BENJAMIN JOHNSON LANG: EARLY CAREER: 1858-1871.
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- Satter and Lang.
- Boston Debut as Pianist.
- John S. Dwight.
- B. and B. J. Music Rooms in Salem.
- Old South Organist-1859.
- Handel and Haydn Accompanist-October 1859.
- Carl Zerrahn.
- Complimentary Concert for B. J. March 1860.
- Summer in Europe-1860.
- B. J. as a Piano Salesman.
- Marriage to Frances Morse Burrage.
- Hymn of Praise Premier.
- Youthful Voices.
- First Walpurgis Night.
- Handel and Haydn Society.
- Gottschalk and Lang.
- Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation Concert.
- Part 2
- Teresa Carreno.
- Gottschalk and Lang. II.
- Salem Concert.
- Teacher and Pupil. The Early 1860s.
- Music Hall Organ Dedication.
- “The Monster Organ.”
- More Solo Appearances.
- Shakespeare Birthday Concert.
- South Congregational Church Organist.
- First Child.
- Alice Dutton-Early Lang Piano Pupil.
- Hannah Lang Letter-1864.
- Busy Christmas Season-1864.
- Artistic Growth-1860’s.
- Other Concert Groups.
- Lang’s Home: 1864. With Burrages.
- Lincoln’s Funeral.
- Handel and Haydn 50th. Anniversary.
- Harvard Musical Association Orchestral Concerts.
- Haydn’s-The Seasons.
- Music Hall Organ: 1865-66 Season.
- Rival Pianists of Lang-Perabo and Petersilia.
- Summer 1866-Europe.
- Mr. Richard C. Dixey.
- New England Conservatory.
- Part 3.
- Carlyle Petersilia and Lang.
- Premiers of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 and Liszt/Schubert Wanderer Fantasia, Op. 15.
- Gilmore Concert.
- Concert to Help the Patriots of Crete.
- Salem Concerts.
- Clara F. Joy- Early Lang Pupil
- Piano Technique Lectures-1867 and 1883.
- Margaret Ruthven Lang.
- Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1-Boston Premier.
- Mendelssohn-Eighth Book of Songs Without Words.
- Handel and Haydn-First Triennial Festival.
- First lecture.
- Mercantile Hall Concerts.
- First Symphony Series.
- Music Hall Organ Concerts.
- Peace Jubilee: 1869.
- Year In Europe-1869 to 70: Berlin Concert. Rome and Liszt. April. Vienna Concert. June. July. August 12th.
- 1870 Census.
- Fall of 1871.
- Hiram G. Tucker.
- Teacher of Piano.
- Other Concerts.
- Globe Theatre Concerts.
- Frances’ Singing Lessons.
- William Foster Apthorp.
- Benjamin Edward Woolf.
- Salem Oratorio Society.
- Student Concerto Concerts.
- European Summer.
- Mendelssohn Quintette Club Performances-1860 to 1869.
(Boston) Bach: Concerto for Clavier No. 7 in g [BWV 1058] with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club quartet of strings, February 14, 1865.
(Boston) Beethoven: C Minor Trio, Opus 1, No. 3 with Mendelssohn Quintette Club, February 2, 1858.
(Boston) Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 with HMA January 16, 1868[i]
(Boston) Beethoven: Concerto No. 2 with HMA, February 1, 1867 [ii] check (6248)
(Boston) Beethoven: Triple Concerto with HMA February 27, 1868 with HMA, Zerrahn conducting, Eichberg-violin and Fries-cello[iii]
(Boston?) Bennett: Capriccio for Piano and Strings, Friday, February 25, 1859[iv] with Mendelssohn Quintette Club, and then with full orchestra at the February 11, 1860 concert of the Philharmonic. Johnson lists “first time in Boston with orchestra” at the January 29, 1874, Music Hall performance with the HMA conducted by Zerrahn with Lang as soloist.[v]
(American?) Bennett: Piano Sonata in A-Flat, Op. 46-The Maid of Orleans. Mentioned in one Obit-do not know when.
(Boston) Dussek: Sonata for Piano and Violin in B flat with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, January 8, 1867.
(Boston) Dussek: Quartette for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 41 with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, February 12, 1861.
(American) Graedener, Karl Georg Peter. Quintette in G minor, Op. 7 with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, March 19, 1862, Chickering Hall, Washington Street[vi]
(Boston) Haydn: The Seasons, March 24, 1866 at Music Hall, unnamed chorus. “In part only”[vii]- H and H sang it complete in 1875 under Zerrahn, (Ibid) but he had conducted it with the Salem Oratorio Society in 1869.[viii]
(Boston) Hummel: Concerto in A-minor [No. 2, Opus 85] with HMA February 15, 1867[ix] He had played the work in Salem at “Mr. Lang’s Piano Forte Soiree” on April 13, 1863 with the orchestra part played by Mr. Steele. (Salem Register, April 13, 1863, p. 2. GB)
(Boston) Hummel: Concerto in B minor at a “Bateman Concert” at the Music Hall, December 20, 1865. Three other well-known musicians also were included. Carl Anschutz conducted the orchestra. Lang also played two solos: Mendelssohn’s Prelude in E minor and Heller’s Slumbering Song. In the same ad, concerts the following Thursday in Springfield and two concerts in Portland on Thursday and Friday were announced-it is implied that the same artists would appear in these concerts. (Evening Transcript (December 19, 1865): 3, GB) In Johnson First Performances, the only Boston Hummel first was the A minor listed above, performed two years later.
(Boston) Mendelssohn: First Walpurgis Night. May 3, 1862. Combined choirs; unnamed choir; soloists – Mrs. Kempton, Dr. Langmaid, Messrs. Wadleigh and Wetherbee. Boston Music Hall.
(Boston) Mendelssohn: Hymn of Praise, Opus 52 at Old South Church; combined church choirs; used only an organ four-hand accompaniment for the overture, and J.S. D. Parker as the organist for the rest of the work, January 30, 1862.
(Boston) Mendelssohn: complete music for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, April 23, 1864, on the Tercentennial of Shakespeare”s birth.
(Boston and or American) Mendelssohn: Eighth Book-Songs Without Words. March 18, 1868.
(American) Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482 (1785) with Philharmonic Society, Carl Zerrahn, cadenza by Lang, February 26, 1859.[x]
(Boston) Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat, K. 365 (1779) with Harvard Musical Association Orchestra, Carl Zerrahn, November 21, 1867.[xi]
(Boston) Schubert/Liszt: Wanderer Fantasia with HMA February 1, 1867.
(Boston) Schumann: Piano Concerto. Played by Lang and Otto Dresel on two pianos at a concert in the Music Hall on December 10, 1864. Lang then played part of the concerto at a concert by Mme. Parepa on one evening, and the rest of the work the next evening. Dresel gave the orchestral premiere with the HMA Orchestra on November 23, 1866. (Johnson, First, 328).
(Boston) Tomasek: Three Ecologues with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club on Tuesday, March 2, 1869.
(Boston) Weber/Liszt: E-flat Polonaise with HMA February 8, 1866.
(Boston) Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37. According to Dwight, Alice Dutton was the first to play the entire work. With HMA in February 1870. Johnson credits J. L. Hatton, pianist with the Musical Fund Society led by George J. Webb on December 8, 1842. (Johnson, First, 47)
(Boston) Mendelssohn: Serenade and Allegro Giocoso for Piano, Opus 43. Alice Dutton on March 21, 1866 at the Music Hall, Carl Zerrahn was the conductor. J. C. D. Parker played the same work ONE day later with the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra, also with Carl Zerrahn conducting. [xiv]
(Boston) Mozart: Piano Concerto in A (No. 23, K. 488), HMA December 19, 1879. Tucker “came in at a day’s warning” as a substitute for a singer. (Dwight, (January 18, 1879): 15)
(Boston) Wager/Tansig: Ride of the Walkuren. December 19, 1979, solo at HMA concert (see above).
LANG AND SATTER.
Gustav Satter. Wikipedia article, January 26, 2013.
An 1886 entry listed B. J.’s teachers. Among them was Gustav Satter, who was touring in America in 1858. The Boston critic William Foster Apthorp wrote: shortly after Lang’s return from Europe, “Gustav Satter was astonishing American audiences with his wonderful playing and daring transcriptions. When he visited Boston, Lang temporarily gave up almost all else to be constantly in his company. Satter had taken a strong fancy to the young pianist [aged 21], and, after being with him all day, and playing at his own concert in the evening, would take him up to his room in the Tremont House, and there play to him night after night, far into the small hours of the morning. To a close and keen observer like Lang these nocturnal sittings ”a quattr’ occhi” were of inestimable value.”(Apthorp, Music, August 1893) Lang may have first heard Satter play even before his period of European study. On April 2, 1855, Satter appeared in Boston playing the Schubert Trio, Op. 100 with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. He also played the Boston premiere of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Op. 57 ‘Appassionata.’ (Johnson, Satter, 63) Dwight described Satter: “He is a fresh, youthful-looking- person, with an air of decision and at the same time a good-humored Austrian bon-homie about him… Mr. Satter is yet a very young man, exuberant in power and enterprising, ready of talent, ambitious too to take a high and really artistic stand.” (Op. cit., 64) In other words, Dwight really approved of the man. Lang may have also shared this opinion, as Satter was probably the best pianist to have visited Boston up until that time. The fact that Lang and Satter were close in age, only five years apart, also contributed to the bond between the two men. Satter stayed in Boston for two years playing and teaching.
BOSTON DEBUT AS PIANIST.
After Lang’s return to Boston in 1858, he immediately began to develop contacts that would frame the early years of his professional career in Boston. One of his first contacts was with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. This Club had given its first public concert in December of 1849, and played throughout New England for over fifty years. (Ryan, 92) Baker’s entry in 1905 went so far as to say that “This little band of excellent musicians has visited every town on any size in the United States.” (Baker, 504).
William Foster Apthorp wrote of Lang’s debut. “On his return from abroad Lang made his first public appearance in Boston as a pianist [on Tuesday, February 2, 1858] at a concert of the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, taking part in Beethoven’s C Minor Trio, Opus 1, No. 3 (its first performance in the city). Thus at his first appearance before a Boston audience, he already gave evidence of a tendency that has since become characteristic of him-a constant desire to introduce new works to the public.” (Apthorp, Op. cit.) Dwight reviewed this concert: “The piano part was played by Mr. B. J. Lang, with a precision, cleanness, and expression that would have done honor to far more experienced artists. We do not remember a more promising debut in this kind.” (Dwight (February 6, 1858): 359, GB)
Apthorp was incorrect in saying the above was Lang’s “first public appearance in Boston as a pianist,” for this had taken place a month earlier on January 8, 1858, when he was the pianist for a presentation of selections from an opera by Lucian H. Southard (1827-1881). His Omano was performed at Chickering’s Saloon – among the soloists were Mrs. J. H. Long and Mr. C. R. Adams “assisted by several amateurs.” (Program, GB) “Southard was ten years older than Lang, and was among the first Americans to publish art-songs, his first, David’s Lament for Absalom having been published in 1848.” (Upton, Art-Song, 55)
A second, long-ranging musical contact was established with Lang’s first orchestral appearance on February 27, 1858, when he played the Mendelssohn Concerto No. 2 in D Minor at the Music Hall with Carl Zerrahn as the conductor as part of Carl Zerrahn’s “Last Grand Concert.” (Program, GB) Zerrahn was the major conductor in Boston at this time. He conducted choral groups, the most important being the Handel and Haydn Society, and also symphonic groups.
These two early 1858 appearances suggest that the “three years” that Lang studied in Europe would really be just over 1 and 1/2 years at the most, as Lang left Boston sometime after December 24, 1855. This was the date of a concert organized by Geo. Hill under the title of “City Crier’s Concert.” Lang was the accompanist for the five soloists-Gustave Satter, “The Celebrated Pianist” was the solo artist. (Program, GB) Thus, he would have had all of 1856 and into the fall of 1857 in Europe. He would have had to return to Boston sometime in the fall of 1857 to make contact with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, Mr. Southard, and Carl Zerrahn to arrange the two concert appearances noted above. Probably Lang’s youthful reputation had been known to both before he left Boston.
One of the featured soloists at Zerrahn’s “Last Grand Concert” in addition to B. J. was Mrs. J. H. Long. She hired him as one of the assisting artists for her “Second Annual Concert” which was at the Mercantile Hall, 16 Summer Street on March 1, 1858. The other assisting artists were Mr. C. R. Adams and the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. (Program, GB) However Long and Lang had worked together the previous year. “Mr. B. J. Lang of Salem, with Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Long of Boston, took passage in the steamer Europa, yesterday, For Halifax, where they have professional engagements for the coming week.”(Salem Register (November 5, 1857): 2, GB) This reinforces the comment in the paragraph above of Lang having to return in the fall of 1857 to make the contacts for the concerts that began at that time.
Another 1858 appearance with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club was on Thursday, November 18, where his solo by Liszt, “Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude” from Harmonies poetiques et religieuses ended the first half of the concert. (Dowell, 368) At the end of that same year (1858), Dwight wrote: “Mr. B. J. Lang, who assists the Club this season, is one of the most promising of our young pianists, already at home in a pretty large repertoire of difficult classical and modern music, and evincing a facility of technical acquisition in which perhaps there lies some danger. ” Dwight then went on to disparage Lang’s choice of Liszt’s “Benediction de Dieu dans las Solitude” ending with the comment that “if there is any charm in such things, it must lie in Liszt’s own playing of them.” (Dwight (November 27, 1858): 279) This comment did not keep Lang from playing this piece throughout his career.
Lang continued to appear with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. On Friday, January 28, 1859, he assisted as accompanist for the soprano Mrs. J. H. Long who sang The Violet by Mozart and the first performance of one of Lang’s own songs, Breath of Spring. On February 25, 1859, Lang contributed the piano part to the first Boston performance of Sterndale Bennett’s Capriccio at a Mendelssohn Quintette Concert; for this performance, only a string quartet was used for the accompaniment. (Dowell, 373) “This Capriccio is very brilliant and sparkling in the pianoforte part, full of arpeggio, and taxing execution, to which Mr. Lang proved fully equal.” (Dwight (March 5, 1859): 390) Eleven months later, Lang played the Capriccio with a full orchestra at the Third Philharmonic Concert on Saturday evening, February 11, 1860, [recording available on Hyperion CDA67595 “The Romantic Piano Concerto No. 43” with Howard Shelley and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra] and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia with the choir from the Handel and Haydn Society.
Just a day after the first Capriccio performance, Lang was the soloist at Carl Zerrahn’s Philharmonic concert at the Music Hall playing the American premiere of Mozart’s Concerto in E Flat, “a delicious piece, played with fluency and spirit, (so we judge from a rehearsal) by young Mr. Lang, with the addition of a nicely made elaborate cadenza, in the place usually left for such things, of his own.”(Ibid) This was Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482 (1785).(Johnson, First, 268) Two years after his debut with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, Lang had been part of six of their concerts and performed at least four premiers which included one of his own compositions.
On Saturday evening, February 19, 1859, Lang was part of a “Complimentary Concert” at the Music Hall given by “His brother Artists” for the pianist Joseph Trenkle. Among those taking part were Zerrahn’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Kreissmann’s Orpheus Glee Club, the vocalist Mrs. Harwood and pianists J, C. D. Parker, H. Leonhard and Otto Dresel. The four pianists played Les Contrastes, Op. 115 by Moscheles and L’Invitation a la Valse by Weber. The reason for the concert was to raise funds as “the esteemed young artist, who has been compelled, by the critical state of his health, to leave us for a more genial climate.” (Traveler, (February 11, 1859): 3, GB) Mathews (100 Years) says that Trenkle emigrated to the USA in 1859, and so it would seem that Boston was his first stop. Possibly Lang had become acquainted with Trenkle in Germany and was responsible for the organization of the concert.
On the same day that the concert above was advertised, another ad appeared for a “Testimonial Benefit to James Pilgrim” to be held at the Boston Theatre on Saturday February 12th.” Scenes from plays were offered and also various dances among which was a PAS SEUL (solo dance) by Henrietta Lang! This was the name on the birth certificate of B. J.’s younger sister, although she was called Harriet at home. Could the dancer and Henrietta be the same person? Henrietta would have been 13 years old at this time. (Ibid)
JOHN S. DWIGHT.
John S. Dwight, Cooke, page opposite frontispiece.
The early favorable reviews by John S. Dwight were very helpful to Lang’s early and middle career. Lang and Dwight’s Journal of Music intersected at a fortunate time. The first issue had appeared on April 10, 1852 and ended 1,051 issues later on September 3, 1881 at which point Lang was entering his “Middle Years.” (Sablosky, 1) There were probably “never more than a thousand subscribers” for Dwight’s Journal (Op. cit., 6) Dwight was responsible during that period for over eight thousand “densely set pages.” (Op. cit., 2) Before he began the Journal, he had graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1836 and then tried parish ministry for five years. When this was not satisfactory, he joined the experiment in communal living at Brook Farm, near Boston, where he gave piano lessons, helped farm the land and wrote about music. “Music, more than anything else embodied for him the possibility of harmony for mankind.” Great music was to elevate and refine “out [our] crude and swaggering democratic culture.” (Op. cit., 3) After his wife’s death in 1860, he took up residence in the Harvard Musical Association building-this group had been the main backer for his publication, and he served as the group’s President and Librarian for many years. He died there in 1893, just four months after his eightieth birthday.
FATHER B. AND B. J. MUSIC ROOMS IN SALEM.
A notice in the Salem Register in April 1859 would seem to indicate that father Benjamin, and son B, J, had gone into business together. “Messrs. Lang’s New Music Rooms, in the Downing Block, are worth a visit. They are spacious, pleasant, handsomely furnished, convenient in every respect, and admirably adapted for musical purposes. The lofty ceiling and general construction of the rooms, when thrown into one, are highly favorable for good acoustic qualities and must give a charming effect to a properly arranged Chamber Concert, as well as aid greatly in developing the qualities of Chickering’s celebrated pianos, of which there are several in the apartment. See advertisement of Messrs. B. & B. J. Lang, for the purposes to which their elegant quarters are devoted.” (Salem Register (April 7, 1859): 2, GB)
OLD SOUTH ORGANIST-1859.
As seen in 1877.
Drawing-Postcard. Johnston Collection.
Postcard. Johnston Collection.
In 1859, soon after he was appointed organist at Old South Church, Lang began a campaign for a new organ. The church had a three-manual instrument of 22 stops by the English builder Thomas Eliot and installed in 1822 seemed not to please Lang. “Benjamin Johnson Lang, a strong-minded individual with a penchant for enlarging or replacing organs, had become organist, and in 1859 the noted Boston firm of E. & G. G. Hook was engaged to rebuild the organ at a cost of about $2,000. The rebuilt organ [of 35 stops] was ”opened” on April 30 with a concert of organ and vocal music, and the event duly reported in Boston’s leading musical journal.”[xliv] On November 30, 1861 at a “Private Concert” held at Old South, the musicians included a vocal quartet of Miss Houston, Mrs. Macfarland, Mr. Downs and Mr. Weterbee with Mr. Bancroft as pianist [Bancroft – organist of Emmanuel Church].[xlv]
HANDEL AND HAYDN ACCOMPANIST. OCTOBER 1859.
Carl Zerrahn, Photo Card by WARREN of Cambridgeport. On the back someone has written that Zerrahn was “among many artists who emigrated to the U. S. after the Revolution of 1848 in Germany.”
Working with Carl Zerrahn probably led to Lang’s next major professional appointment, organist for the Handel and Haydn Society that Zerrahn conducted. B. J. began his long association with this choir (as organist from October 1859 until June 1895: as conductor from June 1895 until May 1897) on October 1, 1859, with rehearsals for Handel’s Samson. An entry in the Society’s History dated October 1, 1859 notes: “Mr. J. C. D. Parker being obligated by the pressure of manifold professional duties to resign the place of organist… Mr. B. J. Lang was chosen his successor.” He seems to have gotten off to a positive start as in was noted that later in that first season “The organ voluntaries of the young new incumbent Mr. Lang, were well chosen and effective.” (Perkins/Dwight, History, 194) Dwight had made this same comment originally: “The organ voluntaries during the assembling of the singers, by Mr. B. J. Lang, were well chosen and effective. But is it not rather a questionable custom, this of preluding to an overture with a whole long oratorio at its heels. Is it not a cloying superfluity?” (Dwight (December 31, 1859): 319) In February 1860, the Society was part of “Mr. Zerrahn’s third Symphony Concert, singing in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia, of which Mr. Lang plays the pianoforte part.”(Op. cit., 195) “His rapport with Zerrahn was complete and among the countless references to Lang in the annals of the Society and in the Press, there is not one that fails to express confidence, approval, and gratitude for the presence of so sterling a musician. He played the Great Organ in Music Hall throughout its being there and ”made do” with the inadequate instrument that came after.”(Johnson, Hallelujah, 167) When the Society moved to the newly opened Music Hall in 1853, it brought along its own pipe organ – a three-manual and pedal instrument built by Thomas Appleton in 1832. “Originally installed in Boylston Hall, the society and its organ moved in 1839 to Melodean Hall. As relocated a second time to the Boston Music Hall, the organ stood in the niche behind the screen of the stage. The Boston Music Hall Association rented this organ for $240 a year, and eventually purchased it.”(Methuen Memorial Music Hall Website, 11/26/10, 1)
The “inadequate instrument that came after” the Walker was removed was “a very large one-manual Geo. S. Hutchings” instrument. “While having only one manual, the organ provided the widest possible range of accompanimental nuance from a delicate whisper to a thundering tutti. To distinguish this from its noble predecessor, it was opined that it would be known as the ”little” organ (28 stops, 38 ranks.)” its first use was in the December 1884 Handel and Haydn Messiah performance. The instrument did have a Contra Bourdon at 32 feet, and six of the stops were enclosed within a swell box. (Huntington, 32 and 33)
There are many stories of Lang and the Handel and Haydn performances. George W. Chadwick recorded that when he was singing in that chorus he was in a position to see the organist, which presumably would be Lang, and that Lang could be seen “reading his newspaper between the choruses.” (Owen, 133) Actually Lang’s job during performances was not too intense, as he had to play mainly during the choruses so that the organ “came in at the right moments to supply great depths of bass and background in the massive choruses.” (Dwight as quoted by Owen, 111) However, “there were two major problems in playing the Music Hall Walcker organ. The first was its pipes were built based on the pitch of A=435, the “New French Pitch” which was popular in Europe at the time. In Boston, orchestras were used to playing the “Old High English Pitch” of A=449, which represents almost a half step higher. To make the instruments retune a half-step down was not possible! Lang to the rescue-he “routinely transposed the accompaniments a half step up,” which was “surely a tribute to his fabled musicianship.” (Owen, 74). The second major problem was the period of delay between playing a note and hearing the sound; this problem continues today with the instrument in its home in Methuen. Within the Boston organ community, this was a standing joke. One wag said that the organ “spoke the day after tomorrow,” another said that “by the time the tone arrives the organist has forgotten that he ever played it,” and another said that “you have to begin playing a quarter of an hour before the recital commences, in order to be on time.” (Owen, 75) Certainly this delay is very bothersome for a solo recitalist, but for someone who is accompanying, it means that you have to be playing ahead of the conductor’s beat and ahead of what you hear. Henry Dunham said that the sound reached the player “nearly a whole beat late,” and when playing loudly he had to “count aloud to keep things in hand.” (Dunham in Owen, 75) But, Lang “played ahead” so perfectly that nothing was ever mentioned about the problem when he was at the console. His organ accompaniments as part of the orchestra at concerts were very important. Dwight reviewed the Handel and Haydn December 1865 performance of Messiah and noted that “The choruses went remarkably well that night, the Great organ accompaniment by Mr. Lang replenishing them with great waves of harmony. (Owen, Great Organ, 95) Dwight’s comment for the 1868 Messiah was that a highlight of the evening was Lang at the organ which “came in at the right moments to supply great depths of bass and background in the massive choruses.” (Owen, Great Organ, 111)
Carl Zerrahn. (July 28, 1826, Malchow, Germany: Dec. 29, 1909, Milton, Mass.) Grove’s 1921 Vol. T – Z, 594.
The careers of Lang and Zerrahn ran parallel and intersected for thirty-five years. “In 1855-63 he [Zerrahn] conducted one of the several orchestras in Boston known by the name Philharmonia, and was practically the only leader of the concerts of the Harvard Musical Association in 1865-82. In addition to his work as conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society (elected conductor in August 1854) and of the Worcester Festivals, he was for many years in charge of the Salem Oratorio Society and other smaller organizations. At the second Peace Jubilee (1872) he led the chorus of 20,000. He was also a teacher of singing, harmony and composition at the New England Conservatory. In all these ways he left a significant impress upon the development of American choral music.” (Pratt, 410-11) Sablosky adds that he taught at the New England Conservatory until 1898, and that his tenure with the Worcester Festival was from 1866-1897. (Sablosky, 306)
At the height of his career, in the early 1880s when he was fifty-five years old, his rehearsal schedule included seven evenings of choral groups: Handel and Haydn, Boston; Festival Association Chorus, Worcester; Oratorio Society, Salem; Choral Union, Lynn; Choral Union, Lowell; Beethoven Society, Taunton; and Choral Union, Exeter, N. H. During the day he did the rehearsals and concerts for the Harvard Musical Association; taught conducting, harmony, counterpoint, etc. at the New England Conservatory; and taught private pupils. This was his regular schedule – he often was off conducting a special festival! “It might be supposed that such a multiplicity of care, too much for an ordinary man, would leave no leisure for study…He thoroughly enjoys hard work, and thrives on an amount that would break down any common man.” (Musical Herald, December 1881, 264)
“But nothing could fluster Mr. Zerrahn; I never saw him lose his head, nor any performance come to grief under his baton. And, with the orchestral material and few rehearsals of those days, things were on the verge of coming to grief pretty often.” (Swan-Apthorp, 73) Apthorp continued with examples. “At one of the Handel and Haydn festivals (I think the first one, the demi-centennial), the then famous boy soprano, Richard Coker, sang Meyerbeer’s ”Robert, toi que j’aime” at an afternoon concert. He was accompanied on the pianoforte by his father. When the air was about half through, Coker Sr. discovered to his dismay that the remaining sheets of the music were missing; Mr. Zerrahn immediately sprang to the conductor’s desk, waved his baton, and the rest of the air was accompanied from memory by the orchestra.
I remember another instance of Mr. Zerrahn’s presence of mind. It was at a performance of Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise by the Handel and Haydn. The tenor had just finished that air with the incomprehensible words, ending with the oft-repeated question: ”Watchman, will the night soon pass?” In reply to this, the soprano should strike in unaccompanied in D major, with ”The night is departing,” twice repeated, the wood-wind coming in piano on the second ”departing,” and the whole orchestra fortissimo on the last syllable. On this occasion, the soprano was standing a little farther forward on the stage than Mr. Zerrahn; so she could not see his beat without turning her head. She struck in bravely with her ”The night is departing,” but unfortunately, not in D major—it was fairly and squarely in C major, a whole tone flat. A shudder ran through the orchestra and a good part of the audience; what was Mr. Zerrahn to do with the ensuing D major? His mind was made up in a second; he motioned to the wood-wind not to come in with their chords, and patiently waited for the hapless soprano to finish her phrase, and then let the orchestra come in with its D major fortissimo afterward, instead of on the last syllable. But now came one of the most comical tugs of war I have ever witnessed between singer and conductor. Of course the soprano was entirely unconscious of having made a mistake; so, not hearing the usual 6-4 chord on her second ”departing,” she evidently thought the wind-players had counted their rests wrong, and held her high G (which ought to have been an A) with a persistency worthy of a better cause, to give them a chance to catch up with her. She held that G on and on, looking as if she would burst; but still no 6-4 chord. Mr. Zerrahn waited imperturbably with his baton expectantly raised. At last-it seemed like hours-human lungs could hold out no longer, and the breathless soprano landed panting with her final ”ting” on C-natural, amid a deathlike silence of orchestra and chorus. You could have heard a pin drop. Just as she was turning round to see why she had been thus left in the lurch by the accompaniment, Mr. Zerrahn’s baton came down with a swish, and the orchestra thundered out its D major.” (Apthorp, BSO Program March 6 and 7, 1896, 595-598)
COMPLIMENTARY CONCERT FOR B. J. MARCH 1860.
The Boston Musical Times reported in its issue dated February 25, 1860 that a “Complimentary Concert” was to be given: “Mr. B.J. Lang will be complimented and benefited by the concert to be given this evening, in the new Bumstead Hall, for which the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, Mrs. J. H. Long, Mr. Wetherbee and Messrs. Dresel, Parker and Leonhard, have volunteered their assistance as a farewell testimonial, prior to his departure for Europe, of the esteem in which he is held by them. Such an array of talent, introduced in a highly judicious programme, induces us to anticipate one of the most gratifying musical entertainments of the season.
In common with all who know him, we entertain for Mr. Lang, personally, a cordial regard; while his ability and success as a pianist-marvelous in one so young-achieved by unremitting industry impelled by inherent genius-entitle him to the respectful consideration of most cultivated connoisseurs.
Mr. Lang intends to pursue his studies in Europe during the coming summer, and we indulge no shadow of a doubt that an appreciating public will present him to-night such a manifestation of their confidence in his future as will fill many an hour with cheering and happy memories of his distant home.” (BMT (February 25, 1860: 37)
An ad in the March 24, 1860 issue of the Boston Musical Times said that “the programme, one of the most attractive ever offered to the Boston public, will include the famous Eight-hand Piano pieces given at Mr. Trenkle’s Concert last season-one of which, L’Invitation a la Dance, created unwonted enthusiasm.” (BMT, March 24, 1860)
Dwight’s review stated: “The Compliment to this young artist, on Saturday evening, previous to his departure for Europe, was general, hearty, and substantial. The new Hall in Bumstead Place was fuller than it has ever been… Mr. Lang was rich in audience and in programme, rich in the friendly aid of other artists, in his own strength, and particularly rich in pianos; since there were two of those superb Erard-like Grands, just manufactured by the Messrs. Chickering… In his own person Mr. Lang, besides taking the upper part at one of the two pianos in the eight-hand pieces, gave us in the first place an excellent rendering of the two movements from Mendelssohn’s piano and violoncello Sonata, admirably supported by Wulf Fries…We hear that Mr. Lang is also to receive a Complimentary Concert in his native place, Salem. With all these expressions of interest, and good wishes, which we certainly share, he will go abroad with hope and high artistic purpose strengthened.” (Dwight (March 31, 1860): 6 and 7) This reflects the high esteem shown by Lang’s fellow Boston musicians-he had certainly achieved much in the two years since his arrival back in Boston from his European studies.
SUMMER IN EUROPE—1860.
On April 11, 1860 Lang applied for a passport that described him as:
Age – 22; Stature – 5″ 7″; Forehead – high; Eyes – blue; Nose – large; Mouth – medium; Chin – short; Hair – light brown; Complexion – light, and Face – oval. His signature is quite legible with a flowing style. (Passport Application from Ancestry.com)
Lang left during the first week of May on the steamer CANADA (side-wheeler) with Mr. Silas A. Bancroft (1823-1886). (BMT (May 19, 1860): 103) Coincidentally the officer in charge was Capt. Lang! (Evening Transcript (May 16, 1860): 2, GB) Mr. Bancroft, born in Boston on April 14, 1823 was the son of a merchant and his mother traced her lineage back to one of the Mayflower passengers. “As his father was comfortably well off, Silas did not have the incentive to work very hard…still he was for over thirty years one of the prominent organists of the New England metropolis.” (Metcalf, 294-95) In 1860, he was just finishing as organist for the Mount Vernon Congregational Church, and soon after this European trip, he became the organist for Emmanuel Church where he served for over twenty years. He died on November 18, 1886. (Ibid) Frances noted in her diary that it was a dangerous voyage with great storms. She also noted that she had her head shaved while B. J. was away and wore caps. (Diary Excerpts, 1) In September, he returned from Europe. (Dwight (October 6, 1860: 221) A “Mr. B. J. Lang, Professor, aged 30” [this incorrect age is just one of many errors made on official documents of the time] arrived in Boston from Liverpool on the AMERICA, a ship of 984 tons, September 10, 1860. (Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1823-1943 and America Manifest) Dwight printed that “Mr. B. J. Lang has returned from a tour in Europe, which we doubt not has passed both agreeably and profitably to himself. His many friends are glad to welcome him home again.”(Dwight, (October 6, 1860): 221) Not bad for one whose career was only two years old.
The following was transcribed from B. J.’s Diary (which is not in the BPL Rare Book collection, but provided by Fletcher DuBois) and covers the summer of 1860.
Copy provided by Fletcher DuBois.
In September Lang returned from Europe. (Ibid) A “Mr. B. J. Lang, Professor, aged 30” arrived in Boston from Liverpool on the AMERICA, a ship of 984 tons, September 10, 1860. (Boston Lists, Op. cit.) The Boston Musical Times of September 20, 1860 reported that: “The many friends of Mr. B.J. Lang, the young pianist will be glad to learn that he has returned from his European tour, in excellent health; and that he is prepared to resume the duties of his profession with renewed vigor. Mr. Lang has, during his absence, listened to some of the finest pianism of the first masters of our time, and we doubt not that his eager mind will infuse into his own teachings, some of those sweet influences, which none can appreciate so fully as a pianist like himself.” (Boston Musical Times (September 20, 1860): 249)
B. J. AS A PIANO SALESMAN.
Within a month from returning from Europe, B. J. took over his father’s piano sales business. On October 1, 1860 Chickering & Sons “transferred the Agency for the sale of our PIANO FORTES from Mr. Benjamin Lang to Mr. B. J. Lang, who will hereafter represent us and attend to our interests, at his Warerooms in the Downing Block. It affords us a more than common pleasure to recommend Mr. Lang to our numerous friends and the citizens of Salem, as a gentleman possessing unusually fine qualifications for the purchasing and selection of Pianos, and we can assure them that Sales made through can be depended upon, and will be guaranteed as strongly as though obtained directly from the Establishment in Boston.” (Salem Register (October 29, 1860): 2, GB)
Lang’s first conductorship of a male voice choir was with a group he organized in Salem in 1860. Known “under the name of the Amphions, rehearsals were held weekly at Mr. Lang’s room [his father’s music shop]. The first and only concert was given at Mechanic Hall, April 18, 1861. There were twenty singing members and a roll of honorary members. Much of the music used by the club was selected by Mr. Lang while in Europe. The Amphions assisted the Mendelssohn Quintette Club at a concert in Salem and were invited to take part in a series of classical concerts in Boston.”(Whipple, 21) The Salem Register late in January 1861 wrote: “The Salem public is to be regaled by a first-class concert by the very best talent. Mr. B. J. Lang, our townsman, deservedly eminent as a Pianist-everybody knows that-announces” a concert with the Mendelssohn Quintette Club and the “Amphions of this city-a new musical association, not yet known to fame, but soon to become so-consisting of twelve gentlemen of Salem, who, under the instruction of Mr. Lang, have been practicing Mendelssohn’s celebrated Four-Part Songs.” (Salem Register (January 28, 1861): 2, GB) No date for the concert was given, but as twelve singers were mentioned for this concert and as Whipple mentioned twenty singers, there may have been two concerts. Another Salem paper announced this concert as being the Thursday evening next. Not only were the Mendelssohn Quintette Club and the Amphions to perform, but also Miss Lang. (Salem Observer (January 26, 1861): 2, GB) The Civil War “thinned the ranks of the organization and it was dissolved in 1862.” (Whipple, Op. cit.)
MARRIAGE TO FRANCES MORSE BURRAGE.
On October 10, 1861, when he was 23, B. J. married Frances Morse Burrage (Dec. 18, 1839-Oct. 15, 1934) who was two years younger than he. “Benjamin Johnson Lang did, in fact, marry into the upper class. His wife, Frances Burrage, came from an upper-class family,” and they were listed in the Social Register of Boston. (Blunsom, 28) Blunsom, using material from Frances Lang’s Diaries, describes her as: “Frances Lang was not merely a housewife. Like most upper-class women, she was involved in a variety of cultural and charitable endeavors: the Browning Society, Mrs. Fields’ Dante Club, a literary club called Uncut Leaves, and visiting the ”incurables.” Moreover, she was steeped in Boston’s musical life: hosting receptions for visiting musicians, attending rehearsals of her husband and daughter, going to concerts almost every night. Indeed, Frances Lang was an accomplished musician in her own right, having studied with B. J. Lang before their marriage and at times being asked to critique young singers.”(Blunsom, 55) B. J. had known Frances for ten years before their marriage as he had taught her piano beginning in August 1851-there is a letter dated Aug. 16, 1851 to Mrs. Burrage stating that he will contact her soon about lessons. (BPL Ms. Lang, Vol. 24, 2c) If this dating is correct, he would have been 14. A signed receipt from B. J. dated Oct. 7, 1855 lists six pieces “Miss Fanny Burrage” was buying for her lessons, and this may reflect his teaching style. There were Mazurkas by Chopin and Henselt, a Polka by Dodworth, and three other pieces with no composer named which added up to $2.63. This would probably be the repertoire for one-quarter of study as it matches another bill dated Oct. 20, 1858 that charged $20 for instruction and $2 for etudes and music. (BPL MS. Lang, Box 27, Folder 24, No. 4) Margaret wrote the following about her mother’s first piano lesson. “At the first lesson she said-‘Mr. Lang, I want to say two things. First-I will not practice, second, I shall never play anything which has more than four sharps!’ Mr. Lang was 20 at this time and well known as a teacher.” (BPL Ms. Lang, Vol. 24, No. 2) These two receipts bookend Lang’s study time in Europe that is always listed as 1855 to 1858. The Oct. 7, 1855 receipt implies that B. J. planned to teach Frances for the Fall Quarter of October/November/December while the Oct. 20, 1858 receipt shows that he immediately resumed lessons with Frances upon his return from Europe. What made B. J. leave for Europe so impetuously, and more importantly, how was this time in Europe financed?
“Wedding Ambrotype of Benjamin Johnson Lang and Margaret Burrage, c. 1859.” The actual date was: October 10, 1861. Where Margaret came from is a mystery as her middle name was Morse. The image was darkened but his high forehead and style of beard (see his c. 1862 photo under Topic “Teacher and Pupil” in Chapter 2, Part 2 for the same image), and the relative heights (B. J. at 5′ 7″ listed on his 1860 Passport Application) seem to reinforce the names cited. BPL-Digital Commonwealth.
Frances’ parents were Johnson Carter Burrage and Emeline Brigham Burrage. In the 1850 Census, the Burrage family was listed as Johnson Burrage, aged 34, Emeline Burrage, aged 35, Frances, aged 9, Edward, aged 8, Hubert, aged 4, and Helen, aged 2 with two servants. Mr. Burrage was listed as a merchant with a value of real estate owned of $40,000. In comparison, in the same year, B. J.’s father was listed as a music teacher with a value of real estate owned of $3,000. (Ancestry.com) Frances was well regarded as a singer though she never became a professional. Their three surviving children inherited their musical aptitudes: the first child, Harry, “died in infancy while B. J. and Frances were in Europe.” (DuBois e-mail, May 21, 2006) The child’s full name was Harry Allston Lang, and he had been born in Boston on October 4, 1864 and he died in August 1866 in Hingham, Massachusetts. (New Boston Town History No. 199, February 11, 1914) The first surviving child was Margaret Ruthven Lang, born in Boston (Nov. 27, 1867 – May 30, 1972) and known primarily as a composer; next was Rosamond Lang Galacar also born in Boston (Feb. 6, 1878 – Aug. 11, 1971) who was regarded as a brilliant sight-reader at the piano; and finally, Malcolm Burrage Lang born in Lynn, MA. (June 14, 1881 – Mar. 7, 1972), known as a pianist and organist. Mrs. Lang’s genes were passed on to her children: she died at age 94, and Margaret at 104, Rosamond at 93, and Malcolm at 90: all three children died within ten months of each other.
8 Brimmer Street, owned by Abby Davis when the Langs were living in Otis Place. Walker’s 1883 Map of Boston, BPL Collection, Wikepedia, August 8, 2013.
Life in B. J.’s household was described by his daughter Margaret as very regimented. “My father’s breakfast was the same every morning. We couldn’t keep cooks very long. Breakfast, and it had to be prepared to father’s specifications, was cold cracked wheat in a mold and a cornbread. Then he would walk across the Public garden to his studio on Newbury St.” (Miller, Globe article) Another aspect of B. J’s character is shown by the story related by the singer and composer, Clara Kathleen Rogers: “It was well known to all his friends, and set down to his credit, that Lang had never taken a stimulant of any kind-that his one and only dissipation was ice-cream, which brings to mind a certain evening at our house when Anton Seidl, the Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and Krebhiel, the famous critic, had been dining with us after an afternoon lecture on Wagner, delivered by Krebhiel, with musical illustrations by Seidl. We had invited a score or so of musical friends to meet them after dinner, when we improvised a little music, consisting largely of Wagner’s songs, in which Seidl accompanied me. I had arranged on this particular occasion to have light refreshments served upstairs instead of descending to the dining room for supper, and orders were given to serve them punctually at half-past ten. At this not very opportune moment some unaccountable impulse seized on Seidl to seat himself at the piano, — under the spell of Wagner — and play excerpts from Parsifal , which proved to be quite lengthy! A halt was called to the handing around of the ices, and there sat Mr. Lang, at that particular moment more interested in ice cream than Parsifal, with his eyes tragically fixed on those frozen works of art gradually melting into a rainbow-tinted liquid! Poor Lang! Like unto the ices my heart melted to Him.” (Rogers, Two Lives, 147-48)
HYMN OF PRAISE PREMIER.
On January 30, 1862 Lang conducted the First Boston performance of Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise at Old South Church using only an organ four-hand accompaniment. He had organized a choir of quartet singers totaling sixteen singers from various (unnamed) churches, and the soloist was the bass J. Q. Wetherbee. Dwight reported “The Hymn of Praise without an orchestra loses much; especially the introductory Symphony, a long instrumental work of several movements, which was represented by a four-hand arrangement for the organ, in playing which Mr. Lang was assisted by Mr. J. C. D. Parker. It was played well, but for want of other instruments, violins especially proved tame and tedious. The choruses were all remarkably well sung by the small but effective choir of four voices on a part, and the accompaniments were very skillfully suggested —to say the least—by Mr. Lang’s combinations of the organ stops, and such treatment in whole and in detail as showed a thorough study of the music. There was some excellent solo singing too… Before the Hymn, a short miscellaneous First Part was given. (Dwight (February 8, 1862): 358) This First Part included Fest Fantasy on a Theme of Haydn (for organ) by Koehler, a bass song by Mr. Wetherbee, and Andante from the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven. Probably the performance of the Mendelssohn given a month later, March 1, 1862, by the Handel and Haydn Society “with the entire Philharmonic Orchestra” in “Commemoration of the recent NATIONAL VICTORIES” was at Lang’s suggestion.
Photo from: Historic New England. Dated c. 1862.
In 1862 Youthful Voices: A Collection of Hymns and Tunes For the use of Sunday Schools was published by Walker, Wise and Co. for the Committee of the Boston Sunday School Teachers Institute. It contained 102 different tunes and the “Music [was] edited by Benjamin J. Lang.” In the Preface, it said that this book “contains little that is new, but has not been prepared without much pains-taking labor. The depositories of Sunday School books and papers have been carefully researched, as well as every attainable collection of Sacred Music. A large body of secular music has also been explored and brought into service, when it could be used without introducing disturbing associations; and it is believed that all of the hymns and tunes finally chosen, possess some fitness for the purpose for which they were taken.” There were indexes of tune names and first lines, but no listings of composers or authors. However, it is possible that Frances contributed four tunes. Frances was not named in full, but the citations were “F. M. L.,” her married name- Frances Morse Lang. (Copy, Johnston collection) This collection seems to have been a second edition as there is also an edition with the copyright date of 1856. (WorldCat)
FIRST WALPURGIS NIGHT.
B. J. Lang made his first real appearance as a conductor with the first Boston performance of Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night with chorus, soloists, and orchestra on Saturday evening, May 3, 1862 at Boston’s Music Hall; he was now 24. As the work was not known in the city, he presented it twice at the same concert. Pre-concert publicity was good. In early April under “Musical Gossip,” the Boston Musical Times printed this notice: “Mr. B. J. Lang, our excellent young pianist, has undertaken a ”labor of love,” for which he is deserving the highest commendation. It is the public performance of Mendelssohn’s splendid composition, Walpurgis Nacht. Mr. Lang has gathered together a carefully selected choir of 100 voices, and a full orchestra, and we may confidently expect the first performance in Boston of this work will be most excellent.” (BMT (April 5, 1862): 19) Lang wrote in the program book: “The enthusiasm which a performance of The First Walpurgis Night has invariably created among musicians, the interest it awakens among the most careless concert goers, and the fact that this beautiful composition has never been heard in Boston before form the only apology Mr. Lang can offer for giving two entire performance of it on the same evening. He ventures on this unprecedented step confident that it is amply justified by the novelty and beauty of the music.” (Fox, Lang Papers, 6) The program listed “A Grand Orchestra, a Select Chorus of 150 voices” and the soloists were “Mrs. Kempton, Mr. S. W. Langmaid, Mr. W. H. Wadleigh, Mr. J. Q. Wetherbee, and Mr. Ryder.” The program was arranged beginning with the new work, then a Grand Duo on Themes from Norma by Thalberg for two pianofortes played by Lang and Miss Mary Fay, then the Overture to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Music and ending with the repeat of First Walpurgis Night. Dwight’s article about the coming performance began: “We are to have the privilege tonight (thanks to the enterprise of Mr. B. J. Lang) of listening to an important work by a great master, which is new to us.” Dwight acknowledges that that work “is not equal in importance to his own greatest works… but it is a thoroughly genial, original, delightful composition, full of charming, of startling and of grand effects; a most successful musical translation of Goethe’s curious poem.” (Dwight (May 3, 1862): 38 and 9)
Dwight’s review of a week later reported: “The Music Hall appeared filled, and with such an audience as only the expectation of something really fresh and good could have called out-those who respond only to best appeals… The second performance naturally was the best, the singers having become more at home in it. The solo singers, especially, improved upon their first trial of their voices in the large hall and in a position rather new to several of them. The chorus of 150 voices, all young, fresh, telling, (with no dummies), and finely balanced, sounded remarkably well throughout and was always up to the mark. We have seldom heard so fine a body of soprani and contralti in any of our Oratorio or choral performances. It shows that counting up voices by hundreds is not much use unless they are effective; 150 effective ones are more to the purpose than twice their number as we sometimes hear them. The orchestra did its work well in the exceedingly ingenious, descriptive, difficult accompaniments; and Mr. Lang himself, the youthful conductor, appeared very well at ease and master of his position, new to him as the position was. There was unity of design, rightly conceived, and carried through with energy, in this somewhat bold enterprise of his; and the result was in the highest degree creditable to him… His conductorship, however, was remarkable for a beginning. Practice will bring more self-possession, and more liberty to pay regard to light and shade. Everybody came away thanking Mr. Lang, for a rich evening and a fresh experience.” (Dwight (May 10, 1862): 46) Twelve years later the same work was programmed for the debut concert on November 19, 1874 of the newly formed Cecilia choir in its inaugural season as the choral adjunct to the Harvard Musical Association.
HANDEL AND HAYDN SOCIETY.
The early 1860s saw a low point in the finances of the Handel and Haydn Society. The debt of the 1861-62 season was so great that both Zerrahn and Lang “readily agreed to retain office without fixed salary and be content with whatever small balance might remain in the treasury after the expenses were paid. (At the end of the year, July 1, 1862, they got $41.68 each!).” (Perkins/Dwight, History, 199) One positive note was the election of a new President of the Society. “After the unanimous nomination of Dr. J. Baxter Upham for the office of president, the meeting was adjourned to June 4, when Dr. Upham – a gentleman of culture and large public spirit, a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1842, and of the Harvard Medical School in 1847, a gentleman to whom Boston was indebted more than to any other for the enterprise which built the Music Hall, and secured the noble organ which was soon to adorn it and complete it, and from whose enthusiasm the cause of music in our public schools was still receiving such an impulse – was elected president, with no change of other officers.” (Ibid)
GOTTSCHALK AND LANG.
In the fall of 1862, Lang was hired by Louis Moreau Gottschalk who was so impressed with his playing that he included him as a “collaborator for a series of twenty concerts, in which compositions for two pianos were the features.” (Transcript Obit, May 9, 1909) The connection between Gottschalk and Lang was possibly made by Lang’s early piano teacher, Francis G. Hill, who was a friend of Gottschalk (see letters from Gottschalk to Hill in Notes of a Pianist). These concerts were part of an incredible tour for Gottschalk beginning in New York City in February 1862 and ending in California in September 1865 during which he “estimated that he had given some 1,100 American recitals and traveled some 95,000 miles. During this time he did more than any other American musician to obliterate the line between high and popular art. (New Grove article by Lowens and Starr, 200)
The Boston Musical Times announced the coming concerts in this manner: “Gottschalk is coming at last. His concerts will commence on the 17th. How he has been prevailed upon to break his self-imposed barrier of hate of Boston, we do not know nor care; but can only congratulate him on his good sense in doing so. We doubt not that he will be received in the most friendly manner, and add a large ”Boston quota” to his already immense list of admirers-particularly among the gentler sex.” (BMT (October 4, 1862): 118) This hatred of Boston was probably based on his appearances nine years before where “he imagined he was received with unaccountable coldness.”(BMT (November 1, 1862): 134) In October 1862, Dwight wrote an extensive article about “Gottschalk’s Concerts” in the middle of the five concerts that the pianist had announced. The article did acknowledge that Gottschalk was a fine pianist: his “touch is the most remarkable we ever heard; in power, in fineness, in free vibratory singing quality it leaves nothing to be desired.” Then Dwight reviewed Gottschalk’s compositions using phrases such as “fine finger tricks…a freak…jack o’lantern freaks in it.” Dwight wrote of the William Tell Overture arranged for two pianos with Lang at the one piano playing the original parts and Gottschalk at the other piano “now trilling and twiddlidg, with senseless, painful repetition, in those piccolo octaves, now startling by a tremendous rush upon the lowest bass-and this was the arrangement! …Our excellent pianist, Mr. Lang, we pitied him.” (Dwight (October 18, 1862): 231)
Chickering Hall diagram.
However, not all agreed with Dwight. After a tepid response to the first concert, Gottschalk’s success was so great during this October series of concerts that “Chickering’s Hall was found to be too small for the increasing numbers, and the Melodean was secured, and this spacious [Music] Hall could not accommodate the audience at the last concert. (Ibid) The announcement for the Boston “Second Grand Concert” on Monday, Oct. 11, 1862 included the phrases, “Mr. B. J. Lang, The Distinguished Pianist, has consented to assist Mr. Gottschalk in this Concert.” They ended the concert with the four-hand version of Ojos Criollos; earlier they had played Marche Funebre by Gottschalk. During the first part of the concert they played Grand Duet from William Tell as arranged by Gottschalk. Miss Caliste Huntley and Mr. J. Eichberg, violinist, were also assisting artists. Tickets were $1. The announcement for Gottschalk’s “Most Positively Last Concert in Boston” on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1862 (which had to be moved to the Melodean Theater in order to accommodate the expected crowds with reserved seats at 75 cents and unreserved seats at 50 cents), also said “Mr. B. J. Lang, The Distinguished Pianist, has consented to assist Mr. Gottschalk in his Last Concert.” They performed the Duett di Bravura on Themes from Trovatore for two pianos that had been originally composed for performance with Mr. Sigismond Thalberg, and which was “performed with immense success, for the first time in New York on the 25th. of December 1856. Mr. Lang will perform which was played by Mr. Thalberg.” (HMA Program Collection) Doyle quotes the New York Times critic as saying: The fourth piece on the programme was the great attraction of the evening… a grand duet on themes from Il Trovatore, composed expressly for this occasion (Dec. 26, 1856) by Mr. Gottschalk and performed by that gentleman and Mr. Thalberg. Bravura pieces of this kind do not invite criticism. They are written for a certain purpose, and the test of their excellence is the success they achieve. Judged by that standard Mr. Gottschalk’s duet is an extraordinary production. The Audience was electrified with it, and, notwithstanding its length and difficulty, demanded an encore.” (Doyle, 302 and 03)
As he appeared 1850-59 and when Lang worked with him. This would probably be a publicity photo for Chickering pianos. NYPL Digital, accessed November 18, 2020.
This Boston concert also ended with Gottschalk’s Ojos Criollos for two pianos. (HMA Program Collection) Gottschalk then went on to play in Norwich on October 20 and New York City on October 21. Dwight’s review of these five October concerts included remarks about Gottschalk’s arrangement of the William Tell Overture. “It consisted of an ordinary piano arrangement, played, with certain omissions before agreed upon, &c., by our excellent pianist, Mr. Lang (we pitied him), while the arranger, at his more brilliant instrument, piled upon it such tours de force as served to illustrate his own virtuosity rather than the overture, now trilling and twiddling, with senseless, painful repetition, in those piccolo octaves, now startling by a tremendous rush upon the lower bass,-and this was the ”arrangement”!… This was simply abominable in an artistic view.” However, Dwight did admit that Gottschalk was a fine pianist. “He is first of all and mainly a pianist. All that he does begins with the Piano; if he invent, if he compose, the inspiration seems to come from that instrument…He has certainly a most rare power of bringing out the tone, all the best qualities of that often disparaged, but really noble instrument… His mastery of that instrument, his identification of his own will with it, is the great wonder in him; this is what strikes his audience first and last.” (Dwight (October 18, 1862): 231)
The Chicago critic George P. Upton described Gottschalk as having “an extremely delicate touch, and a singing quality which I have never heard excelled. And yet he had great power when it was needed, for he was a very strong man, notwithstanding his delicate appearance. Personally he was very fascinating. He had beautiful hands, and was as vain of them as Artemus Ward used to be of his. He had a fastidious way of encasing them in the most immaculate of gloves, which it took him some time to remove before he began to play. This was not an affectation, as many thought. He said it gave him time to compose himself and get at ease. As he was very shy, he did not make many intimate friends.” When Upton asked him about his repertoire choices, Gottschalk reply was that “the dear public don’t want to hear me play it [classical repertoire]. People would rather hear” my own pieces. “Besides, there are plenty of pianists who can play that music as well or better than I can, but none of them can play my music half so well as I can. And what difference will it make a thousand years hence, anyway?” (Upton, 77and 78)
The success of these first Boston concerts led to a repeat set the next month, and we find an announcement for Saturday, Nov. 15, 1862, saying that “In consequence of the crowded state of the Hall at the Concert on Wednesday Evening, and the large number of persons who were unable to gain admittance,” Mr. Gottschalk will give “One More concert.” The soprano Miss Carlotta Patti and B. J. were the assisting artists with Mr. S. Behrens listed as Musical Director and Conductor; the Duett di Bravura was included again. Gottschalk’s Notes of a Pianist mentions further concerts in Boston. “November 30-Concert at Boston. Very great success… December 2-Concert at Boston. Great success… December 3-Matinee in the “Music Hall” with the grand organ. L___ plays remarkably.” (Gottschalk, 309) One presumes that L___ refers to B. J. Gottschalk appreciated not only the Boston organ, “That glorious monument,” but also its concert halls. “Boston possesses what New York has not yet contained, two concert halls, which are in no wise inferior to any of the largest concert halls in the world, and which, as to acoustics, I consider superior to the best of this continent and of the old world (Tremont Temple and Music Hall).” (Gottschalk, 311) In a letter dated February 26, 1864, he raves that “Boston… is par excellence the aristocratic city. It pretends to be the most intellectual in the United States. It is not to be denied that it has made enormous progress in the sciences and arts. The university at Cambridge is the most celebrated in the United States. Her poets are known the world over. She has for eight years possessed the largest organ in America… Boston has six theaters and three concert halls, two of which can seat thirty-five hundred persons. It is in one of these, the Tremont, that I gave my concerts. It is in my opinion the best for hearing and the most magnificent concert hall in the world. (Tara, From Psalm to Symphony, 112)[cix]
LINCOLN EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION CONCERT.
On January 1, 1863, Lang (now aged 25) shared with Carl Zerrahn the honor of conducting a concert in celebration of Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.” The original proclamation had been issued on September 22, 1862, and it declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederacy that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863, while the second part of the document listed the specific states which were affected-this second part was issued on January 1, 1863. The “Grand Jubilee Concert” at the Music Hall with “tickets at $1.00, or 50 cents, according to location,” was advertised for 3 PM [Dwight says noon], and was in “Honor of the Day! The Proclamation! The Emancipation of the Slave! The Spirit of the Fathers and the Constitution,” with “the proceeds of the sale of tickets to be appropriated to the benefit of the freed slaves, under the auspices of the Educational Commission” among whom were H. W. Longfellow, Edward E. Hale, R. W. Emerson, and O. W. Holmes. (HMA Program Collection) “Lang rehearsed and conducted the choral pieces. Ralph Waldo Emerson read from one of his own poems which included the line, “God said: I am tired of kings!” “Lang prepared and directed the choral numbers.” (Herald Obit (April 5, 1909): 8, GB) “Lang threw himself into it [rehearsals] with fervor, raising, drilling, and leading the vocal forces…Although the Handel and Haydn Society, owing to political division (or at least lack of unanimity) within its ranks, could not lend its aid officially, by name, yet it will be worth remembering with some satisfaction that, without a Handel and Haydn Society, the important choral features of that concert would have been impractical.” (H & H History, Vol. 1, 207)
Dwight recorded more details: “Emerson first read his famous Boston Hymn for prologue; and the music consisted of the Egmont Overture; the solo and chorus from the Hymn of Praise, ”Watchman, will the Night soon pass?” (Mr. Kreissmann, vocal soloist) and the response, ”The Night is Departing,” in which the clear clarion tones of Miss Houston (Mrs. West) made a thrilling impression; Beethoven’s E-flat Concerto, played by Otto Dresel; Dr. Holmes’s Army Hymn, composed for solo [again Mr. Kreissmann] and chorus by Dresel; Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, and the overture to William Tell, all music up to the true pitch and sense of the occasion.” (Dwight, History of Boston) Also listed in the program was the chorus “He, watching over Israel” from Elijah and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Obviously the Emancipation Concert meant a lot to B. J. as a Lang family story relates that when he heard about the “Proclamation,” he grabbed a boy to pump the organ and rushed into Old South Church where he began to play the Te Deum in celebration. At the same time the minister of the church was ascending the pulpit to recite the Jubilate, his expression of celebration. (Amy DuBois Interview)