CHAPTER 04. (Part 1) BJL: MIDDLE YEARS: 1881-1891: SC(G) WC. TOPICS, PREMIERS, MIDDLE YEARS-HELEN HOOD.

 SC (G)  WORD COUNT, PART 1-11,466.  9/28/2020.

MIDDLE YEARS: 1881-1891. (12 point Georgia)   

TOPICS:

  • PART 1                                                                                                                       Mendelssohn: Son and Stranger.                                                                                 Franz Liszt Dinner.                                                                                                                 Boston Symphony Orchestra and Lang.                                                          Ethelbert Nevin.                                                                                                                      Lang: conduct the BSO?                                                                                                                                 Henschel and the B.S.O.                                                                                                    Sixth Cecilia Season. 1881-1882.                                                                                    Eleventh Apollo Club Season. 1881-1882.                                                          Damnation of Faust.                                                                                                       Fidelio.                                                                                                                                      Lang’s Musical Position in Boston.                                                                    Diphtheria.                                                                                                                           Philharmonic Society Soloist. Tchaikovsky.
  • Twelfth Apollo Club Season. 1882-1883.                                                               Seventh Cecilia Season. 1882-1883.                                                                                 Helen Hood
  • PART 2                                                                                                                                       Attacks on Lang Through Tucker and Foote.                                                  Schumann Piano Works.                                                                                            Lectures on TEACHING the Art of Pianoforte Playing.                                             Thirteenth Apollo Club Season. 1883-1884.
  • Chickering Hall Dedication.
  • Choral Training Techniques of Lang
  • Church of the Immaculate Conception.                                                                 Eighth Cecilia Season. 1883-1884.
  • Lang’s Works Premiered by the Apollo Club.
  • Lecture Business-Lang, Chadwick, Paine and Elson.                                          Allen A. Brown
  • St. Boltoph Club.                                                                                                             Wilhelm Gericke.                                                                                                         Fourteenth Apollo Club Season. 1884-1885.                                                            Ninth Cecilia Season. 1884-1885.                                                                                  Bach Birthday Concert.                                                                                                 Summer of 1885. Margaret begins her studies in Munich.                          Fifteenth Apollo Club Season. 1885-1886.                                                              Tenth Cecilia Season. 1885-1886.
  • PART 3                                                                                                                                        Lang Assists.                                                                                                                          Chadwick- Support by Lang.
  • Liszt and Lang
  • Sixteenth Apollo Club Season. 1886-1887.                                                           Eleventh Cecilia Season. 1886-1887.                                                                     Pianoforte Concerto Concerts-First Series-1887.                                           Pianoforte Concerto Concerts-Second Series-1888.                                   Pianoforte Concerto Concerts-Third Series-1890.                                                South Congregational Church-Lang Leaves.                                                      Twelfth Cecilia Season. 1887-1888.                                                             Seventeenth Apollo Club Season. 1887-1888.                                                                                                                               Isabella (Mrs. Jack Gardner) painted by Sargent.                                                                                                                                       Inches, Mrs. Louise painted by Sargent.                                                               European Vacation, Summer 1888.                                                                    MacDowell, Edward Alexander.                                                                             Gilmore’s Jubilee.                                                                                                        Eighteenth Apollo Club Season. 1888-1889.
  • Costume Ball.

PART 4                                                                                                                              Thirteenth Cecilia Season. 1888-1889.                                                                    Singing with the Boston Symphony.                                                                            Hymn of Praise for Charity.                                                                                              Arthur Nikisch.                                                                                                                        Piano Instructor-Lang’s Methods.                                                                                     Nineteenth Apollo Club Season. 1889-1890.                                                  Fourteenth Cecilia Season. 1889-1890.                                                                     King’s Chapel-Christmas 1890.                                                                                  Handel and Haydn Salary.                                                                                                   New Choir: the Boston Singers (Replaced Boylston Club)                            Fifteenth Cecila Season. 1890-1891.                                                                       Twentieth Apollo Club Season. 1890-1891.                                                         Parsifal.                                                                                                                                    Salem Oratorio Society.                                                                                                   King’s Chapel: Lang’s Magic as an Organist.                                                           Trip to Europe. 1891.

LANG PREMIERS: (Non-Apollo and Cecilia)                                                                  (American) Bach: Coffee Cantata. March 21, 1885 (2) Herald pre-concert article of March 15, 1885, 10, GB, says this was an American premier.                                                                                                                      (American) Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Georg Henschel conductor, March 14 and 15, 1884.                                    (Boston) Brahms: Trio, Opus 40, Kneisel Quartet, February 1887.

LANG STUDENT PREMIERS:
(Boston) Dvorak’s Concerto No. 2 in B Minor; on March 25th. Mr. Whelpley played the Boston premier (Herald, March 2, 1890, 9, GB)
(Boston) Godard: Introduction and Allegro, Op. 49 at the B. J. Lang Pianoforte Concerto Concert of April 10, 1888 with Mr. G. W. Sumner as the soloist. (Boston Musical Yearbook 1887-88, 12)
(American) MacDowell: Piano Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 15, B. J. Lang Pianoforte Concerto-Concert” where Lang conducted and his pupil B. J. Whelpley played the solo part, April 3, 1888 (MYB, 1887-88, 12). This would have been the first American performance of the complete work; sections had been played earlier in New York. (Johnson, First, 225)
(Boston) Mozart: Concerto for Three Pianos in F with Miss Ann Gilbreth, Mr. G. W. Sumner and Mr. Arthur Mayo at the B. J. Lang Piano-Concerto Concert on April 1, 1890. (Boston Musical Yearbook-1889-90, 13)
(Boston) St.-Saens: Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 17 by Joshua Phippen. (Herald (March 30, 1887): 2, GB)
(American or Boston) Sgambati: Concerto in G minor, Op. 14 (ca. 1881), with Hiram G. Tucker as soloist at the Music Hall, BSO with Nikisch conducting, October 31, 1890. (Johnson, First, 336).

CECILIA PREMIERS: All from the 1907 List unless noted.
(American) Bach: Christmas Oratorio, Part VI, April 2, 1883.
(Boston) Beethoven: The Praise of Music, March 22, 1888.
(Boston) Berlioz: Requiem, Op. 5, February 12, 1882 (Johnson, First, 69). Second American
(Boston) Brahms: German Requiem, December 3, 1888.                             (Boston) Brahms: Gipsy Songs, May 16, 1889.                                                               (Boston) Brahms: Naenie, May 22, 1890 (with piano).
(Boston) Bruch: The Lay of the Bell, May 16, 1883 (Bruch conducting).
(World) Chadwick: The Pilgrims. April 2, 1891.
(American?) Cornelius: The Barber of Bagdad (selections) May 10, 1888.
(Boston) Dvorak: Stabat Mater, January 15, 1885.
(Boston) Dvorak: The Spectre’s Bride, May 13, 1886.
(    ??     ) Dvorak: A Patriotic Hymn, March 22, 1888.
(World) Foote: The Wreck of the Hesperus, January 26, 1888 (with piano) and March 27, 1890 (with orchestra).
(Boston) Gade: Psyche (with piano and organ), January 18, 1883.
(    ??     ) Gade: Spring Fantasy, March 22, 1888.
(    ??     ) Handel: Zadok the Priest, March 25, 1886.
(Boston) Hofmann: Cinderella (with piano) November 30, 1881.
(Boston) Hood: The Robin, March 27, 1884.
(Boston) Jensen: Brier Rose, May 10, 1888.
(World) Jones: Up the Hillside, May 5, 1887.
(World) Lang, B. J.: The Chase, April 12, 1882.
(World) Lang, B. J.: Sing, Maiden, Sing, February 4, 1886.
(World) Lang, M. R.: In a Meadow, February 1, 1889.
(Boston) Lassus: Matona, Lovely Maiden, May 22, 1891.
(Boston) Liszt: The Legend of St. Elizabeth, November 18, 1886.             (Boston) MacDowell: Barcarolle. May 22, 1890.                                        (American) Massenet: Eve, March 27, 1890.                                            (American?) Massenet: Mary Magdalen, November 20, 1890.                (Boston) Mendelssohn: Camacho’s Wedding, March 19, 1885 (Was not the Second world performance-Johnson lists two American performances before this one, both in 1875, both presented by the Thomas orchestra)(Johnson, First, 257).                                                                                                   (Boston for music and World for combined) Mendelssohn: Athalie, January 27, 1887 (First performance of the Racine text and Mendelssohn’s music). Myron Whitney-soloist; Howard M. Ticknor-reader. Boston Orchestral Club (an amateur group usually led by Bernhard Listemann). Also December 6, 8 and 11, 1897-sung in French at Harvard with Mrs. Alice Bates Rich as the principal soloist and Prof. de Sumichrast as the narrator.                                                                                                                         (Boston) Mendelssohn: Ave Maria, May 10, 1888.                                              (Boston) Mendelssohn: 13th. Psalm, May 22, 1890.                                           (World) Nevin: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, January 31, 1889.                 (World) Nevin: Wynken, Blynken and Nod, May 22, 1890.                          (American) Raff: Romeo and Juliet Overture, November 20, 1890.          (Boston) Schubert: Miriam’s Song of Triumph. May 14, 1891.                       (Boston) Schumann: Mignon’s Requiem, April 12, 1882 (with Piano).

  • APOLLO CLUB PREMIERS. (1=Zeller List)(2=Johnson, First Performances)(3=Boston Musical Year Book) (4=Composed for Apollo Club, Zeller List, November 2009)                                                                                                          (Boston) Becker: A Wood Morning. April 30 and May 2, 1884. Sung by a quartet. (1)(3)                                                                                                                  (Boston) Brackett: Cavalier’s Song. April 29, 1885 and May 4, 1886. (1)(3)(4)    (Boston) Brahms: Rinaldo. December 15, 1883, Charles R. Adams, soloist. (1 says December 5 and December 10, 1883 based on Wilson Yearbook I-IV: 1884-1887)                                                                                                     
  • (Boston) Brambach: Columbus. February 20, 1888. Date from the program. Johnston Collection. The Club sang it again on February 17 and 23, 1892.          (Boston) Bruch: Salamis. April 26, 1882. Brainard’s Musical World, June 1882,  93.                                                                                                                                       (Boston) Buck: Annie Laurie (harmonized for TTBB). 1889 (1)(4)
  • (Boston) Buck: Chorus of Spirits and Hours. February 11 and 16, 1885. (1)(3)(4) (Boston) Buck: King Olaf’s Christmas. December 7 and 12, 1881. Advertiser review mentions that this was the Boston premiere. The work waspublishedin1881.(4)                                                                                                          (World) Chadwick: Jabberwocky, February 16 and 23, 1887. (4)                           (American) Cowen: The Language of Flowers. A Suite for Orchestra. December 5 and 10, 1883. (1) (3)                                                                               (Boston) Debois: Lovely Maiden, Sleep On-translation by Charles W. Sprague. December 3 and 8, 1885. (1)(3)
  • (Boston) Englesberg: Love Song. December 11 and 18, 1885. (1)(3)             (Boston) Englesberg: Love, As a Nightingale. February 11 and 16, 1886. (1)(3)(Boston) Esser: Mahomet’s Song. December 3 and 8, 1885. (1)(3)
  • (Boston) Foote: Cavalry Song, April 27 and May 2, 1887. Boston Musical Yearbook 1886-87, p. 12, 44 and 45. Sung by a Quartet.                                  (Boston) Foote: Farewell to [of-Cipolla] Hiawatha. May 12 and 17, 1887. (1) [Cipolla says 1886]                                                                                                          (World) Foote: If Doughty Deeds My Lady Please. April 29, 1885 and May 4, 1886. (1)                                                                                                                                        (Boston) Foote: Into the Silent Land, April 27 and May 2, 1887. Boston Musical Yearbook 1886-87, 12, 44 and 45, but Cipolla Foote Catalog says sung as part of the 250th. Anniversary of Harvard, 1636-1886. [Of course, strictly speaking, this was a Cambridge, not Boston performance] Was published by Schmidt in 1886.                                                                                                                             (Boston) Gauby: A Song to Praise thy Beauty. April 30 and May 2, 1884.(1) (World) Henschel: The King and the Poet. April 26, 1882. Gazette review probably written by B. E. Woolf.                                                                                (Boston) Kremser: A Venetian Serenade. February 20 and 25, 1884. (1)(3)(Boston) Lachner: Woodcock Song. December 7 and 12, 1881, mentioned as a Boston premiere in the Advertiser review.                                                          (World) Lang, B. J.: Hi-fe-lin-ke-le, February 20 and 25, 1884; May 12 and 17, 1887; and April 30, 1890. (1)                                                                                   (World) Lang, B. J.: Nocturne for tenor solo, April 29 and May 4, 1885; April 27 and May 2, 1887; April 29, 1891 and May 5, 1897. (1)                                   (World) Lang, B. J.: The Lass of Carlisle, solo for baritone sung by Mr. Hay, April 29, 1885 and May 4, 1885. (1)                                                                                      (World) Lang, B. J.: My True Love Has My Heart, May 12 and 17, 1886.(1)        (World) Lang, M. R.:  The Maiden and the Butterfly. May 1 and 6, 1889. (1).                                                                                                                                         (World) Lang, M. R.: The Jumblies. December 3 and 8, 1890. Date from program-Johnston Collection.                                                                                                                      (Boston) Mohr: The Sea. February 20 and 25, 1884. (1)(3)                                   (Boston) Osgood: Proposal. April 29 and May 4, 1885 (1)(3) and February 10, 1886, and May 4, 1886. (1)                                                                                              (Boston) Paine: Summons to Love. April 26 and May 2, 1882. (1) –Brainard’s Musical World, June 1882, 93.                                                                                   (World) Parker, J. C. D.: The Blind King for baritone solo, male chorus and orchestra. “Written for the Apollo Club.” April 25, 1883. Program-Johnston Collection. Repeated April 29 and May 4, 1885. (1)                                                 (Boston) Raff: Italian Suite. December 3 and 8, 1884. BPL Reviews.             (Boston) St.-Saens: The Soldiers of Gideon. February 11 and 16, 1885. (1)(3) (World) Strong, Templeton: The Knights and the Naiads. February 19 and 24, 1890. Written for the Club.                                                                                        (Boston) Strong, Templeton: The Trumpeter. February 20, 1888. From the program. Johnston Collection.                                                                                (World) Thayer: Sea Greeting. February 16 and 23, 1887. (1)(3) Not available ILL.                                                                                                                                       (Boston) Thayer: Heinz von Stein. April 27 and May 2, 1887. (1)(3) Not available ILL.                                                                                                                   (Boston) Wagner: “Chorus of Sailors” from the last act of Flying Dutchman. December 7 and 12, 1881. Advertiser updated review.                                                     (World) Whiting: Free Lances. “Written for the Apollo Club.” April 25, 1883. Program-Johnston Collection. Also February 11, 1891.                                 (Boston) Whiting: Henry of Navarre. April 29 and May 4, 1885. (1)(3) Also February 19, 1890.                                                                                                         (Boston) Whiting: Overture to The Princess for orchestra. April 30 and May 1884. (BPL Reviews)                                                                                                       (Boston) Zoellner: The Feast of the Vine in Blossom. April 30 and May 2, 1884. (1)(3)                                                                                                                                      (Boston) Zoellner: Young Siegfried. February 11 and 16, 1885. (1)(3)

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MIDDLE YEARS: 1881-1891.

For Lang, the years 1881-1891 were a period of continued artistic growth. His two choral groups were well established and receiving fine reviews. Both choirs featured premiers with The Cecilia giving thirty-seven and the Apollo Club presenting thirty-five. Included among these were first performances of his own compositions and also those of his daughter, Margaret. He continued his solo career with performances with the newly formed Boston Symphony Orchestra. For his advanced piano pupils be organized concerto concerts so that they also would have the experience of performing with an orchestra. He continued in his support of his former piano teacher, Franz Liszt, and of his friend Richard Wagner.

MENDELSSOHN: SON AND STRANGER.

1881 saw the first Boston complete performance with full orchestra of Mendelssohn’s youthful operetta Son and Stranger at the Boston Museum in aid of the fund for the proposed Hospital for Convalescents. Lang had conducted the American premiere in May 1876 using just piano accompaniment. That performance had also been for a charity event. For this concert Mrs. E. Humphrey-Allen sang Lisbeth, “with a sweet, pure voice and a cheerful grace,” and Miss Louie Homer sang Ursula (contralto) “in tones fraught with the melancholy of an anxious mother…The chorus was made up of fresh, refined voices, amateurs, and the accompaniments were nicely played. (Dwight (May 7, 1881): 85).

FRANZ LISZT DINNER.

Lang organized a dinner in October to honor the 70th. Birthday of his teacher, Franz Liszt. “As a result of several meeting of ladies and gentlemen” who shared this goal, “it has been decided that a dinner at THE BRUNSWICK on the 21st at 6 PM would be the most practical plan to adopt. It is also intended that appropriate music shall be performed…The price of the dinner will not exceed three dollars for each person, exclusive of wines.” The date of this notice was October 10th., and people were asked to contact a committee member before the 19th.! The members were: B. J. Lang, 156 Tremont Street; Miss Jessie Cochrane, Hotel Vendome; W. H. Sherwood, 157 Tremont Street; L. C. Elson, Roxbury and F. H. Jenks, Transcript Office.

At the dinner “General Henry K. Oliver presided, and there were addresses by B. J. Lang, W. H. Sherwood, C. C. Perkins, L. C. Elson, and others. The most interesting features of the evening, however, was [sic] the performances of some of Liszt’s works by John Orth, Louis Maas, Gustave Satter, Mr. Sherwood, Carlyle Petersilea and other pianists, and Miss Therese Liebe, the violinist, and the singing of some of the composer’s songs by Mrs. Henry M. Rogers (formerly Miss Clara Doria), Mrs. Henschel and Miss Abbott. Mr. Lang, Mr. Henschel and Mr. G. W. Sumner were the accompanists.” (Brainard’s (December 1881): 189)

BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND LANG.

Henry Lee Higginson.

In 1914, when the founder of the BSO, Henry Lee Higginson was eighty years old, he wrote to the then members of the BSO concerning the founding of the orchestra. He began by reviewing the two and one-half years he spent as a music student in Vienna. This experience created a desire “that our own country should have such fine orchestras” as he heard in Europe. He returned to Boston, took part in the Civil War, married, became successful in business, and “at the end of two very good years of business began concerts in the fall of 1881. It seemed best to undertake the matter single-handed, and, beyond one fine gift from a dear friend, I have borne the costs alone…It seemed clear that an orchestra of fair size and under possible conditions would cost at least $20,000 [c. $350,000 today] a year more than the public would pay. therefore, I expected this deficit each year…It was a large sum of money, which depended on my business each year and on the public. If the concert halls were filled, that would help me; if my business went well, that would help me; and the truth is, that the great public stood by me nobly.” (Perry, Life and Letters of Henry Lee Higginson, 291 and 292)

Boston was ready for this orchestra in 1881 as “forty-years” preparation of the Boston musical public” had been done by other groups. In 1840 J. S. Dwight had written of a dream of “an orchestra worthy to execute the grand works of Haydn and Mozart.” The Academy of Music concerts in the 1840s led to the Musical Fund Society and then to the Germania Orchestra concerts of the 1850s. The building of the Boston Music Hall led to the orchestra concerts of the Harvard Musical Association and the Philharmonic Society of the 1860s and 70s. The visits of Theodore Thomas’s orchestra to Boston also added to the preparedness for the BSO. (Ibid, 297) But, “The professional symphony orchestra operating on a full-time basis with a series of established concerts running weekly (or nearly so) throughout the winter season from October to April-not an opera orchestra that gives occasional concerts, or a mixed orchestra of professionals with nonprofessionals, or an ensemble that performs monthly or less-is an American invention. Henry Lee Higginson’s creation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is the earliest full-fledged example.” (Ledbetter, “Higginson and Chadwick,” American Music, Spring 2001: 52) The pay scale was “$3 for each rehearsal and $6 for each concert.” (Boston Record American (October 25, 1881): 13, GB)

During the first years of the Boston Symphony Lang appeared as piano soloist in five seasons – “83 and “84 under Henschel and “85, “86, and “89 under Gericke. He also appeared as an organist during the “83 Season. (Howe, BSO, 253) He had been scheduled to make his BSO debut at the fourth concert of the first season, but illness forced him to cancel. (BSO Website)

However Lang made the B. S. O January 1883 concerts playing Rubinstein’s Third Piano Concerto, and the Polacca Brilliante by Weber, orchestrated by Liszt conducted by Georg Henschel. Lang had done the American première of the Rubinstein with the Harvard Musical Association on February 1, 1872. (Johnson, First, 302) The reviews were mostly very positive. The Courier began: “The concerto was the best performed of last night’s concert. Mr. Lang played with greater ease and steadier shading than at the recent Philharmonic Concert…In the Polacca the lighter passages were very daintily rendered, but the heavier portions demanded something of Neupert’s bravura style. More power was needed.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The Globe said of Lang: “He was received with evident satisfaction and unmistakable enthusiasm. Rubinstein’s Concerto for the Pianoforte in G afforded him an excellent opportunity to exhibit the rich results of training and study. After the performance of the concerto, he was recalled twice.” (Ibid) The Evening Transcript of Monday, January 3, 1883 contained the confession of the reviewer’s “absolute inability to feel any enthusiasm for Rubinstein’s concerto. It is a work that has always left us cold.” The review ended with: “In the Weber-Liszt Polacca we were carried away at once by both player and music. The performance was utterly superb.” (Ibid)

In March 1884 Lang played the American premiere of the Brahms Second Piano Concerto. Apthorp’s review in the Transcript hailed Brahms who “has given to the world the “great concerto for which it has been waiting so long; a work which can fairly be called fit companion to the Beethoven and Schumann concertos.” (Johnson, Op. cit., 84) The work had its world premiered with Brahms as the soloist in 1881; this is yet another example of Lang being incredibly aware of what was new and worthy. The Evening Transcript was enthusiastic about the Brahms, writing: “The better one becomes acquainted with the works of this wonderful man, the firmer faith has one that each new composition of his will bring with it a fresh revelation of true power and greatness… This truly great concerto found in Mr. Lang a thoroughly able and sympathetic interpreter. As this was decidedly the severest task Mr. Lang has imposed upon himself for years…He overcame the technical difficulties of the work without the appearance of effort—which, on the whole, does not happen to him too often. In the higher artistic sense, too, he rose to the full height of his task. Such exhaustive rendering of a great and noble work is rare; such exquisite finish and beauty of detail work, united with such noble breadth of style, such genuine depth of sentiment, and such ample totality of conception.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)

In February 1885, during the B. S. O. fourth season Lang played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (just under ten years after having conducted the world premiere in Boston). The Home Journal (probably C. L. Capen) devoted about ninety percent of its attention to the concerto. The writer spent half of his space telling why he didn’t like the work, and then, in a most convoluted manner, described Lang’s performance. Fault was found with his tone, but praise was given for “his nice sense of phrasing.” The Globe noted that the concerto “held the closest attention of the audience. Mr. Lang’s clean touch and artistic interpretation gave this well-known concerto [well known only ten years after its world premiere!] new life, the last movement being especially fine.” (Globe Archive, (February 22, 1885): 3) A review with the headline of “The Nineteenth Symphony Concert” began by noting that the concerto “has been occasionally played” in Boston since its premier, [certainly a different position than the one taken in the previous review] but the reviewer found only small aspects of the work to approve of. “The orchestra did excellent work, and Mr. Lang, who was the pianist, was often strong, clear, sure and effective, although at times his natural nervousness seemed to prevent his doing his best, as an occasional inexactitude in the many double octave passages and dispersed harmonies indicated. The full chords of the introductions were sharply and positively struck, and in the andantino he read smoothly and lightly.” The Gazette review was probably written by Woolf who could never find anything positive to say about Lang. “The soloist was Mr. B. J. Lang, who played Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Piano, Op. 23, a work which, the better one becomes acquainted with it, the more pretentious it seems, and the more frivolous and vulgar it is in effect. Of Mr. Lang’s playing there is not a great deal to be said. There was much jumping of hands from the keyboard, much that was spasmodic in style and effect, and but little that was clear…This restless dancing up and down of the hands at last became a distracting feature of the performance…The best effects were achieved in the first half of the opening movement and in the middle of the andante. He was received with great heartiness on his first appearance, and at the end of the concert was applauded and recalled with no less enthusiasm.” [Which must have really upset the reviewer] (All quotes taken from reviews-Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)

Lang appeared early in January 1886 (Fifth Season) as soloist in Saint-Saens Rhapsodie d’Auvergne for Piano, Opus 73 (whose premiere performance had been in early December 1884). In such a short period of thirteen months, how did Lang learn about this piece, decide to learn the piece, and find a performing group interested in the piece? These concerts, conducted by William Gericke, the second B. S. O. conductor, produced the following critical notice in the January 4 issue of the Traveler: “It seemed quite a natural thing that the novelty of the concert should be put into Mr. Lang’s hands to interpret; that it was a composition by St. Saens is another coincidence. The Rhapsodie d’Auvergne is the latest thing which we have heard from its composer…The piano is never unduly prominent, nor is the orchestration as bizarre as one might excuse under so fantastic a title. Mr. Lang enjoyed his part of the work and made it very delightful. This time the artist could lose himself in the virtuoso and read the notes for what they were on the surface. The piece was enjoyed by the audience, and Mr. Lang’s recalls were warm and hearty.” The Courier reviewer wrote: “The Rhapsodie d’Auvergne, by Saint-Saens proved to be a spirited idealization of striking folk songs for the piano, in good classical form, however, and with some good thematic development… Mr. Lang took it at a dashing pace, giving much verve to the composition, yet never becoming unclear. What with the catchy glissando effects, the sparkling themes and the sharp contrasts, the work and the pianist won much favor, and Mr. Lang received a double recall of the heartiest character.” (Ibid)

On March 22 and 23, 1889, together with Franz Kneisel, violin and Fritz Giese, cello, Lang was the piano soloist in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. This was his last appearance as a soloist with the B. S. O. The Times wrote: “There is a good reason why the Beethoven concerto is seldom heard; it requires of the soloists the greatest breadth of style and most thorough virtuosity, and yet offers no opportunity for brilliancy and display. It was grandly given. The tone of Mr. Giese’s ‘cello was not as of yore, but in matters of execution all the players deserved more than the generous applause which they received.” The Transcript wrote: “The ‘triple’ concerto is not often heard. It is indifferently forceful, though it has moments of the real Beethoven. Barring Mr. Lang’s too great delicacy, the ensemble was admirable; strictures on the manner in which the work was read cannot rest; it was, from a musical point of view, a superior performance. The concert gave great pleasure to a very large audience.” The Globe presented a very extensive review. “The concerto was Exquisitely Played, the soloists chosen being Mr. Kneisel, Mr. Giese and Mr. Lang… It would be a difficult task to find anyone else to play the piano part as Mr. Lang played it, and close upon an impossibility to have it better rendered. His long experience in accompaniment and the truly modest spirit with which he always subordinates piano or organ to the singer or the player whom he has to support, here stood him in good stead, while his technical command of the delicious toned Chickering he used, enabled him to make his attitude appreciated by his hearers. There was always tone enough to give the piano part its consequence, but never did the instrument, which can so easily override others, dominate… The whole second movement was a beautiful exemplification of how such a support should be given, and, in brief, the solo work as a whole illustrated the best kind of ensemble playing.” The Home Journal said first that “the concert was absolutely without a dull moment,” and then continued: “In their treatment of this work, Messrs. Lang, Giese and Kneisel played with all their characteristic earnestness, care and intelligence.” (Home Journal  (March 23, 1889): 12)

ETHELBERT NEVIN.  

One of Lang’s notable pupils was Ethelbert Nevin. He arrived in Boston in 1881 at the age of eighteen, and immediately “sought out the man who stood at the top of his profession in the Boston of that day, B. J. Lang, a pupil of Von Bulow and Liszt.” (Thompson, Life of Nevin, 23) Nevin wrote to his mother “Mr. Lang was busy in his room. I went and sat outside, as I was too early. Soon he came out, welcomed me, took me into his room and asked me to play-in this manner: ‘Now I want you to amuse me, not as if I were to be your instructor, but as if I were some fellow you were entertaining.’ I played that little Album Leaf of Kirchner’s. He said: ‘Very interesting: now play me something else.’ So I played that Romance of Schumann’s. He said: ‘Very interesting indeed. Now play me something frivolous.’ I suggested Olivette, but he said: ‘No, not quite so frivolous. ’So I played Winklemann’s Schottische-a scale two or three times: then he remarked: ‘You are very interesting’ (His favorite expression, I presume.) ‘Very, indeed, and you play with an immense amount of expression. Your manner of playing is graceful, light and rippling, but you lack aplomb and firmness. I am going to take an interest in you –you have inspired it and if you will be patient and bear with me for six lessons, I will make you feel satisfied with yourself.’ So he gave me some of the stupidest, meanest exercises by Cramer. The ones I took in Dresden were simply paradise to these. Mr. Lang said: ‘Now practice this one (marking one) for two hours every day and this scale I have written for you an hour and a half, if you get time.’ well, his writing looks more like hieroglyphics than anything else I have ever seen, so it took me a long time to figure it out. I am to go back again on Monday. He invited me to go to the St. Cecilia Club tonight. He wields the baton there, you know.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 24)

These “stupidest, meanest exercises” were a central part of Lang’s teaching method. He had translated into English Hans von Bulow’s edition of the Fifty Selected Piano-Studies by J. B. Cramer (1771-1858) which was published in 1877 by Oliver Ditson in Boston and went through many printings; possibly Lang and von Bulow had discussed this project two years earlier when they had collaborated on the world premiere of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. Obviously other teachers thought highly of the Cramer exercises, for as late as 1927 G. Schirmer in New York City published another edition translated by Albert R. Parsons and B. Boekelman and “newly revised by Dr. Theodore Baker.” The ILL World Catalog shows new editions of this work dated as late as 1989!

Lang also took a personal interest in Nevin and introduced him to another pianist his own age, and encouraged him to make use of “a room in the upper part of this building full of the choicest and finest music ever published. A legacy left by a wealthy person for the use of students. You could practice there, (in the Burrage Room). Here are two Chickering grands. You and Mr. Smith could play duets for two pianos.” (Thompson,  Op. cit., 25) Nevin continues his letter with a description of Lang’s studio. “Mr. Lang’s room is a curiosity. It is very small…In it are two pianos and a dumb keyboard. He sits at the piano back of mine, the keyboard not quite so high. Then he has a high bookcase filled with music, two writing desks, a sofa and a hundred and one beautiful things lying about the room. A great many fine engravings and music manuscripts of great composers and so forth.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 25-26) By the middle of September Nevin is writing that Lang “is very nice but he gets angry sometimes: however I expect to get along very well with him.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 26) After the first six lessons, mainly concerned with exercises, Lang then gave Nevin a song by Rubinstein, transcribed with variations by Liszt. Nevin can soon report that in addition to his good progress in harmony with Stephen A. Emery, “Mr. Lang also told me that I am doing well.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 27) After only six weeks he had become Lang’s favorite pupil, but in November he writes that “Am still at five-finger exercises – eight weeks of them.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 29)

The devotion of both teacher and pupil is reflected in the fact that Nevin’s lesson on Thanksgiving Day lasted from twelve until one-fifteen. By December, after various etudes had been mastered, Mendelssohn’s Concerto in B Flat was studied, and after only one week of practice on this piece, Nevin received his first genuine compliment from his teacher: “After I had finished playing, he said: ‘When did I give you that?’ My last lesson,’ I replied. ‘I thought so,’ he answered, ‘but fancied I must be mistaken, as you played it so well! ’” (Thompson, Op. cit., 30) The next repertoire assigned was Bach’s well-Tempered Clavier, and the usual practice period was eight hours a day. Nevin also was asked to play the cymbals in the orchestra at the Cecilia performance of the Berlioz Requiem given on Sunday, February 12th. at the Music Hall (Lang used three other piano pupils for bass drum, triangle, and tenor drum).

Howard quotes from one of Nevin’s November letters: “Mr. Lang asked me if I cared to hear him practice, so I met him this evening at Chickering’s after the Handel and Haydn. He played until ten o’clock on a Rubinstein Concerto, which he is going to play at one of the Philharmonic Concerts. I am going to have the second piano part with him! Just think of playing with such an artist! He is without exception the cleanest, broadest and most truly artistic (in every sense of the word) pianist I have yet heard. He does not stoop to any of the little tricks that are effective but not artistic. He is too much of a man for that.” (Howard, Nevin, 35)

Leaving Boston in April 1882, Nevin returned the following September and following Lang’s advice advertised for pupils. He wrote home that “It is very hard to get pupils when there are 275 teachers who have been here at least five years, and twenty-eight of Mr. Lang’s pupils also give lessons; and then there are Mr. Lang and Mr. Sherwood who teach, not counting hundreds of pupils at the Conservatory. All Mr. Lang’s pupils play as well, and many of them better than I.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 33)

Even in his second year of study, the hateful five-finger exercises were continued for building technique, but this led to an invitation to play at a Cecilia concert, “and this morning Mr. Lang told me I had done splendidly and that I had played much better MY first time, than did many of his ‘brag’ pupils.” (Thompson, Op. cit., 36)

After two years with Lang, Nevin spent the next two winters in Pittsburgh, teaching piano, composing, and giving concerts. Lang came to Pittsburgh to play the Saint-Saens Concerto in G Minor with his former pupil who was now twenty-one years old! Nevin went to Europe in August 1884, settling in Berlin; the summer of 1885 was spent back at Vineacre, near Pittsburgh, and then he returned to Berlin for another year of study. In November of 1886 he returned to America settling again in Pittsburgh, but by early 1887 he was back in Boston, and by March he was playing “at the second of Mr. Lang’s concerts in Chickering Hall, playing the Liszt Concerto in E flat major, with orchestra.” (Thompson, 79 ) This concert was a great success as was a concert that included some of Nevin’s own works given a few days later on March 11.

Ethelbert Nevin

 

(1) From Elson, 249 and Thompson, 83 where it mentions that this photo was from 1887 when Nevin was about 25.   (2) Thompson, facing the title page. 

LANG AS B.S.O. CONDUCTOR.

Some friends of Lang thought that he should be considered for the conductorship of the newly formed Symphony. They based this expectation on his fine service to the Boston musical community through his leadership of the Apollo Club and Cecilia, and also the fact that Lang had conducted the Tchaikovsky premier with such success. Fox feels that Lang’s “amazingly steadfast and loyal personality traits may have kept him from achieving some things,” (Fox, Papers, 12) She quotes Apthorp as saying that “In the dark days of the Harvard Musical Association, and some years before Mr. Henry L. Higginson had founded the present Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lang might easily have made a coup d’etat and swept the whole orchestral field in Boston single-handed. He was particularly ambitious to conduct an orchestra; he was at the time the strongest musical power within the public in the whole city and was perfectly well aware of that fact. He had never failed in anything he had undertaken and could be sure of all the financial backing he needed. He might have established annual courses of symphony concerts on his own account, and might have postponed Mr. Higginson’s enterprise for several years. No sane man who knows what the times then were in Boston and what Lang was, can doubt this for a moment. He, for one, was sure of it. But he was a member of the Harvard Musical Association, was on its concert and programme committees, and his loyalty to it would not allow him to take any step in antagonistic competition with the Harvard.” (Fox, Op. cit., 10)

HENSCHEL AND THE B. S. O.

Lillian and Georg Henschel. Boston Symphony Archive.

Georg Henschel, whose early career was as a bass vocalist, often gave vocal recitals with his wife, Lillian June Bailey, a soprano; B. J. often acted as their accompanist. In fact, Lang had presented Bailey’s Boston debut “in the spring of 1876, when [she was] only just sixteen years old” in a concert that also included Arthur Foote. “These two men… had from that time taken a most kindly interest in the young lady, whose rare talent, earnestness, and charming personality had greatly impressed them.” (Henschel, Musings, 268) Henschel described Lang as a “thorough and enthusiastic musician, broadminded, tactful, of great general culture and a rare kindness of heart, he was the acknowledged leader of the musical community of Boston.” (Ibid) Henschel also stated that “I doubt if without them [Lang and Foote] I should have come out of the first season of the Boston Symphony alive” as even though he had the complete support of Mr. Higginson, the attitude of the press was not of “enthusiasm or… universal approval.” (Henschel, Op. cit., 270)

Thus the Langs and the Henschels quickly became close musical and family friends, and so it would concern the Langs that Georg was continuing to have problems as conductor of the BSO. Henschel felt that Lang was a major booster who helped him survive his first year conducting in Boston. Early in 1882 “Athenian”, the Boston correspondent for Brainard’s Musical World wrote: “The critics pretty generally have found fault with Mr. Henschel’s conducting, and now his friends have come forward with long communications to the newspapers, criticizing and abusing the critics. A very nice little quarrel is being worked up which promises to shake Boston as profoundly as did the little tea disturbance a little over a century ago…The friends of the gentleman are very foolish in denying the right of the newspapermen to criticize him as Zerrahn, Listemann, Maas and others have been criticized.” (Brainard (January 1882): 13)

In the face of the BSO, other orchestras continued to present concerts, at least for a while. By January 1882 the Philharmonic Society conducted by Dr. Maas had presented two concerts, and the HMA Orchestra conducted by Zerrahn was scheduled to begin early in February with a series of five. (Ibid) The Philharmonic Society continued into the spring of 1883. By May it had given “seven concerts and seven public rehearsals.” The 1882-83 BSO Season had a total of 26 concerts and 26 public rehearsals. (Brainard (May 1883): 76)

In February 1883 “Atheian” was again writing about the BSO. An “unharmonious subject which is agitating musical circles here at present is the question, ”Is Mr. Henschel likely ever to become a great conductor?” The answer in most quarters has been in the negative.” The writer then speaks of a Schubert Great C Major performance that was the “tamest possible” and a Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that was “the worst performance” of the piece that he had ever heard.” “Athenian” felt that part of the problem was the placement of the orchestra with the strings divided and the basses placed “at the front of the stage where their tone overpowers all else, and sounds raspy enough to suggest a sawmill…The concerts of the Philharmonic Society, under Zerrahn, with a smaller orchestra, with fewer famous musicians in its ranks are achieving fine artistic results.” (Brainard (February 1883): 29)

SIXTH CECILIA SEASON. 1881-1882.

The opening concert of the Cecilia’s Sixth Season was given at Tremont Temple on Wednesday, November 30, 1881.There was just one work on the program, a first Boston performance of Cinderella by Heinrich Hofmann (the American premier had been in Milwaukee on December 4, 1879-another example of Lang being on top of new works). The English translation was printed, but no program notes of any kind were provided. The Herald noted that the work was given without orchestra, and that while it “abounds in pleasing, flowing melodies, it has little variety, and the absence of any strong dramatic elements makes it, on the whole, rather a spiritless production…Mr. Lang’s thorough work was plainly shown in the success attending the numbers for chorus.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The Musical Herald felt that the work was “no more [than] a succession of pleasant part-songs, chiefly in dance and march rhythms. It was finely performed by the Cecilia Club, but the lack of an orchestra made the work seem rather colorless.” (Musical Herald (January 1882): 5)  The back page advertised the group’s next concert: the Berlioz Requiem to be given Sunday Evening February 12, 1882 at the Music Hall. (Program, Johnston Collection) The first American performance had been in New York just the year before. (Op. cit., 68) In this same issue of the Musical Herald it was reported that the Boylston Club had performed the Messe Solennelle of Gounod, “but the lack of orchestra and thinness in tenor and soprano parts caused the work to fail of making a deep impression.” (Ibid)

On Sunday evening February 12, 1882 at the Music Hall, Cecilia presented the first Boston performance of the Requiem by Berlioz. The Post review noted: “Although written in 1836 and performed in the Church of the Invalides, Paris, in 1837, yet no attempt was made to produce it in this country until last May [led by Dr. Damrosch] when it was made a special attraction at the festival in New York. The effort then made, though creditable, was not satisfactory, and the Cecilia determined to produce it in Boston during the present season…The club numbered some 300 voices…To produce the orchestral effects required by the composer, the full orchestra was supplemented by a grand array of trumpets, trombones, horns and kettle drums, which were located in the first balcony on either side of the extended platform.” At the end of the final section “the audience remained quiet and cheerfully accorded their careful attention, and at proper intervals expressed their appreciation of the great success attained.” (Cecilia Reviews) The review in the Transcript began by calling the performance “a triumph” led by “its progressive leader” to which the audience paid “closest attention…Chorus and orchestra performed their respective tasks with commendable enthusiasm and devotion. The execution was not free from error, but these were few, and were in no case glaringly offensive.” (Cecilia Reviews) The Musical Herald wrote: “The chorus sang excellently, especially when we consider that Berlioz is merciless in his treatment of voices in this work as ever Beethoven was, the Ninth Symphony not excepted. But there was no trace of screaming even on the high B’s, and the tempi and attacks were sure and steady…The orchestras were generally sure, and the great passages for brasses before the “Tuba Mirum” were effectively thundered forth.” (Musical Herald (March 1882): 75)

First performances continued with the Boston premiere of Schumann’s Requiem for Mignon, Op. 98b on Wednesday, April 12, 1882. However, the work most cited by the reviewers was Lang’s own song, The Chase, a hunting song sung by Mr. J. F. Winch “with spirit, but without any especial shading. It is a bright, dashing composition, with the usual empty fifths, etc.,” but it produced the only call for an encore that evening. Another review described Lang’s song as “full of the oxygen of out-door life as intensified and concentrated by exciting sport. The piano accompaniment (played by Mr. Lang) pictures brilliantly the dash and impetuous rush of the riders to be ‘in at the death.’ Mr. Winch’s singing of the song was most effective, and he was compelled by the applause to repeat its closing lines.” However, another reviewer wrote: “The chief fault of his work was that there was no lightness in the repetition of the opening phrase.” well, a critic has to be critical it seems even, even if it refers to only one phrase. (Cecilia Reviews.) Another critic was more enthusiastic: “The Chase was the most striking number of the programme, and the setting…fitted the abilities of the singer so happily that the audience was thoroughly aroused by the brilliancy of the composition and the spirited style of its rendering… Mr. Lang’s piano accompaniment was quite as effective as the singing of the vocalist, but he modestly declined to acknowledge the enthusiastic applause following the number.” (Herald (April 13, 1882): 5, GB)    One of the instrumental pieces was a Romance for Piano, Organ and Violin by Saint Saens played by Mr. J. Phippen, Mr. John A. Preston and Mr. Gustav Dannreuther in “excellent taste.” This was another of Lang’s recent discoveries as it had just been published a few years before. The women’s voices performed In Name They Shall Rejoice by the BSO conductor Georg Henschel, “a composition of rare beauty.” (Ibid) However, the “Benedictus” from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was “particularly ineffective in the interpretation given it by soloists and chorus alike.” (Ibid)

Johnston Collection.

The fourth and final concert of the season was on Wednesday evening, May 10, 1882 at Tremont Temple with full orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor, Georg Henschel as the primary soloist in Odysseus by Max Bruch. The Musical Herald wrote: “They have given the work before, but never with such sustained excellence as on this occasion…Mr. Henschel sang the part of Odysseus gloriously…The choruses were flawless in the choral parts. It was one of the best performances the club has ever give.” (Musical Herald (June 1882): 159) The Advertiser repeated this praise for the choir and Henschel, but did note: “The chorus sang with generally admirable power and expression, but often with hesitation of attack that evidently gave Mr. Lang some anxiety and him to an unusual vehemence in his calisthenics of conductorship. Some of the more sudden and vigorous passages were nearly ruined by this uncertainty of attack. The orchestral work was so good in almost every particular that it would be hard to suggest how it could have been bettered. The balance between orchestra and singers was planned with excellent judgment and maintained unswervingly.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) The Musical Herald wrote: “They have given the work before, but never with such sustained excellence as on this occasion…Mr. Henschel sang the part of Odysseus gloriously…The choruses were flawless in the choral parts. It was one of the best performances the club has ever give.” (Musical Herald (June 1882): 159)

President Thorndike’s Annual Report on June 8, 1882 noted how much the group had grown artistically in the last five years. “Five years ago we were distrustful of our own voices, afraid of being overcrowded by an orchestra, unacquainted with each other, and therefore lacking the unity and clearness only acquired by long singing together. We were feeble in some parts and unbalanced. In short, we were beginners,” whereas in 1882 the choir “have no apology to make” in any of these areas, and this was due to the dedication of the singing members, the support of the associate members and “last, but not least, to the unfailing energy, judgment, taste, and skill of out leader.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

By 1882, membership in the choir was a privilege: “No one can be admitted to its ranks who does not pledge unintermittent attendance upon rehearsals. These conditions secure very choice gratification to the aristocratic clique who sustain the enterprise,” and serve as a testament to the talents of its conductor. (HMA Program Clippings, Musical American, (June 3, 1882)

Lang ‘s illustration for the 1882 Musical Boston.

ELEVENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1881-1882.

The December 7 and 12, 1881 concerts had the famous violinist Camilla Urso as one of the assisting artists. George Sumner opened the program with an organ solo, the “Andante and Fugue” from Judas Maccabeus by Handel. Every item in the concert except one was new to the choir and most were first performances in Boston. The Advertiser called the pieces “all of sterling worth.” (Advertiser) The choir’s pianist, John A. Preston was singled out for “unstinting praise.” (Ibid)  Madame Urso and the tenor soloist, Mr. Theodore J. Toedt (Boston singing teacher, 1853-1920) performed most of the new pieces. The Journal noted: “The singing of the soloists was very fine, especially that of Mr. Toedt, who showed himself to be an artist of power as well as finish.” (Journal)  The choir premiered the Woodcock Song by V. Lachner, King Olaf’s Christmas by Dudley Buck and the “Chorus of Sailors” from the beginning of the last act of Flying Dutchman by Wagner. (Ibid) The music of the Buck was “strikingly interesting on a first hearing.” (Ibid) The Home Journal mentioned that the program contained  “more things of a substantial, noble character than has been usual in programmes mostly made up of part songs.” (Home Journal) The Journal took the opposite position: “In spite of the excellence of the evening’s performance, however, a feeling would creep in that the club might be doing the cause of music still better service. With a corps of such fine singers, it should be possible to produce some great compositions, and it is hoped that this will be done before the season closes.” (Journal)

   John Knowles Paine. (1839-1906) Howard, facing 315.

Would pieces by Harvard’s J. K. Paine qualify as “great compositions?” For the February 15 and 20, 1882 concerts the choir sang three choruses from Paine’s Oedipus Tyrannus. “Every new experience with this delightful music enhances the admiration of it.” (Home Journal) The first half ended with Mendelssohn’s Overture-Athalie. B. J. had the idea of adding an organ part to the last section which produced a “thrilling effect.” (Ibid) However, the Transcript noted, “it’s mighty voice [was] much out of tune.” (Transcript) This paper also took notice of the fact that “The presence of an orchestra has now become almost a matter of course at the Apollo concerts,” and it went on concerning the Paine, “The first fine impression made by the music last year in Cambridge is only strengthened by repeated hearings. It seems to us that, of all the fine things Mr. Paine has done, this music is the finest.” (Ibid) The final piece was the March of the Monks of Bangor by G. E. Whiting that the choir had premiered the previous season.  Perhaps the suggestion that the piece be performed every year was to be taken! However, the Transcript review was not as enthusiastic as other reviews calling the work uneven “Every now and then a weak place appears with unexpected suddenness.” (Transcript, Op. cit.)

Elson, 268.

There were only three concerts in the 1881-1882 season with the third set being held on April 26 and May 1882 with full orchestra accompaniment. The major work was Salamis by Max Bruch for double male chorus and orchestra; “a rich and impressive piece of writing, finely scored and masterly in effect.” (Gazette) One premier of the evening was Summons to Love, Opus 37 by J. K. Paine that was written expressly for the Apollo Club. “It is a strong and vigorous work, abundant in poetic feeling, and fully in harmony with the poem to which it is set. In breadth of design and depth of sentiment, we think it is superior to any of the composer’s previous efforts in the same direction.” (Ibid) Another premier was the part song by Mr. Henschel, The King and the Poet. “It is not the most pleasing of the works we have heard from the same source, and is more remarkable for its ingenuities of harmonic progression than for its clearness of design or its beauty of theme.” (Ibid) “Dux” wrote: “The Apollo Club gave a fine concert April 26th. at the Music Hall. Several new works were brought out and the cream of the old stock. Of the new works (to Boston) I was thrilled by the power and nobility of Bruch’s Salamis, which I consider to be far more spontaneous than the same composers Roman Song of Triumph. Another grand work was Paine’s Summons to Love…A new part song by Mr. Henschel showed the composer in his best light. He unites counterpoint and melodic feeling in a manner like that of Robert Franz. The singing  was of the best quality, as it always is with the finest of vocal clubs.” (Brainard’s (June 1882): 93)

The Transcript recorded: “Of the singing of the club what can be said but that they sang with all their accustomed perfection, and with even more than their wonted fire. Mr. Lang has now brought the chorus to the point that enables one to write, as the Leipzig critics do of the Gewandhaus orchestra, ‘The performance was perfect, as usual.’” (Transcript) A review dated May 1, 1882 in a New York publication rated the chorus very highly; “The Apollo sing as no other club in America or (to my knowledge) anywhere else can sing. I wish that some of your Knickerbocker aristocracy could induce them to give one of their private concerts in New York. I assure you it would be a musical treat beyond anything that Boston has yet sent you.”(Apollo Reviews)

DAMNATION OF FAUST.

1882 saw yet another presentation of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, this time “for the benefit of the Associated Charities of Boston.” Held on Monday evening March 24th at the Music Hall, the soloists were “Mrs. Henschel, Mr. Charles R. Adams, Mr. Henschel and Mr. Sebastian Schlesinger” and “an orchestral of unusual size.” Even with his heavy schedule as conductor of the BSO, Georg Henschel appeared with other Boston groups and also presented vocal recitals (where he sometimes also acted as accompanist) There were fewer sectional rehearsals for the chorus this time: only one for the ladies, and three for the men with two full orchestral/choir/soloists rehearsals. “It is thought that with the rehearsals so near together, an exceptionally good performance could be given by singers who already know the music.” (BPL Lang Prog.)

FIDELIO.

On Wednesday evening, March 29, 1882 at 7:45 PM Lang presented a concert performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio with full chorus and orchestra at the Music Hall. Among the six soloists, the most notable was Georg Henschel.  Seats were $1.50 (BPL Lang Prog.) He also advertised a Public Rehearsal for the afternoon before with tickets at 50 cents. The Herald had done a short notice about five weeks before which mentioned that the mixed choir would have 150 voices while the male choir would number 100 “invited from the private singing clubs of the city.” (Herald (February 19, 1882): 3, GB) Critical coverage was scant. For these types of events, Lang acted as producer-hiring the hall, engaging and rehearsing the musicians, arranging for ticket sales, and all the other elements of the concert. He also could keep all the profits!

LANG’S MUSICAL POSITION IN BOSTON.

An 1882 article written by Louis Elson summed up B. J.’s position in Musical Boston. “B. J. Lang has been mentioned before in this short [short!-six pages, three columns per page, very fine print] chronicle, in connection with the Handel and Haydn Society. His influence at their concerts for the last twenty-two years has been an important and influential one. His power in Boston’s music has always been exerted for good, and even in the days of Dresel, Kreissmann and Leonhard was felt in the counsels which preceded every important movement. It was he who first suggested the great series of Harvard Symphony Concerts; it was he who more than any other held the programs up to their first high level; he has also been one of the leading subscribers since the beginning of the series. It was his influence which brought out in Boston for the first time the great pianoforte concertos of Bach, and most of those of Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven, as well as the works of the newer school, the concertos of Rubinstein, St. Saens, Bronsart, etc. For the past ten years, he has been in the habit of giving a series of pianoforte concerts, the present season forming the only exception. He has given five different sets of symphony concerts, and in these has always followed the good German idea of a large orchestra in a small hall, so that no possible effect should be lost. He is one of the very few American musicians who have given concerts abroad with success. He has appeared as pianist in Berlin, Dresden and Vienna. His interest in the Bayreuth Festival, the Franz benefit concert, the Dwight testimonial, the Liszt celebration, in short, in every memorable musical occasion has been earnest, thorough, and, above all, practical. He has been honored with the personal friendship of the greatest composers of Europe, and his studies of the works of Wagner have been made with the assistance of the great composer himself. He has, like every earnest, original and competent worker, formed for himself a set of followers, pupils and disciples. It is impossible to enumerate these since the number of his pupils who have become concert soloists is over sixty. The work of the Cecilia Club is wholly due to Mr. Lang; that of the Apollo and Euterpe societies largely so. therefore, in the articles on these subjects, the reader will find a continuation of his too-brief personal sketch. Mr. Lang, although he has composed some very fine works, has, as yet, published nothing. As a musician he is armed at all points; he is one of the very surest of ensemble players and never loses his head. We can personally recall many instances where his calmness has saved careless or nervous players from disaster. He is a good organizer and a very efficient leader. At a time when no one else dared undertake playing with, or directing for, the belligerent Von Bulow or the meteoric Joseffy, he did both-and well. He is one of the surest of score-readers and, though not a virtuoso, is one of the best types of true musician. He has long been the organist of a leading Unitarian church. Of his Boston pupils, we may mention Mr. Arthur Foote…Mr. W. F. Apthorp is another of Mr. Lang’s eminent pupils.” (Elson, Musical Boston, 3)

DIPHTHERIA.

The fact that Lang was a well-known citizen is shown in the fact that the Globe reported in their “Local Lines” section that “Mr. J. B. [sic] Lang’s wife and eldest daughter are seriously ill with diphtheria.” (Globe (August 3, 1882): 4) The nine piano recitals became the five recitals of the complete Schumann piano works.

PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY SOLOIST. TCHAIKOVSKY.

At the second concert of their series, Lang was the soloist in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto whose world premier he had conducted about seven years ago. “It was very evident that Mr. Lang was at his best. He rendered the difficult finger passages in a clean, precise way, and brought out the composer’s ideas in a style that was almost a revelation. He thoroughly deserved the warm reception he received, not only on this occasion but later in the evening , when he gave a feeling interpretation of Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude.” (Globe ( December 21, 1882): 2) “A more delightful programme than that of the Philharmonic Society’s second concert in the Music Hall last evening has seldom been provided for our musical public…[The Tchaikovsky] It is rare that a work in this form containing so much that is immediately interesting for its purely musical beauties is heard here. These beauties are of a very high order, and the characteristic northern flavor of the whole-its phrases of more barbaric intensity alternating with many a passage full of quaint sweetness-its clearness of form and true concerto spirit-which requires the piano and orchestra to be integral parts of a whole, while giving the solo instrument its due prominence-these give the work an interest peculiarly strong for its individuality. Mr. Lang played in his own almost faultless style, yet with not quite all the boldness and freedom that comes only with complete familiarity with one”s music.” (Daily Advertiser (December 21, 1882): 4, GB). The critique was probably written by Dr. Maas who had conducted the Philharmonic the previous season, 1881-1882. It is strange that the conductor’s name, Carl Zerrahn, is not mentioned at all.

TWELFTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1882-1883.

This season also had only three different programs. The December 5 and 11, 1882 and the February 14 and 19, 1883 pairs of concerts both ended with choruses by Wagner; the February concerts ended with the “Chorus of Sailors” from the Flying Dutchman. The Apollo Club had introduced this work to Boston in December 1881. Lang was doing his best to make Wagner’s name known. Lang met Wagner in 1857 when Lang was a student in Germany. In the summer of 1871 B. J. and Frances were invited to lunch with the Wagners and B. J. pledged to raise money in America to fund the building of the opera house in Bayreuth. Then, in the summer of 1875, Cosima gave B. J.  a private tour of the recently completed opera house.

J. C. D. Parker, organist of Trinity Church, Copley Square (see People and Places article)

The fifth and sixth pair were held on Wednesday evening, April 25 and Friday evening, April 27, 1883 at the Music Hall with an accompaniment of a full orchestra. The opening work, “written for the Apollo Club,” was the world premiere [?] of The Blind King by J. C. D. Parker. This work was written for baritone solo, [probably Mr. C. E. Hay] male chorus and orchestra. Another work “written for the Apollo Club” was Free Lances by George Whiting written for male chorus with wind instruments and drums. The second half opened with an orchestral piece, Scherzo, Op. 19 by Goldmark, and just after that, a change of mood; Radway’s Ready Relief. As you can see, this was a setting of a newspaper ad for Sleeping Pills, and the composer was the Music Professor at Harvard! A note in the program states that the piece was composed twenty years before, which would be just after he had started at Harvard. Possibly he didn’t feel that this should be connected with him at that time. The 1883 date for Radway’s Ready Relief comes two years after the premiere of his music for the Greek play at Harvard-now he could show another side to his personality.

Copy from WorldCat.

An interesting comment on concert etiquette of the time is shown by the notice just before the final piece in the program: “It is earnestly requested that no one will disturb both the audience and the Club by leaving the hall during the final chorus.” its time was listed as eight minutes. (Information from the program-Johnston Collection)

SEVENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1882-1883.

The Berlioz Requiem was repeated to open the Seventh Season on Sunday evening November 26, 1882. The Herald wrote: “The work is a tone picture, at once impressive, imposing and weird,” and said of the chorus that “it was evident that the music had been thoroughly rehearsed; but on account of the great difficulties, there was some hesitation in taking the leads, and bad intonation, and in the more dramatic places there was a lack of power-all of which would seem to be consequent upon attempting a work of such immense proportions, with a small chorus, in a large hall.” (Herald, Cecilia Reviews) The Transcript wrote: “It were hard to praise too highly the energy of the Cecilia in repeating a work which is so fatiguing to prepare, and, as ‘the largest orchestra score in existence,’ so expensive to give…The performance last evening was far beyond that given last season. The basses of the chorus were really superb, while doubling of the first tenors by the altos gave the tenor part a rich volume and distinctness of tone which the dearth of high tenor voices in this country makes very rare in our choruses…We have never heard any chorus in this city enunciate so distinctly, and often elegantly…Boston can now say that it has heard a really intelligible performance of a work to which but few cities in the world have had the privilege of listening.” (Transcript, Cecilia Reviews) The Advertiser called the work “Requiem stupendous.” However, “Dux” felt that the chorus “did almost as well as in the excellent performance of last year.” (Brainard (January 1883): 13) Choir President Thorndike felt that “the whole concert passed with hardly a blemish, and it was noticeable that the over-wise newspaper criticisms which were expended upon our first presentation of this great work were not repeated.” (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1)

The second concert of the season was performed on Thursday evening, January 18, 1883 at Tremont Temple with the Boston premiere of Gade’s Psyche, Op. 60 with piano (Joshua Phippen) and organ (Frank Lynes) as the accompaniment. Choir President Thorndike confessed to “a feeling of disappointment in the cantata itself during all the rehearsals, a feeling not entirely dissipated by the performance…I do not think the fault was in myself, for I find that more able critics agree with me. I am sure the fault was not in the soloists or the chorus, whose whole work was excellently done. The sense of something wanting may be partly but not wholly accounted for by the absence of orchestra. The real lack seemed to be of strong and salient points in the composition, of any mark of genius.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The Musical Herald agreed that the piece was not equal to Gade’s Crusaders, noted that the club “sang it exquisitely, and, had it had the assistance of orchestra, would undoubtedly have achieved a high triumph. It is said, we believe, of Gade, that, if he were to write merely an “A” for clarinet, he would conceive to have it sound differently from anybody else’s A.” (Musical Herald (February 1883): 53, GB)

The third concert was on Monday evening, April 2, 1883 at Tremont Temple with a full orchestra and J. A. Preston at the organ and Georg Henschel as the major soloist. The works performed were selections from Part 6 of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. The Transcript said of the Mendelssohn that “here we have the composer at his best,” and then went on to rank his choral works: “Putting the Oedipus music first, and the Antigone second, the Walpurgis Night must rank easily as third… The performance last night was markedly a fine one. The overture made little effect, from the smallness of the orchestra…Now that our ears have become habituated to a full-grown orchestra, anything under ten first violins sounds feeble; two double basses sound like no bass at all…Dr. Langmaid sang the tenor music excellently (it may be remembered that he was the first to sing it in Boston, years ago, under Mr. Lang’s baton in the Music Hall)… Mr. Lang, too, is highly to be complimented upon the singing of his choir; never have the Cecilia sung with greater freedom and vigor.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) “Athenian” felt that the Bach “was not perfectly sung, but ample amends were made in Mendelssohn’s Walpurgis Night in which chorus, orchestra, and soloists all won great success. The weird pictures conveyed in the chorus, ”Come with Torches,” could scarcely have been intensified. The flickering flames pictures by the flute runs, the heavy crashes of full orchestra, the majesty of the vocal parts above the din, were all very thoroughly rendered, but best of all was the sing of the Druid solos sung by Mr. Henschel, who, although suffering from a very severe cold, sang with great fervor and dramatic power. (Brainard (May 1883): 76)

The Choir President’s comment on the Bach was: “The Bach selection consisted of the sixth part of the oratorio with some omissions. As a whole it was well performed, to the interest of all, the satisfaction of many, the delight of a few…I hope that we shall all live to know the Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, the great Mass, the Magnificat, the principal motets and cantatas, as well as we know the oratorios and psalms of Mendelssohn.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

The fourth and final concert for the season held on May 16, 1883 at the Music Hall “in the presence of a very large audience” and using “an orchestra of considerable size” featured the Boston premier (Herald, May 17, 1883) of Bruch’s Lay of the Bell, Op. 46 conducted by the composer-Lang played the organ. The Journal found the piece “an important and graceful work, if less powerful than some of his other compositions notably the Arminius whose first performance in this country he [Bruch] conducted at the recent festival of the Handel and Haydn Society… One of its most promising defects is a sameness which at times becomes monotony… It has many moments of dullness.” The chorus was not able to save the work: “There was often, however, a lack of power, and, still more, a want of that fine shading and expression which can only come from strong intellectual appreciation of a composer’s thought and purpose-in short, much of the chorus singing seemed dry and perfunctory.” (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1) Even though Lang had the foresight to hire Bruch to appear with his group, the Cecilia, when he was in Boston conducting the Handel and Haydn Society, even the composer’s touch in preparing and leading the performance did not bring the work to life, at least in the view of some reviewers. However, the Cecilia President in his Report of June 1883 refuted this position. He called it “a greater work than the Arminius which attracted so much attention at the Handel and Haydn festival. Of the excellence of the performance, there was no question. The voice of praise [for the choir] was unanimous.” He did note, “The criticisms which appeared the next day upon the work itself were curiously diverse in their tone. All the reporters confessed the great interest of the occasion. But some avoided committing themselves.” The female soloists had been members of the choir, and their performances had been “most creditable and interesting. The choir clothed itself with glory as with a garland.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The Musical Herald was “astounded at the coolness with which the work was received, and still more so to find many of the critics recording their opinion that the work is not equal to Arminius…But, while Arminius is almost without contrast, the Lay of the Bell is full of the most vivid changes…It seems to us the greatest work of the master…The whole work ought to be heard frequently in America, as familiarity will make its solid worth more generally apparent.” (Musical Herald (July 1883): 195, GB)

Thorndike’s Annual Report of June 14, 1883 (his seventh) noted that the ranks of the choir had remained full and that there had “always been abundant reserves on the waiting list to supply the places of any who might fall out. The attendance has been excellent, the discipline, enthusiasm and vocal training better than ever,” and he credited Lang’s “master hand in whatever the Club has achieved.” He then added: “I beg also here to tender our thanks to Mr. Preston for various valuable services.” He also noted that the club had used an orchestra for 3 of their 4 concerts and that all concerts next season would be presented at the Music Hall. (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1)

HELEN HOOD.

“Helen Francis Hood, from a 1908 publication.” Wikipedia, May 20, 2019.

In 1883 Schmidt published a song by Helen Hood entitled A Disappointment. It was to become one of her most well known and “one of her best.” (Wikipedia, accessed May 15, 2019). The dedication was “To Mr. B. J. Lang,” her piano teacher. Her dates were: born June 28,  1863 and died January 22, 1949. Thus, in 1883 she was only twenty years old. This song was one of a set of four. After her piano studies with Lang during her teen-aged years, she then went to Belin to study with Moritz Moszkowski and Philipp Scharwenka. (Ibid) Along with Margaret Ruthven Lang, Hood also had her music performed at 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago winning “a diploma and medal for her achievements.” (Ibid) Her Summer Song was “given a triple encore at its performance on 6 July.” (Fox in Grove Dic. Women Com., 227) In 1903 Arthur Elson wrote: “Helen Hood is one of America’s few really gifted musical women.” (A. Elson, 207) He felt that among the works written up to that time, the Piano Trio and the Two Violin Suites were “made of excellent material.” (Ibid) At about the same time, 1904, Louis C. Elson added to her list of works a Te Deum in E flat (the same key as Margaret’s), a String Quartette, “but her fame rest chiefly on her very graceful songs and piano sketches. (L. Elson, Am. Mus., 306) Fox lists the Diaries of Frances Lang as one of three items in her Bibliography for the Grove article.

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