra, had shown us what first-rate playing really was. The Thomas concerts, then, were dangerous for the H. M. A. rival orchestra, the Philharmonic, did us no good. But the coup de grace after a final year (in which the concerts were held in the Boston Museum) was given by the Symphony Orchestra founded by H. L. Higginson, with Henschel as conductor.” (Foote, Auto., 40) However, after a final season of five concerts, ending in April 1882, the orchestra fund had been so well managed that “$1,000 was presented to the [Harvard] Association Treasurer.” (Nutter, 13 and 14)
“The final concert of the 1880-81 season deserves a word. Miss Lillian Bailey, soprano, and Georg Henschel, ”the distinguished baritone, pianist, and composer,” wished to have a part in this closing concert. Considering the sequel, their duet ”O that we too were maying,” by Henschel himself, had a certain appropriateness, for in just a week the two were married. The programme included a Concert Overture, in Ms., also by Henschel, and that fact also had a certain prophetic appropriateness. Mr. Foote writes-”it was at one of our concerts that Henschel conducted an overture of his own, and Mr. Higginson was so much impressed by his enthusiasm and ability that he shortly afterward engaged him as conductor of the newly formed Boston Symphony Orchestra.” Mr. Henschel thus made two winnings by his voluntary participation in this concert.” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 6)
“In 1870 Mr. Dwight wrote-”the 48 concerts helped to make us acquainted…with 34 different Symphonies, 20 Concertos, and 33 Overtures. Thirteen of the Symphonies, ten of the Concertos, and sixteen of the Overtures were wholly or virtually new to a Boston audience.” In a newspaper (1888) review of the whole series, Mr. Dwight wrote that ”over a hundred works…were given for the first time in Boston.”” (HMA Bulletin No. 5, 4)
Lang also took an active part in other activities of the Association. At the May 1878 social meeting of the group, Lang and Leonhard played a four-hand arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor and later in the program a March by Schubert. (HMA Bulletin No. 11) Most of the rest of the program was sung by G. L. Osgood, conductor of Boylston Chorus-Leonhard was the accompanist. At the “Opening of the New House, Friday, November 25, 1892…Messrs. Lang, Kneisel, and Schroeder performed Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat, Op. 97.” (HMA Bulletin No. 11) This would have been the dedication of HMA’s current home on Chestnut Street, at the foot of Beacon Hill. Just after 1900 “George Riddle read Enoch Arden one evening, with B. J. Lang playing the melodramatic music of Strauss,” while in 1909, “on the anniversary of the birth of Mendelssohn, Mr. Lang gave an interesting lecture.” In 1935 HMA “received from the estate of B. J. Lang…the complete works of Beethoven-orchestra, piano, vocal, chamber. etc., with the exception of the piano sonatas, the whole in 29 volumes.” (HMA Bulletin No. 11)
Margaret Ruthven Lang also had connections with HMA. She “performed here in 1891; 5 of her songs were performed 5 times between 1901 and 1913; her Christmas Star [Night of the Star, Op. 52] was featured at the opening of the Marsh Room in 1913. She was the daughter of B. J. Lang (HMA member 1863-1909).” (HMA Program of February 24, 2012)