ATTACKS ON LANG THROUGH TUCKER AND FOOTE.
A month after Lang’s debut with the BSO playing the Third Piano Concerto by Rubinstein, his pupil, Hiram G. Tucker made his own BSO debut playing the Fourth Piano Concerto by Rubinstein! One critic gave a very negative review. “It is not pleasant to make severe remarks, but it is my unpleasant duty this time to say, that the gentleman in question was totally unable to cope with the difficulties of the works he tried to play. The Rubinstein Concerto was altogether too ambitious a task for him, the last movement being nothing but a great scramble from beginning to end, the solo numbers were no better…Mr. Henschel, the conductor of these Symphony Concerts, has brought out several pupils of Mr. Lang, thereby no doubt earning the gratitude of this gentleman, but certainly not rendering any service to art or the public of Boston, since he only lowers the standard of these concerts by engaging such mediocre soloists.” (Undated, unsigned review found in Foote’s Scrapbooks.)
Arthur Foote, Elson, 1888.
A second attack against Lang was made through a review of Arthur Foote’s BSO performance of the Hiller Concerto in F Sharp minor, Op. 69, a work that Lang had performed for the first time in Boston on January 14, 1875 with the HMA Orchestra. This concert was held on Saturday, November 10, 1883. The review begins listing Lang’s known attributes-that he “is well-nigh incomparable in his excellent ability to read some of the most difficult of classic and modern pianoforte music at first sight.” (Ibid) The author goes on to list other compliments, and then lists three elements of Lang’s teaching of piano technique with which he does not agree. The first was that Lang’s piano technique did not strengthen the third and fourth fingers of both hands; the second was that the technique was “more dependent upon mannerism for its popular success than upon any legitimately artistic effects,” while the third was that it produced “a so-called technique that is not only rigid in its outlook, but that is suggestively corpse-like in its effect upon the keyboard.” (Ibid) The reviewer then cited specific examples that he felt he heard in Foote’s performance. (1) “Very many notes struck by him with the third and fourth fingers of either the right or left hand were plainly to be distinguished in the tone that was produced. (2) He illustrated, and no doubt with an alluring effect upon nine-tenths of his audience, some of the most stylish mannerisms of the school to which he belongs; and last, but not least (3) his execution of the mere notes of the concerto was almost wholly lacking the elasticity that should have belonged to it.” (Ibid) The reviewer then softened his previous statements. “Let us note, then, that we were charmingly impressed by the sincerity of the performance; that the interpretation, while it was far more scholastic and scholarly, was nevertheless based upon the very best models; and, thirdly, the extreme technical difficulties of the concerto were mastered to a very precise degree…He was very cordially received and applauded by the audience, and this very just recognition of his ability as a musician was unquestionably his due.” (Ibid)
For all of the reviewer’s knowledge of Lang’s teaching technique, it would seem to be refuted by Lang’s own words on the subject. “I care little for ”methods” as such. Like ”quack medicines,” there are many which may have desirable points, and have been of more or less value. But individuality is the thing. One who has it in him will become a pianist, no matter what method he has used, or whether or not it has been of assistance or a hindrance to his development. The art in him will come out in any case. The teacher must be governed by each individual case.” (Storer, “Advance of Musical Education In America,” The Musician, (October, 1907): 1)
SCHUMANN PIANO WORKS SERIES.
The month before Lang’s second B.S.O. appearance, he presented a series of five recitals playing the complete piano works of Robert Schumann. Presented on March 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, 1883 on Thursday afternoons at 2:30PM at the Bijou Theater, each recital was advertised to be about two hours in length. “For these recitals Mr. Lang has chosen the Bijou Theatre on account of its fine acoustics, which must be conspicuous on these occasions, when audiences of but three or four hundred are assembled.” (BPL Lang Prog., ) “The remarkable acoustics of the old auditorium when known as the Melodean and Gaiety Theratre have been imporved by its new arrangement.” (Herald (March 2, 1883): 4, GB) Each piece had a short explanation printed in the program. Other pianists and vocalists also took part: Madame Schiller, H. G. Tucker, John A. Preston, W. F. Fenollosa, Joshua Phippen, Arthur Foote and G. W. Sumner were the assisting keyboards artists. Single tickets were $1.50 and season tickets, $5 from A. P. Schmidt”s Music Store. (BPL Lang Prog.) For the first program Mrs. J. E. Tippett was the vocalist; for the third, Mr. George L. Osgood; and for the fourth, Mrs. Georg Henschel. The Advertiser noted that the “house was just about comfortablely filled” with an audience that was “distinctively musical.” (Advertiser (March 9, 1883): 5, GB)
The second concert “attracted another very large audience.” Mme. Madeline Schiller and Mr. H. G. Tucker were the assisting pianists while Mr. Henschel was the vocalist. Lang’s performance presented the “composer’s ideas clearly, intelligently and vigorously,” Mr. Tucker “exhibited good technical abilities,” Mme. Schiller’s “playing was more fully realized than ever before,” and Mr. Henschel’s small contribution “was as faultless as when heard at his own recital last season.” (Herald (March 9, 1883): 1, GB)
The fouth recital had a “very large and unusually attentive audience.” John A. Preston and Joshua Phippen were the assisting pianists. “The programme of piano selections, as a whole, proved one of the most interesting of the series.” Mrs. Henschel was the vocalist, and she sang three songs. Her voice being heard with rare enjoyment in such a perfect auditorium, and the applause which followed the singer’s efforts was a fitting tribute to the artistic abilities of the singer.” (Herald (March 23, 1883): 5, GB)
The Herald noted that Lang’s sixth Schumann recital (it seems that an additional recital was added to the original five, or what would have been the original nine except for the diphtheria outbreak) would be on Friday afternoon, April 6 “for the purpose of playing the children’s pieces which exists in such profusion and variety. A set of four-part songs for female voices…, and the Andante and Variations for two pianofortes, will be included in the programme.” (Herald (March 18, 1883): 10, GB)) No mention was made of who would sing the part-songs.
LECTURES ON PIANO TECHNIQUE.
In 1883 Lang announced a series of three lectures “upon pianoforte playing” for May 1, 5 and 8 at Chickering Hall at 2:30PM. The three lecture titles were: “Teaching the Art of Playing the Pianoforte,” “Mr. Lang’s System of Modern Piano-forte Technics,” and “The higher development of the Musical Senses.” Tickets were Three Dollars for the series and individual lectures could be bought for $1.50 if seats were available. (BPL Lang Prog.) This announcement inspired a lengthy article “Mr. Lang’s Lectures” in support of this presentation. “Mr. B. J. Lang is one of those artists whose personality and whose work are best enjoyed when one can come close to them. Thoughtful, delicate and sensitive, his temperament is inclined to shrink from those larger and more public tests of professional accomplishment…when he has to stand out alone before a great public, something of the freedom is at times lost, and those who have only heard and known him on such occasions, have not fully heard him and known him…He has studied and taught the pianoforte for many years, to many pupils of various minds and dispositions. Such experience brings much to a man who thinks, and we were glad when Mr. Lang began modestly to tell something of his experiences and his thoughts a few months ago. Since that time he has arranged what he wants to say into three lectures upon pianoforte playing as he understands and teaches it, and upon that awakening and development of the artistic sense, which are as essential in music as in painting. If we may judge the future by the past, these conferences (for they will be more than mere bald lectures) will have interest for many other persons than students of the pianoforte, and will shall hope that Chickering Hall will be filled with an audience so interested and sympathetic that Mr. Lang will speak as brightly and suggestively as he often does to a single friend.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) Another article, unsigned and without title, also referred to Lang’s series of lectures. “It was a characteristic idea of Mr. Lang to set an unusual hour for his lectures on pianoforte playing, and to ask so high a price for the tickets, and then to follow it up by his subsequent action. When the audience has assembled for the first lecture, he confessed that he had felt a great curiosity to know if any one in town cared enough for the matter to pay a big price and submit to an inconvenient hour, for the sake of what he might have to say. His ruse had proved successful, and he should therefore make the audience his guests, and their ticket money should be returned to them the day of the second lecture.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)
THIRTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1883-1884.
On Wednesday afternoon November 7, 1883 at 3PM and in the evening at 8PM, the Apollo Club closed the concerts dedicating the new “Chickering Hall.” They sang Mendelssohn’s To the Sons of Art. Lang and Perabo also played in these concerts the Hommage a Handel by Moscheles. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 4)
For the first (December 5, 1883) and the second (Monday evening, December 10, 1883) concerts of its Thirteenth Season the opening piece was Rinaldo, Op. 50 by Brahms with Charles R. Adams as the soloist. Also included was the first American performance of The Language of Flowers [Suite de ballet, Set One, 1880; a copy of the full score is available from the Sibley Library Mirroring Project at the Eastman School of Music], a suite of six orchestral movements by the English composer Frederic H. Cowen [1852-1935]. The Transcript called the suite “wholly charming” and “fanciful…yet the composer has not been content to be merely fanciful, but has given his work musical coherence and beauty.” (Apollo reviews-unsigned, undated) Rinaldo was a Boston first performance. The Transcript called the piece “the work of genius with great melodic beauty.” (Transcript, Apollo Reviews) Lang experimented with the orchestral placement in this concert. Instead of the normal orchestra in front and chorus behind, “The orchestra was placed behind the chorus, so that the men could sing point blank at the audience without having the sound of their voices filtered through the orchestra.” The reviewer mentioned that he had suggested this arrangement some ten to fifteen years before. (Ibid) Taking the opposite view, Ticknor in the December 16, 1883 Herald wrote: “If Brahms showed a cold, phlegmatic side to his nature he did it in the beginning of Rinaldo. The cantata would have been more warm-blooded had Max Bruch had a hand in its production.” (Johnson, First, 87) Howard M. Ticknor, a Harvard graduate, was the son of the founder of the book-publishing firm of Ticknor and Fields. He had also been a member of the bass section of the Apollo Club according to the 1883-1884 Membership List.
The Traveller noted that the choir was “in semicircular lines, so that the four parts were more merged into one volume of tone…The voices will now stand out, as they should, and the instruments make their proper background.” (Traveller (December 6, 1883): unsigned review) The Courier approved of the new performing arrangement, and had compliments for the orchestra and the choir; the concert “deserves to rank with the most enjoyable ever given” by the club, and “the entire concert seemed as pleasant to the audience as to the critic.” (Courier) Elson writing in Key Note spoke of the Cowen suite: “Every one of these pieces is a gem.” (Key Note, December 9, 1883)
For the Wednesday night, February 20, 1884 concert, a lighter miscellaneous program, the Daily Advertiser printed a “review” set as a conversation between two attendees. The first thought the repertoire was “throughout a concession to popular taste,” while the other admitted that “there are concessions which have to be made to the popular taste,” and then this second man asked of the first: “But if you had the matter in hand, could you do better?” (Advertiser (March 1, 1884): 2, GB)-full text listed by date in Geneology Bank) Lang programmed his own arrangement of a Swedish folksong Hi-fi-kin-ke-le which the audience loved and demanded an encore. “Mr. Lang, with marked modesty, declined for a time to accede to their calls, but at the last, after a half-dozen times bowing a denial, he was forced to direct the last two stanzas over again.” (Journal)
Another lighter number was the world premier of a Fantasie that the pianist Ernst Perabo arranged from themes in Sullivan’s Iolanthe. The Advertiser described the work as “so brilliant, so captivating, and so well written a composition that he was obliged to accept an encore for it.” (Advertiser) Perabo had shown this work to the composer Carl Reinecke of Leipsic ” who hailed it as a high-minded and brilliant addition to pianoforte music and calculated in a good sense to interest the public at large.” (Undated, unsigned review) For the repeat of this concert on February 25, 1884, Lang and Perabo played Moscheles’s Hommage a Handel. Perabo repeated his Iolanthe Fantasie and for his encore played again selections from this work. (Unsigned, undated review)
For the fifth and sixth concerts in the season presented on Wednesday evening, April 30 and Monday evening, May 5, 1884, the main works were not choral, but orchestral. Ovide Musin played Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and the Overture, The Princess by George E. Whiting received its Boston premier. Musin, born in Belgium was an experienced soloist who had played successfully in Vienna, Paris, and London. Choral highlights included a chorus from Paine’s Oedipus followed by a double chorus from Mendelssohn’s Antigone. “I can honestly say that the American work lost nothing by the juxtaposition.” (Brainard’s, May 14, 1884) The Advertiser noted that “Mr. Lang conducted with even more than his wonted skill, and the orchestra, composed of the very best men, accompanied all well, and the concerto with wonderful taste and accuracy.” (Advertiser, undated and unsigned review) Possibly the reviewer was Howard Ticknor. His appreciation of the conductor and orchestra was a nice change from the predictable harangues of some reviewers. The concert was very popular with all the seats taken, as were “all the good standing places.” (Traveller (May 1, 1884): unsigned review) The Times thought the program “of unusual interest,” and the performance “at all times smooth, delicate, finished and brilliant.” (Times)
The reviewer for the New York City Key Notes wrote of his visit to Boston when he heard the choir at the Centennial celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill. “The Apollo Club covered itself with glory. The singing made a far more profound impression that the oration, and the orator was and is one of the most eloquent men in Massachusetts. We haven’t any club in Brooklyn or New York that can hold a candle to it. The truth is, in vocal music, Boston people are ahead of New York, because they give their mind to it. Why Charley Howard would no more think of absenting hmself from a rehearsal than from his own funeral.” (Key Notes, May 5, 1884)
CHURCH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.
Immaculate Conception Church. Johnston Collection.
In 1883 Frances noted in her Diary that “Lel has been asked to take the position of Organist of the Church of [the] Immaculate Conception.” The organ was Opus 322 built in 1863 by E. & G. G. Hook, and it had three manuals, forty-five stops and fifty-five ranks. It was rebuilt in 1902 as Opus
1959 with four manuals, sixty-three stops and sixty-nine ranks. (OHS Pipe Organ Database) B. J. did not take the job.
The organ has been removed and is in storage at Boston College awaiting the building of a concert hall, and the building has been converted into condos.
EIGHTH CECILIA SEASON. 1883-1884.
The season began on Monday evening, November 19, 1883 at the Music Hall with full orchestra and B. L. Whelpley as organist. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Parts One and Two and Gade’s Crusaders were presented. The Transcript review was critical of the orchestra, especially in the Bach, but allowed that they were better in the Gade, although “again left much to be desired.” This reviewer noted that the choir had sung the Gade “at least four times before, but that the piece “wears well.” (Transcript, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) The Courier writer mentioned his seat position “behind the wood wind,” but in this review he did note that “The shading of the chorales in the Bach work and the orchestral work throughout the latter part of the evening was excellent.” (Courier, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) In an article written sixteen years later, December 1899, it was recalled that “the papers acclaimed Mr. E. M. Bagley the hero of the hour; he played the first trumpet part exactly as Bach wrote it, by having a D crook put to a small E-flat cornet, thus playing almost without a flaw Bach’s part for a D trumpet, high C’s and all. Mr. Bagley would have his Bach ”straight,” by hook or by crook.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 4)
Dvorak’s Stabat Mater had its world premier in Prague in 1880 followed by first performances in Berlin in 1881 and London 1883. The Cecilia performed five numbers from the work on Thursday evening, January 24, 1884 with full orchestra, J. Phippen (organist) at the Music Hall, while the American premier of the complete work was given by Theodore Thomas and the New York Chorus Society on April 3, the same year (Cecilia programs-clippings) President Thordike’s Annual Report made mention of “the floods which poured from the sky and through the streets.” He also wrote of the Dvorak: “Genius is visible throughout, in the orchestration, the vocal treatment, the development of themes, the simple but grand musical effects. The choir sang con amore, and the hearers listened with increasing delight. The demand for a performance of the entire work at an early date was universal.” The Evening Transcript notice of Friday, January 25, 1884 mentioned: “The Cecilia has followed suit to the Apollo Club in placing the orchestra behind the chorus, and with equally gratifying results. Indeed, the effect was so incomparably finer than that of the old arrangement, that one could not help wishing that the club would repeat the great Berlioz Requiem… so that the chorus could be heard to better advantage in it thans before.” (Ibid) The Evening Transcript closed with: “Mr. Lang conducted, and the performance constantly showed his taste and training, which had not, however, been able tp prevail on the male chorus to pronounce ”mountain” and ”fountain” correctly.” The January 1884 partial performance inspired a letter to the Editor of the Transcript critical of only being given sections of the work. “It was like asking a man to shake hands with a new acquaintance around a corner, and to form an estimate of his character from the warmth and pressure of the hand.” It was signed by “S. B. W.” and created so much comment that S. B. Whitney, a well-known Boston musician wrote to the Editor saying it was not he who had written the first letter. A third writer supported the original “S. B. W.,” but went on to point out “even a Boston audience (musical as it is)” needed a balanced program of new and old pieces at each concert. He further pointed to the many “repetitions of The Messiah, Elijah, and the Passion Music by the Handel and Haydn Society,” and that “we almost always find an old friend or two among the numbers on our Apollo programme, while the Boylston Club is beginning to be associated with The Desert and some old part-songs which it has sung many times… Boston vocal societies have certainly a hard task before them in striving to be truly musical in the highest sense of the word and at the same time to keep the wolf from the door.” The reviews of this concert reflected the extremes in the Boston critical fraternity: “Mention should also be made of the spirited rendering of the Vintagers Song from The Loreley” (Folio) verses “The Vintage Chorus was deserving of better success, but it was so tamely sung that it seemed to contain more water than wine.” (Courier-January 27, 1884). Perhaps these Letters to the Editor gave the group the will to present the Boston premier of the complete work, which it did a year later at the Music Hall on January 15, 1885 with full orchestra and Mr. Arthur Foote as the organist. The work was again repeated four years later on Thursday evening, March 28, 1889 at the Boston Music Hall with an orchestra and two organists: Mr. E. Cutter, Jr., and Mr. Hiram Hall.
The third concert of the season was given on Thursday evening, March 27, 1884 at the Music Hall. “It began with an organ sonata by Mendelssohn, admirably played by Mr. Arthur Foote, but in which the fact that the organ was out of tune was lamentably noticeable. The flute stops, especially disagreed with the rest of the organ.” Foote’s playing of the Mendelssohn was one of the “last utterances” of organ before it was banished from the Music Hall. [Was this neglect of the organ part of Higginson’s plan to have it remove from the hall?] The reviewer noted: “the club are [?] making good artistic advancement, and have improved in the matter of refined shading.” The writer also noted that the size of the group seemed larger than ever before. This review seemed to be in a magazine as it covered a number of different types of concerts and it was signed by L. C. E. (Louis C. Elson)(Cecilia Reviews, Vol. 2). The second half of the concert was The Fair Melusina by Hofmann, which did not seem to create much excitement in any of the reviews, especially as the accompaniment was only by piano. “One sees no valid reason why Heinrich Hofmann should have a claim upon the charity of Boston music-lovers… We have yet to discover the interesting or charming side of Hofmann’s cantatas… The solo parts especially are kill-joys of the most baleful description.” (Cecilia Reviews, Vol. 2)
The fourth concert of the season was held on Thursday evening, May 15, 1884 at the Music Hall with full orchestra. It was described as “A concert of highest character, educational for the masses, yet thoroughly enjoyable to musician and non-musician alike… It presented Mendelssohn’s Athalia [not given by the Club since 1878] and the third part of Schumann’s Faust. The later work, or rather its fragment, was heard to better advantage than on the occasion of its presentation by the society last season.” Interestingly, whereas in some cases the club was rebuked for only giving parts of a work, this reviewer felt that “The presentation of a single part and that part the culmination of the whole work, was just suited to awakening the public’s interest and sustaining it… A complete performance of this masterpiece is rather too heavy a dose at one time for the coi polloi, even if they are an especial kind and attend club concerts… of the choruses we can only speak in the highest terms. The sweetness of tone, the solidity in the stronger passages, the excellent ensemble throughout, made this one of the best concerts that the club has given-worthy to be ranked with the greatest performance of the Crusaders years ago.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
President Thorndike’s Annual Report of June 1884 reviewed the first ten years of the choir; the first two years as part of the Harvard Musical Association, and then eight as an independent organization. “The conductor was appointed who has ever since led us so faithfully and well. Now and at all times it is our duty and our pleasure to express the debt of gratitude which we owe to Mr. B. J. Lang.” In addition to maturing as a singing group, Thorndike wrote: “We have arrived at a more perfect understanding of our real sphere—the performance of cantatas of some magnitude and importance. Our miscellaneous programmes are not favorites with either singers or audience.” He then listed the various first performances, both Boston and American, and then addressed the subject of soloists: “We have neither the money nor the inclination to procure expensive soloists. We propose that our club shall be chiefly made up of amateurs, and that our solos shall be chiefly sung by members.” He ended his report with details of the following season, “a large and brilliant plan, requiring an orchestra for every performance”—a first for the choir. (Cecilia Clippings. President’s Annual Report, June 1884)
LANG PREMIERS BY THE APOLLO CLUB.
Between 1884 and 1887 four pieces composed by B. J. were sung during Apollo Club concerts; two were repeated in later seasons. Hi-fi-lin-ke-le, premiered on February 20 and 26, 1884; repeated May 12 and 17, 1886 and April 30, 1890 (Program, Johnston Collection). Two solos were written specifically for the April 29 and May 4, 1885 concerts. The Lass of Carlisle, a solo for baritone was performed by Mr. Hay, while Nocturne, a solo for tenor was sung by Mr. G. J. Parker. These two pieces were repeated on April 29 and May 2, 1887. Finally, My True Love Has My Heart was premiered at the May 12 and 17, 1886 concerts. (Apollo Scrapbook, Vol. 3)
concerning Hi-fi-lin-ke-le the Advertiser wrote: “…a delicious little bit of writing by Mr. Lang, in the shape of a Swedish love ditty, set to a melody to be sung by the whole chorus in unison, except for the harmony of the close.” (Scrapbook) It was encored. Another review suggested that shouting the final chords a little louder could make a better effect. The Journal said: “Another work of decidedly humorous character was Mr. Lang’s song composed upon a Swedish poem reciting the fate of the maid ”who will not when she might,” and when she would, cannot. It is a light but thoroughly well arranged composition, and brings out the vocal resources of the club as few of the numbers in its repertory are able to do. It was much admired by the audience, who were urgent in their demands for a repetition. Mr. Lang, with marked modesty, declined for a time to accede to their calls, but at last, after a half-dozen times bowing a denial, he was forced to direct the last two stanzas over again.” (Apollo Scrapbook, Vol. 3)
Words from the program of Wednesday evening, April 30, 1890 at the Boston Music Hall: 121th. Concert, 5th. of the 19th. Season. Johnston Collection.
concerning The Lass of Carlisle and Nocturne the Journal said: “its melody [The Lass of Carlisle] is singularly quaint, and in the refrain it has just the queerness which fits the queer poem of Ettrick Shepherd. In Mr. Aldrich’s ‘Up to her chamber window,’ – called on the bill a Nocturne – Mr. Lang found fancy and feeling happily combined in a poem, finely adapted to his delicate skill as a composer.” The piece was encored. (Apollo Scrapbook, Vol. 3)
LECTURE BUSINESS – LANG, CHADWICK, PAINE AND ELSON.
In addition to appearing as a soloist, Lang had other connections with the B.S.O. During the fourth season he, together with George W. Chadwick, gave “lectures on the structure of the Beethoven symphonies as they were played” through the season. (Howe, BSO, 68) Early in October of 1884, B. J. announced a series of 12 “Symphony—Concert Lessons” to be held at Chickering Hall on alternate Thursdays beginning October 23. “The music of the following Symphony-Concert will be explained, analyzed, and made more interesting by helpful information, beside being played through upon two Piano-fortes. So far as possible, the solo performer for each concert will play his respective part. A full explanation of the construction of a symphony will be given, together with a description of all orchestral instruments, their quality, range, &c.” (BPL Lang Prog.) The cost for the series of 12 lectures was $5. In reviewing the programs it becomes obvious that the preparation represented an enormous amount of work; doing the analysis, deciding what “helpful information” to give, finding (or making) the two piano arrangements of all the repertoire with a period of only two weeks between each presentation was a major undertaking. And, in the middle of the series he was the soloist in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto! The series ended with the 12th. Lecture on Thursday, March 19, 1885 which covered two orchestral works, one vocal solo, and the “First and Second Parts” of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio! (BPL Lang Prog.)
George Chadwick felt that this idea for public lectures had been stolen from him! He wrote in his Diary: “Teaching began quite prosperously. Mrs. Oliver Peabody organized a class in symphonic analysis among her friends and so at last I began to get into [the] sacred higher circle of Boston society. These nice women, all of them quite mature met at my studio in the church [Park Street Church] every Friday morning and went to the Symphony rehearsal in the afternoon. I talked and played to them the music of the current Sym. concert and sometimes that of other concerts. It paid me about $10 per hour and was very pleasant. I suppose I must have interested them for they continued the class the next year and also got up for me another class of their daughters and other young ladies some of whom were very good pianists and could read the Symphonies with me ‘a quatre mains.’ But the most sincere feature of all came from Mr. Lang who hearing of my success at the game went into it with a public class, which he held in Chickering Hall! Of course he had a perfect night to do it and it did not cut into my classes in the least but I felt at the time that it showed a kind of professional greed to which a really generous nature would not have stooped… And so began the great industry of Symphonic lectures.” (Chadwick, Unpublished Memoirs, 1880-1893) Louis Charles Elson, writing as “Proteus” in 1884 gave this impression of the lecture scene: “Boston is tending toward musical lectures. Mr. B. J. Lang is giving Symphonic Analysis at Chickering’s, Mr. Chadwick is doing the same at his studio, Prof. J. K. Paine is giving historico-musical lectures once a week, [and] Mr. L. C. Elson is analyzing symphonies once a week at the New England Conservatory of Music.” (Faucett, Bio-Bib., 235 and 236)
ALLEN A. BROWN.
Ryan, Recollections, plate opposite 38. Ryan is incorrect using the middle initial of “T”. (BPL Music Site)
Lang was very fortunate to have the help of many important men and women of Boston. One of these was Allen A. Brown (1835-1916). Barbara Duncan, BPL Music Librarian writing in 1941 began her short notice with: “The life of Allen A. Brown was happy and enviable.” She noted that he had been born in Boston, attended Roxbury Latin, and entered Harvard in the class of 1856. In college he began collecting the scores and books that were to become the nucleus of the collection that he presented to the BPL. He was a musical amateur “of more than ordinary attainments”-he played violin and had a fine tenor voice. He sang in church “and in the Foster, Parker, Chickering, Apollo, and Cecilia Societies for many years,” and he was the secretary and librarian of “these singing societies and did an enormous amount of arranging, copying, and translating for them… The unique feature of the collection is the wealth of material with which he grangerized the volumes.” Reviews, ticket stubs, anything related to the event were all included, and all was carefully indexed. “The Brown music library is an interesting example of what can be done with some money, knowledge of the subject, a love of collecting, and prodigious industry.” (Duncan, 12 and 13) Brown “has been one of the most earnest organizers of the Apollo, and his great musical library has always been at the disposal of the club, and has been of material service in many instances.” (Elson, Musical Boston, 3)
Allen A. Brown donated to the Boston Public Library “the largest musical library in the country, a historical collection consisting not only of numerous scores and a tremendous amount of general musical literature, but also of arranged and classified data regarding musical performances, criticisms, notices, covering the last twenty years [c. 1880-1900]; in short, a unique collection such as must aid not only the general musician, but the musical historian, at every step.” (Elson, American Music, 91) Another volume included the facts that Brown was a businessman, and that the collection began with 7,000 volumes, but then grew by 1910 to 11,000 items, and later  to 15,000 items. “It is rich in many different directions-in scores of every sort, instrumental and vocal, in standard critical editions of the complete works of great composers, in historical, theoretical and critical works about music, in unique collections of programs, etc.” (Pratt, 145) Brown joined the St. Botolph Club in June 1889. (E-mail from Roger Howlett) It would be interesting to know if Lang sponsored him.
ST. BOLTOPH CLUB.
Chadwick was asked to join the St. Botolph Club [c. 1884], which at that time was located at 85 Boylston Street. Lang had been a Founding Member, joining in January 1880. “The President was Francis Parkman” and, “at that time the membership, as the Constitution stated, [was] composed of men interested in literature and art.” Painters, architects, writers, and of “musicians, there were not so many.” therefore Chadwick felt honored to join “Eichberg, Lang, Henschel, Foote and Preston… therefore I really felt much honored by my election and proceeded to become quite a ”clubable” man.” (Chadwick, Unpublished Memoirs, 1880-1893) “There was much stimulating and diverting conversation at the club. Every Saturday night there was a supper after which congenial souls gathered about the tables and discussed the artistic and other affairs of the town and the nation. And as many members came directly from the Symphony concert, we often had the soloists of the evening with us… There was a nice little gallery extending to Park Sq. where we had three or four picture exhibitions each year and thus was an advantage to both our local painters and the public who were admitted there.” (Op. cit.) Lang and Chadwick continued to have professional contact at this club. Both are listed as active members in the 1909 membership list. (Clark’s Boston Blue Book, 681 and 683) By 1889 it was “situated on Newbury Street, and was modeled after the plan of the Century Club in New York. its particular feature is its Saturday evening and monthly meetings, to which men eminent in literature and art are invited. its gallery contains a choice collection of sculptures and pictures. It is noted for its musicales, “smoke talks” and theatricals. On Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons a stringed quartette not only plays a choice repertory, but also compositions by members of the club. These concerts are very popular and are one of the features of this peculiarly artistic club, whose membership is limited to men of literary and aesthetic tastes and pursuits,” (Grieve, 100) Among the notable events held during the years that both Lang and Chadwick were members would be the display by member John Singer Sargent of his portrait of Mrs. Gardner which cused “some stir” and the first Boston exhibit of works by Claude Monet, “many of whose paintings were loaned by Club members.” (Club Website)
WILHELM GERICKE (b. April 18, 1845, d. October 27, 1925).
Gericke conducted the BSO from 1884 until 1889 and again from 1898 until 1906. Lang was a soloist with him for three concerts during his first tenure. “He was assistant conductor at the Vienna Hofoper when Henry Lee Higginson heard him conduct a performance of Aida in October 1883 and invited him to replace George Henschel as conductor of the Boston SO…He was a stern drillmaster, and after his first season dismissed 20 members of the orchestra and replaced them with young European players. At first there were complaints in Boston about this procedure, but most observers soon agreed that the orchestra’s improvement justified it…Gericke’s programs were thoroughly serious,” (Green, 283) in contrast to those of Henschel, who had customarily opened with a symphony and filled the rest of the program with miscellaneous lighter pieces; Gericke also broke with a long-standing tradition by offering concerts without guest soloists. As a friend or personal acquaintance of Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, and Liszt, he included a great deal of their music and introduced new European works, as well as compositions by American composers such as Chadwick, Beach, Converse, and Foote. Gericke “undertook the difficult but needed reform of replacing a number of old musicians, formerly prominent in the city’s musical life, who were holding their posts in the orchestra principally through courtesy, with younger musicians from Europe… For five years Gericke remained at the head of this organization, at the end of which time he returned to Germany and resumed the leadership of the Concert Society in Vienna, which he conducted until 1895. Then followed a period of three years’ freedom from professional activities, and in 1898 Gericke was again engaged to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For eight years longer Gericke directed the body of musicians which he had brought to its present perfection of ensemble; then, in the season of 1905 and 1906 resigned his post, and in the latter year returned to Vienna… Gericke is said to have forwarded the cause of music in America more than any other one man, with the possible exception of Theodore Thomas. Elson speaks of him as the finest drillmaster among conductors… His reading of scores is considered remarkable” (Ibid) Among the new musicians that he hired for his second season was the twenty-year-old concertmaster, Franz Kneisel, and “numerous other new members to replace ‘old’ and ‘overworked musicians’ no longer fit for the demands of modern and more difficult orchestral ensemble. He subdued the brass in order to perfect the balance and tone of the ensemble. He insisted on rehearsals conditions never imposed by Henschel or Carl Zerrahn. He disciplined musicians who took the stage intoxicated, in some cases repeatedly… His repertoire, stressing Beethoven, was less adventurous than Thomas’ in New York, less conservative than has been Dwight’s and the Harvard Musical Associations’s. As he disciplined his orchestra, Gericke disciplined his audience, and not by insisting on more “serious” programs. Latecomers were not admitted except during pauses. Encores were discouraged… Gericke himself called his Boston listeners ‘one of the most cultivated and best understanding musical publics I Know’… Henschel had adopted the formulas of ‘lightening heavier programmes;’ Gericke had not.
But Gericke supported the notion of a summer season modeled after the garden concerts of Germany and Austria. As it happened, the initial summer Promenade season materialized in 1885, near the beginning of Gericke’s tenure… For the Promenade concerts the Music Hall’s downstairs seats were removed and replaced with tables and shrubs.. Light alcoholic beverages were served (a breach of public morals requiring a special annual permit). On opening night Boston’s highest social circles turned out in force and there were not enough tables and waiters to meet the demand.” (Horowitz, 50-54)
Lang was responsible for acquainting the Gericke with what had already been presented to Boston audiences. The critic Apthorp remembered in 1911 that: “Shortly after Mr. Gericke’s arrival in Boston, B. J. Lang asked him if he would not be interested to see the programmes of past symphony concerts in our city; to which he replied he had already seen them all, and had studied them carefully. ‘All’ sounded rather startling; so Lang asked him how many seasons of programmes he had seen. ‘Oh, there have been only three,’ answered Mr. Gericke. ‘Ah, I see’ said Lang, ‘you mean the programmes of the Boston Symphony; but wouldn’t you like to see the programmes for the seventeen years of concerts given by the Harvard Musical Association, before the Symphony existed?’ Mr. Gericke’s eyes opened wide at this, and he eagerly accepted the offer. So Lang gave him the two bound volumes of programmes, which he returned in a few days, saying, ‘I am completely dumbfounded! I do not see what is left for me to do here. You seem to have had everything already; more, much more, than we ever had in Vienna!’” (Howe, Op. cit., 67).
Lang did his best to make Gericke feel at home. In 1884 Lang invited him to the Lang’s summer home which was a farm in Weston. Luckily the critic and Lang’s former piano pupil, William Apthorp was also invited as Gericke spoke almost no English, Apthorp saved the evening as he understood him “better than the rest of us did.” (Diary 2, Summer 1884) Frances found him “modest, handsome and really delightful.” (Ibid) In the fall of 1884 Lang took Gericke to the St. Botolph Club. (Diary 2, Fall 1884) At this time the two of them were trying to decide what piece Lang should play with the Symphony the following February-Gericke suggested the Schumann Concertstuck, but Lang preferred Bach or Tschaikovsky.” (Ibid) Lang prevailed-On February 19 and 20, 1885 he played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, just about ten years after he had conducted the world premier with von Bulow as the soloist.
FOURTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1884-1885.
The caliber of voices in the 1884-85 membership of the Apollo Club is reflected by the fact that Lang used George J. Parker, one of the tenors, and Clarence E. Hay, one of the basses as soloists with The Cecilia. They both had solo parts in Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri given by The Cecila with orchestral accompaniment on November 17, 1884. This was fifth time that the choir had performed this Schumann work. (BMYB 1884-85, 46) Both singers were also soloists in The Cecilia’s performance with orchestra of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz at the end of the season, May 14, 1885. (Op. cit., 47) However, in the June 1885 issue of the Courier the following appeared: “It is true that the Apollo Club is not quite up to its standard of a few years ago, but it is none the less above the standard attained by any other American male chorus.” (Baker, 11)
The April 29 and May 4, 1885 concerts featured “selections composed by prominent local musicians, most of the numbers having been written especially for the club…With a programme of this character it was to be expected that the good and the indifferent would be presented, and such proved to be the case.” (Journal (April 30, 1885): 4, GB) Included among the world premiers was Arthur Foote’s If Doughty Deeds My Lady Please, words by Graham of Gartmore, which was then published by Schmidt in 1885 as Oct. no. 34 (Apollo Club Collection no. 1). (Cipolla, 35) The piece was dedicated to Allen A. Brown, fellow Apollo Club member and donor of the beginning music collection of the Boston Public Library. Foote’s piece was a “fine bit of harmony and was throughout a very pleasing number.” (Journal, Op. cit.) After the orchestral opening to the concert, the choir sang Frank H. Brackett’s Cavalier’s Song with its “dashing melody, following closely in description the proud, knightly words of the text. It was strong and vigorous in character and eminently pleasing. In its rendering the club could not be excelled.” (Ibid) The “gem” of the evening was the “exquisite little song” Proposal by Geo. L. Osgood,
“a beautiful melody appealing to the very soul of music. It well deserved its quick repetition, nothing that the club has presented was more enjoyable.” (Ibid) In addition to these three premiers, two pieces that the club had premiered in previous years were again performed; The Blind King by J. C. D. Parker and Henry of Navarre by George E. Whiting. The final premier repeat was Lang’s own song, The Lass of Carlisle based on James Hogg’s “eccentric poem.” The review found little to like except the “vocal gymnastics of the refrain, when the words, ‘Sing hey, hickerty, dickerty, hickerty, dicherty dear,” were set to a queer, qucikened strain, taxing to the highest degree the vocal ability of the singer.” (Ibid) The final local composer included was Harvard’s Professor of Music, John. K. Paine, who had two excerpts from his Oedipus music performed; the overture opened the concert and one of the choruses closed the evening.” (Ibid)
A comparison of the 1885 Boston Directory with the 1883-84 membership list of the Apollo Club gives an interesting in sight into the broad range of social backgrounds of the singers. There were Professional Musicians, Financiers, Merchants, Lawyers, Salesmen, Clerks, Doctors and Government Officials.
It was reported in the Worcester Spy “applications for membership in the Apollo Club are so numerous that his was nearly the 400th. waiting to be acted upon, and it was eleven years before he could become a member…The Apollo is very prosperous, and has an abundance of means to enable it to make a fine appearance in public.” (Worcester Daily Spy, (September 24, 1885): 2) Certainly Lang could be very proud of such an achievement.
NINTH CECILIA SEASON. 1884-1885.
The first concert was on Monday evening, November 17, 1884 at the Music Hall with full orchestra. Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri [possibly given three times before] was presented with Clarence E. Hay, bass and George J. Parker, tenor as the main soloists. Here the problem of using soloists from the group was again noticed; the Herald review wrote that the performance “suffered somewhat in having an array of light-voiced soloists in almost all of the solo numbers. As this work consists of an almost unbroken string of solos, it is hazardous to give it with any but the best of artists… Even when given at its best, Paradise and the Peri suffers from too much solo.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) Woolf in the Evening Gazette wrote an extensive review calling the performance “dull and inadequate as an interpretation” which then led to an extensive critique of Lang as an orchestral conductor. “It has long been our conviction that Mr. Lang is a mistake whenever he takes the baton in hand to interpret an important work or to lead an orchestra… His peculiar leaning towards mechanical literalness leads him constantly to present the cold body of a work without its soul… His jerky and eccentric beating of time is always confusing.” Woolf then refers to the Frog of fable fame which probably inspired the following printed in a different newspaper:
The Wolf and the Lang.
A peaceful Lang was one day teaching a little band of tadpoles to follow their leader through an orchestral stream. A savage wolf, who occupied by chance a slightly elevated position hard by, was so much affected at the sight that, to conceal his own emotions, he sprang upon the defenseless Lang and tore him to pieces with his cruel pen.
Moral 1. Everybody does not always know how to conduct himself.
Moral 2. It is often harder to play upon two pianos than upon a harp with one string.
Woolf then continued in another article to savage Lang in response to words written by William Foster Apthorp. Woolf saw the Cecilia Club as “simply a ramification of a small and tyrannical clique that has for years attempted to establish a dictatorship over musical affairs in Boston… The Cecilia Club is but another name for the head of this clique, and the Apollo also is one of its pseudonyms.” Then Lang’s career as a piano teacher was attacked. “They are not particularly good players, for they have absorbed all the faults, and, they are many, of Mr. Lang’s method… Whenever any of these pupils appear in public, the mouthpiece of the clique [Apthorp], also one of Lang’s pupils, expatiates to the extent of half a column upon their merits, their poetic feeling, their deep artistic sentiment and their earnestness of style; in fact, everything but their playing, all of which is indirectly a laudation of Mr. Lang… There is too much of Lang and of Langification in our musical affairs.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
The second concert was given on January 15, 1885 with full orchestra and Arthur Foote as organist. Dvorak’s Stabat Mater was given in full, and the Advertiser review spent much time on the soloists, saying, in effect, that they were not really up to the task. “Last night the quartette was composed of Mrs. J. E. Tippett, whose slender, sweet voice is also as cool as it is clear; Mr. W. J. Winch, who never lacks manly, earnest directness and energy, but who is not emotional, to use a much perverted word; Dr. Bullard, whose pleasant and cultivated organ has not the depth and massiveness the music ought to find, and Miss Mary H. How, who alone of all the four sang as if she felt the composer’s spirit and was seeking to convey it. Add to this that the volumes and timbres of the four voices were widely different, and it will easily be understood that, carefully and well in their respective manners as the vocalists sang, there could be no real ensemble in their union.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) The Gazette, while finding the choir’s singing to be “creditable and characterized generally by smoothness and promptness,” used a final paragraph of twenty-one lines to fault Lang’s conducting. “The nervous unsteadiness of his beat frequently created an indecision among the performers that seemed to foretell impending disaster, from which, however, escape was always made,” which must have disappointed the critic, Mr. Woolf. (Gazette, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
The third concert was held on Thursday evening, March 19, 1885 at the Music Hall and consisted of Mendelssohn’s operetta Camacho’s Wedding: “Mr. [H. G.] Tucker left his triumphs in pianoforte music and became Camacho for the occasion.” The Advertiser wrote: “Mr. Tucker, after his first nervousness wore off, made the small part quite telling, although it must be confessed that he is more happy as a pianist than as a vocalist.” It was advertised as the first performance since its Berlin premier in 1827, but the Home Journal felt that it should never have been revived; in fact the writer thought, “It would be unfair to presume that the esteemed conductor of The Cecilia entertains a very high opinion of the work.” The accompaniment was by two pianos with Lang playing the solo and recit. accompaniments with Mr. Sumner and Mr. Preston “at a second piano and accompanied the choruses where Mr. Lang took up the conductor’s baton.” The Evening Transcript noted: “Of the duet-playing of the overture, it can only be said that the two pianists owed it to their reputation (if to nothing else) not to attempt to play with the instruments so far apart that it was physically impossible they should keep together.” The Courier recorded the eight different soloists involved, but noted: “Their ensembles generally were very ragged and insecure. The chorus did better, and some numbers were very pleasing, but, the whole performance lagged because there was little in the music and nothing in the libretto to interest… This was one of Mendelssohn’s earliest attempts at opera.” (Courier, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
The final concert on Thursday evening, May 14, 1885 at the Music Hall with full orchestra was of the Damnation of Faust by Berlioz. The principal soloists were Mrs. E. Humphrey Allen, Mr. George J. Parker (Tenor) and Mr. Clarence E. Hay (Bass), and “The Male Chorus of the Club is enlarged for this occasion by sixty gentlemen, who have kindly volunteered their services.” [Apollo Club?] The review in Key Notes of May 1885 by Louis C. Elson noted: “The soloists were not great enough for the inordinate demands of the work.” Elson then remembered “the absolutely great performance given by Mr. Henschel.” However he ended with: “The general excellence of the choruses, and the steadiness of the orchestra combined to make the concert one worth going two miles in a rain storm to see; therefore there will be no more vitriol thrown upon it this week from the pen of L. C. E.” The Advertiser felt that the addition of sixty male voices “added greatly in fullness and richness of tone, the bass being particularly smooth and strong,” but the reviewer felt that “the contraltos were sometimes lost [don’t altos sing with tenors in the traditional Berlioz three part texture?]… The chorus singing was generally most creditable in accuracy of time and tune, but not always nice in finish or positive in accent… The orchestra was made up of the very cream of local players, and as a consequence most of the instrumental work was finely done… In spite of the tempestuous night, the audience was large, very few desirable seats being left vacant.” The Courier mentioned repeated previous performances of this work by the Club, “nevertheless the repeated performances have resulted in a choral performance that is almost beyond criticism. All of the chorus work was of a character that calls only for praise… The orchestral work, also, calls for much commendation. The Rakoscky March was given in a very brilliant manner, and won and deserved an imperative encore.” This reviewer also found the soloists not up to the task and the memory of Henschel’s “glorious performance of some five years ago” was again mentioned. “The Cecilia may add this occasion as one of the many triumphs which have graced their history.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
BACH BIRTHDAY CONCERT.
B. J. Lang organized a concert for March 21, 1885 in celebration of J. S. Bach’s 200th. birthday. “It appears, from research by the writer, [William Lyman Johnson] that there was only one harpsichord in Boston in 1885 in playable condition. It was the property of Mr. Morris Steinert, founder of the house of M. Steinert and Sons. In Bach’s Coffee Cantata there is the need of a harpsichord, and Mr. Lang played Mr. Steinert’s instrument. This was probably the first time for a period of sixty years that a harpsichord had been used in a public concert in Boston.” (HMA Bulletin No. 14) However, other reports mention that Chickering built the harpsichord used. The concert on Saturday afternoon, March 21, 1885 at 2:30PM at Chickering Hall included the concertos for two, three and four keyboards with Lang, Foote, Tucker, Sumner and W. S. Fenollosa as the soloists. Lang soloed in the Concerto in A minor.
Also on the program was the American premier of the Coffee Cantata with Louise Gage, William J. and John F. Winch as the soloists. In a pre-concert article in the Herald the writer compared Bach’s “keen sense of the ridiculous” to that of “Arthur Sullivan’s more modern efforts in this line.” (Herald (March 15, 1885): 10, GB) The basic story is of a father trying to break his daughter’s coffee habit. This leads to such unusual recitatives as: “Don’t be cross, father dear, for if I’m not allowed to drink three cups of coffee clear, my strength will fall and down I’ll break, like a poor donkey overladen;” this sung to Bach’s usual vocal style. (Ibid) For some reason Johnson listed this as a first Boston performance by the Apollo Club. (Johnson, First, 14)
SUMMER OF 1885. MARGARET BEGINS HER STUDIES IN MUNICH.
During the summer of 1885 the Lang family and nurse Ellen Sheehan moved to Europe. Frances, in her Diary entries of 1884 and then more so in 1885 noted “I am tired to death all the time…I have a feeling that I shall drop suddenly…So busy. I am miserable fighting against all sorts of aches and pains…Too tired for anything.” (Diary 2, Fall 1884 and Spring 1885) She and B. J. had spoken at length about the best direction for the whole family. One Doctor had diagnosed exhaustion and nervousness while a second said that “I must be keep from all excitement, go out very little, no late hours, and on no account stand,” but the same day she received these instructions she forced herself to make calls and attend two big affairs.(Diary 2, Spring 1885) So the only way to keep her from this schedule was to remove her from it, and she knew this. “I know from something he said, that he would like to take us all abroad. (Next day) I told Lel that I had decided it might be best for us to go abroad. He seemed much relieved and delighted.” (Ibid) They left Boston on June 13, 1885 on the S. S. CATALONIA [launched May 14, 1881, 200 in First Class and 1500 in Steerage, covered the Boston/Liverpool route], and visited Brussells, Cologne, Wurtzburg and “then Munich 48 Brienner Strasse where we [Frances and the children only] lived 2 winters.” The Music Conservatory was just three blocks away. While they were in Munich they visited with Cosima Wagner who was at the Marienbad Hotel. Two of her daughters, Eva and Isolda were also there. Mrs. Lang and Margaret stood outside the Odeon Salle as the “Vorspiel” from Lohengrin was being played by a full orchestra with an audience of one, Cosima Wagner. “A great experience.” (Excerpts from Francis M. Lang’s Note Book, 7)
When B. J. returned to Boston in September 1885 he gave an extensive interview to the Herald which was entitled “Mr. B. J. Lang chats About Music in Europe.” The article began with the story of how Lang was able to reach his steamer back to American two hours AFTER it had sailed. “A tug was chartered and a race for the lead with the steamer was begun with some disadvantage for the tug. This proved successful for the smaller vessel, and the captain of the steamer Etrurfa could not refuse a passage to such a determined passenger when the tug puffed up alongside and demanded the courtesy for her solitary passenger.” Lang and family attended the Handel Festival at the Crystal Palace where Israel In Egypt was given with 1,000 in the orchestra and 3,000 in the chorus with an audience of 24,000. The effect of these large forces no not even the same as “20 performers in Boston Music Hall.” Tempos were slowed and the greatest soloists of the time including the “soprano Albani and Lloyd, the tenor…were barely audible.” However, “the Handel performance in Westminster Abbey, to an audience of 10,000 people, two-thirds of whom stood for three hours in rapt attention to listen to the Dettingen Te Deum and an anthem by Handel, was spendid.” Lang found the performance of a choir from Amsterdam conducted by Daniel de Lange to be of great interest. They did pieces by Sweelinck, Dufay, Lassus, both sacred and secular. Lang heard Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, but felt it musically one of “Sullivan’s feeblest efforts,” but the production at the old Savoy Theatre “was a feast for the eyes, as well as being bright and charming altogether.” In Frankfurt Lang was “surprised to find there an opera house of great beauty and comfort, with an orchestra, chorus and artists of the very best order…Here he heard some of the best performances of opera to be heard in Germany…Mr. Lang has left his family in Germany, and proposes to return there in the spring, spending his time in north Germany and Norway.” Lang also attended the Birmingham Festival in England. He recalled that the “public are made to feel these performances are costly” as he had to pay $5 per seat for each concert. (all quotes from the Herald (September 27, 1885): 13, GB)
FIFTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1885-1886.
The 97th. concert was sung at the Music Hall on Monday evening, February 15, 1886. This was the fourth concert of the fifteenth season. The assisting artists were Mr. Fritz Giese, cellist, and Miss Zippora Monteith, soprano. The opening piece was the Song of the Viking by George W. Chadwick (with piano accompaniment). A part song by Georg Henschel, The King and the Poet, and The Soldiers of Gideon, Opus 46 for double chorus by Saint-Saens were the two other major choral pieces in the first half. Solos for the two assisting artists and the premier (?) of the Proposal by George L. Osgood, “Written for the Apollo Club” were major parts of the second half. The finale was the double chorus from Oedipus by Mendelssohn. (Program, Johnston Collection)
The 97th. and 98th. concerts were sung on Wednesday evening, May 12 and Monday evening, May 17, 1886. Included in the program was the premier of Arthur Foote’s The Farewell of Hiawatha, Op. 11 that was “Written for the Apollo Club.” “The earliest ‘Indian’ cantata was the product of Arthur Foote…Foote set the concluding portion of the final canto of Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha (1885) for his The Farewell of Hiawatha (1886). This lengthy poem is generally considered the initial major work in American literature to elevate and humanize the Indian. Of more importance to this study is the remarkable resemblance between Longfellow’s Hiawatha and Jesus Christ. Each came to earth to help his people and returned to heaven when his mission was completed. Foote did not use aboriginal melodies in his cantata. Later composers did, however, as they were able to benefit from the work of ethnomusicologists, which began in earnest in the 1880s.” (Stopp, 392) Six months later another Foote premier was conducted by Lang, but this time, with the Cecilia Society. The Club again performed this piece on May 10, 1938 under the direction of Thompson Stone. (Cipolla, 34) The other major work was “Scenes from Frithiof’s Saga” by Max Bruch for soprano and baritone solos, male chorus and orchestra. The soloists were Miss Gertrude Franklin and Mr. John F. Winch. Winch had sung at the Boston premier of the work given by the Apollo Club on February 4 and 9, 1881. A third performance of the work would be given on March 5 and 8, 1893. Lang include two of his own pieces in this program-a part song, My True Love Hath My Heart and the arrangement of the Swedish folksong, Hi-Fe-Lin-Ke-Le. The part song was a premier while the folksong had been premiered two years before. The finale was a Lang favorite-“Double Chorus” from Antigone by Mendelssohn. (Program, Johnston Collection)
TENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1885-1886.
Dated October 20, 1885, the Cecilia sent out a letter outlining the coming season. “An increase in the number of Associate members is necessary to enable the Society to carry out its plans as it desires.” Four concerts on Thursday evenings were advertised with the two major works being a repeat of Bruch’s Odysseus to be given with “full orchestra and competent solo singers” (Advertiser)(last given by the Society in May 1882) and Dvorak’s Spectre’s Bride “the most conspicuous success of the recent festival at Birmingham. England.” The yearly fee was $15 for which you got four tickets to each performance. “The chorus of the Society is as large and efficient as ever; the best orchestral and solo talent possible will be employed; and the concerts will be given under the direction of the conductor of the Society, Mr. B. J. Lang.” (BPL Lang Prog.) At the June Annual meeting Mr. S. L. Thorndike, President since the choir’s formation declined re-election, and Mr. A. Parker Browne was elected to the post.
The “early months of autumn  were rather anxious times” wrote the Cecilia’s new President (a year later in his Annual Report of 1886) as the President for the past nine years had declined re-election, “and it seemed to many that the Club could not well get along without him. The expenses of the [previous] season had used up both income and surplus, and there was no certainty that our income for the new year would enable us to continue in the way we had been going.” However, by the fall, the associate members had made their contributions, and with only two of the concerts using orchestra, the Club finished the season “without debt.” (Annual Report 1886)
The first concert was on Thursday evening, December 10, 1885 at the Music Hall performing Bruch’s Odysseus with full orchestra as promised and with most of the solos taken by chorus members. The Transcript noted the previous performances of this cantata by the Cecilia calling the work: “one of the finest; one of those which best repay repetition. The performance last evening, in so far as the work of the chorus is concerned, was very fine indeed… In a word, the singing of the chorus was admirable.” The orchestral work was also praised, but the soloists were found lacking: “Mr. Adams, who was cast for the title role, had the ill luck to be completely out of voice.” the other main soloists had various problems, and “the other solo parts were acceptably filled.” So much for the promise of “competent solo singers.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
In 1885 the poor financial condition of the country also affected musicians. Samuel L. Thorndike, former President of the Cecilia Society, wrote to the Treasurer of the Harvard Musical Association: “I am so poor this winter that I am unable even to go to the [Harvard Orchestra] concerts, – or any other concerts, though it is worse than having one’s teeth drawn to stay away. It is not ”virtuous economy,” but absolute incapacity to pay for a ticket that keeps me away.” (Hepner, 21)
As part of the February 4, 1886 Music Hall concert, Miss Bockus, a member of the club sang songs by Schubert, Chadwick, Hiller and Lang’s Sing, Maiden, Sing. (Yearbook, Vol. 3, 52) “This was an unusual programme for the Cecilia, the chorus giving all their numbers, except The Nixie, without accompaniment. The pleasure our audience manifested on this occasion would seem to indicate that though our field is confessedly that of Cantata, with orchestral accompaniment, we shall hazard no loss of support if we occasionally present such a programme as this.” (President’s Report, June 1886)
The third concert, a miscellaneous program, was held on Thursday evening, March 25, 1886 at the Music Hall and included excerpts from Handel’s Acis and Galatea [this was the second time that the Club had done excerpts from this work which led the Club’s new President to “hope we may soon give it with orchestra”] with the soloists, Miss Brockus, Mr. Webber, and Mr. J. F. Winch. Lang and Mr. J. A. Preston, the accompanist for the evening, played Homage a Handel for two pianos by Moscheles which the Courier found “rather tame and uninteresting,” while the Traveler found that the work “added zest and contrast,” but a third reviewer found the performance of this work “rather dry, but that may have been the fault of the work itself, certainly the ensemble was good.” Mr. Winch “was excellent in Mr. Lang’s spirited song The Chase, giving it with hearty abandon and fire… The concert was evidently thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.” Another review wrote that the concert “may be classed as one of the successes of the club, particularly in the chorus work which was resolute and of good volume.” So much for President Thorndike’s recent comments about how neither the audience nor the choir enjoyed a miscellaneous program. Another review mentioned Lang’s song noting that it had been sung “with real brio and splendid voice. He was enthusiastically recalled, and certainly deserved it.” This review also mentioned that Winch had come to grief in his Handel “Oh ruddier than the cherry,” and had been saved by Lang “who at the piano, skipped over all breaks with the vocalists, and covered his retreat with courage and ability. It would have been total shipwreck, and the singer never would have reached a port of safety, had it not been firm the calmness of Mr. B. J. Lang.” The Courier also had noted Lang’s “admirable presence of mind. It is not the first time that we have admired this quality in Mr. Lang; and we can add that the important accompaniments, in his hands, became as elastic and effective as public, or singer, could desire.” (Courier, Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
The fourth concert was held on Thursday evening, May 13, 1886 at the Music Hall with “a small but excellent orchestra assisted.” The featured work was The Spectre’s Bride by Dvorak with Miss Kehew (The Maiden), Mr. George J. Parker (The Spectre), and Mr. Max Heinrich (The Narrator). In fact Miss Kehew became ill, and Mrs. J. R. Tippett “very kindly assumed [the part] at a day’s notice.” The Traveler review ended with: “Mr. Lang got a good grip on everything during the performance, and the success of the work is mainly due to his relentless rehearsing of the chorus through the few weeks given to a study of the work. No audience at a Cecilia concert in Boston ever received a new work with so many evidences of appreciation, and in adding it to their repertoire the Cecilia has put the town under obligations,” (Traveler, Cecilia Reviews) while a second reviewer began:” I am still enthusiastic over the work and the glorious manner in which the choruses were sung. The Society surpassed itself in this concert.” This review ended with: “This work made a profound impression, and we trust will be repeated next season.” A third review began: “Last Thursday was a red letter night with the Cecilia Club, and a more successful performance than that given to Dvorak’s new work could not be desired, save by the hypercritical.” This reviewer wrote “the chorus did more than well. Their precision” was perfection. A final comment in the review made reference to a problem noted by many earlier reviewers-audience members leaving before the end of the final number. “Not a person, so far as we saw, left before the final pizzicato notes had brought the cantata to its impressive end, and after that the applause burst forth with a vehemence unusual in a club concert. We thank Mr. Lang and the club for giving such a work in such a manner, and believe that concerts such as these give a true educational aim to the work of the Cecilia Society.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)