SPELL CHECKED NOVEMBER 30, 2018.
MIDDLE YEARS: 1881-1891. (12 point Georgia)
TOPICS: Mendelssohn: Son and Stranger. Franz Liszt Dinner. Lang and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ethelbert Nevin. Lang:conduct B.S.O? 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. Soloist with the Philharmonic Society. Tchaikovsky. Twelfth Apollo Club Season. 1882-1883. Seventh Cecilia Season. 1882-1883. Helen Hood Attacks on Lang Through Tucker and Foote. Schumann Piano Works. Lectures on Piano Technique. Thirteenth Apollo Club Season. 1883-1884. Church of the Immaculate Conception. Eighth Cecilia Season. 1883-1884. Lang Premiers 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. Lang Assists. Lang’s Support of Chadwick. Liszt’s Death and Funeral. 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. Lang Leaves South Congregational Church. Twelfth Cecilia Season. 1887-1888. Seventeenth Apollo Club Season. 1887-1888. Mrs. Jack Gardner painted by Sargent. Mrs. Louise Inches painted by Sargent. European Vacation, Summer 1888. MacDowell, Edward Alexander. Gilmore’s Jubilee. Eighteenth Apollo Club Season. 1888-1889. Thirteenth Cecilia Season. 1888-1889. Singing with the Boston Symphony. Hymn of Praise for Charity. Arthur Nikisch. Lang as a Piano Instructor. 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. Lang’s Magic as an Organist at King’s Chapel. 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 Hesperous, 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) (Boston) Becker: A Wood Morning. April 30 and May 2, 1884. Sung by a quartet. (1)(3) (Boston) Brackett: Cavalier’s Song. April 29 and May 4, 1886. (1)(3) (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 program. Johnston Collection. The Club sang it again February 17 and 23, 1892. (Boston) Bruch: Salamis. April 26, 1882. Brainard’s Musical World, June 1882, 93. (Boston) Buck: Chorus of Spirits and Hours. February 11 and 16, 1885. (1)(3) (Boston) Buck: King Olaf’s Christmas. December 7 and 12, 1881. Advertiser review mentions that this was the Boston premier. The work was published in 1881. (World) Chadwick: Jabberwocky, February 16 and 23, 1887. Written for the Club. (1) (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 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 premier 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. (1) (World) Lang, B. J.: My True Love Has My Heart, May 12 and 17, 1887. (1) (World) Lang, M. R.: The Maiden and the Butterfly. May 6, 1889. (World) Lang, M. R.: The Jumblies. December 3, 1890. Date from program-Johnston Collection. (Boston) Mohr: The Sea. February 20 and 25, 1884. (1)(3) (Boston) Osgood: Proposal. April 29, 1886 (1)(3) and February 10 and May 4, 1886. (1) (Boston) Paine: Summons to Love. May 2, 1882. (1) And April 26-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. (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, 1888. (1)(3) Not available ILL. (Boston) Wagner: “Chorus of Sailors” from the last act of Flying Dutchman. December 7 and 12, 1881. Advertiser undated review. (World) Whiting: Free Lances. “Written for the Apollo Club.” April 25, 1883. Program-Johnston Collection. (Boston) Whiting: Henry of Navarre. April 29 and May 4, 1886. (1)(3) (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)
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 premier 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 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 6PM 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)
LANG AND THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
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 premier 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 premier 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 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 premier!] 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 premier 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 Gieze, 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 any one 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)
One of Lang’s noteable 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 premier 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.
(1) From Elson, 249 and Thompson, 83 where it mentions that this photo was from 1887 when Nevin was about 25 . (2) Thompson, facing 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, criticising 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 newspaper men to criticise him as Zerrahn, Listemann, Maas and others have been criticised.” (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. A “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 premier 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.)
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 overcrowed 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 unintermitted 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.)
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 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.)
On Wednesday evening, March 29, 1882 at 7:45PM 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)
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.
SOLOIST WITH THE PHILHARMONIC SOCIETY. 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 full orchestra. The opening work, “written for the Apollo Club,” was the world premier [?] 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. 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 premier 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 concieve 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 motettes 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 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 cirtics 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 Francis Hood, from a 1908 publication.” Wikipedia, May 20, 2019.
In 1883 Schmidt published a song by Helen Hood entitled A Disappointent. 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.
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, 1885 concert included the world premier of 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.
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)
In addition to producing his own concerts, Lang continued to be an assisting artist with other groups. On Monday February 1, 1886 Lang and Mr. Fritz Giese, cellist were presented as the 7th. Monday Afternoon Chamber Concert at Bumstead Hall. Lang played the solo part in Edward Napravnik’s Pianoforte Concerto Symphonique with the orchestral part played by G. W. Sumner. Then came three piano solos including Lang’s own Spinning Song in A Major, and the concert ended with Mendelssohn’s Sonata for Pianoforte and Violoncello in D Major, Opus 58. In the 1886-87 season of six concerts given at Chickering Hall by the Kneisel Quartet, Lang played the first Boston performance of the Brahms Trio Opus 40. Lang was premiering a lot of Brahms. He had given the Boston premier of the Brahms cantata for male voices Rinaldo with the Apollo Club on December 15, 1883; then been soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Boston Symphony under George Henschel on March 15, 1884. He also was to give the Boston premiers of the Brahms German Requiem with the Cecilia Society in December 1888 and Nanie on May 22, 1890.
LANG’S SUPPORT OF CHADWICK.
Illustration below from a newspaper supplement Musical Boston, 1882.
Lang continued to promote Chadwick’s compositions. Two of Chadwick’s recently composed songs were part of the February 4, 1886 Music Hall concert given by The Cecilia. Sweet Wind That Blows and Before the Dawn (No. 3 of Three Love Songs, Op. 8 published in 1882) were sung by the tenor Mr. James H. Ricketson [a member of the Club]-(Yearbook, Vol. 3, 52) with Lang as the accompanist. A review in the Evening Transcript of February 5, 1886 stated: “Mr. Chadwick’s songs… were heard with manifest interest, if not delight.” (Faucett, Bio-Bib., 194 and 195) Before the Dawn achieved enough popularity that it was orchestrated by Val Coffey, and published by Luck’s Music Library. (Op. cit., 200)
Another world premier given by the Apollo Club was the performance on February 23, 1887 of Chadwick’s humorous song, Jabberwocky with a text by Lewis Carroll, and the dedication on the printed copy (1886) was “To Our Society [Apollo Club of Boston].” The Club repeated this piece on December 10, 1887 and again March 20, 1895. The review in the Musical Herald of April 1887 said: “The humor of Mr. Chadwick’s Jabberwocky cannot be overstated. It is a fine instance of a classical composer at play, and belongs to the healthy English school,” while the Evening Herald noted: “… humorous music set to humorous words… The music is dramatically expressive of the poem throughout, and the grand rhetorical figures of the verses are brought out with redoubled splendor.” (Faucett, Bio-Bib., 162) Rupert Hughes described the work as having “much rich humor of the college glee-club sort. There is an irresistibly humorous episode where the instrument of destruction goes ‘snicker snack,’ and a fine hilarity at ‘O crablouse day callooh, callay, he chortled in his joy.’” (Hughes, Am. Com., 212) The work was published in 1886 by Schmidt as part of the “Apollo Club Collection of Music for Male Voices” which by that time, 1886, had 16 pieces listed including two by Arthur Foote, The Farewell of Hiawatha and If Doughty Deeds. A note at the bottom of the front page stated, “Pianoforte accompaniments furnished separately.”
LISZT DEATH AND FUNERAL.
During the summer of 1886 the Lang was were again in Europe- he sent a notice to his piano pupils saying that he would be back by Monday, September 20. Once in Munich he was reunited with the rest of the family who had spent the winter/spring there to enable Frances’s recovery and Margaret’s studies. During that time Liszt died, and B. J. was considered such a good friend to Liszt, that he was part of the funeral.Frances wrote to her mother details of the event: “Liszt died on Aug. 4th. The funeral was on the 6th. On arriving at Bayreuth Lel ordered a wreath which he sent with the words;- ‘From an American musician.’ He went to see Liszt’s valet Michael…[He] recognized Lel at once and said,- ‘You know the last writing that the great man ever wrote was on the photograph that he gave to you Mr. Lang.’ He then said,-‘You thought much of him I know, therefore I wish to give you something that you will be glad to have,’ and he brought forth alock of Liszt’s beautiful grey hair…Lel was pleased beyond measure. They had further talk.” (Diary 2 August 1886) After this Lang went to the Wagner house and spoke with Frau Wagner, Daniela, Eva and Siegfried who were ” decorating the bier….After speaking with some of the men of the Liszt Verein, he was approached and invited to be one of the pall-bearers. When the line was formed there were eight on each side of the catafalque, each one holding a torch. Lel wore black gloves, and his black skull-cap. Lel was the only American representative.” There was no music at the graveside. “All the great artists and musicians were present.” (Ibid)
Clara Doria, the singer (wife of the Boston lawyer Henry Rogers) wrote of her own trip in 1886 which included attending the Bayreuth Festival. “Next day, from our windows, we watched a long and impressive funeral procession, in which we recognized many distinguished musicians-each one having a lighted torch though it was broad daylight. One of the first in the procession to be recognized by us was our fellow Bostonian, B. J. Lang, who was one of the pall bearers, and who, like the rest, was bearing his torch with due solemnity.” She then continued with a observation which reflects Lang’s high standing in at least her musical world of Boston. “How natural it seemed to us that, when any unusual or exciting event was taking place, B. J. Lang should be there. It was the funeral procession bearing the remains of that great artist, Franz Liszt, who had but a few days ago passed on to the beyond.” (Rogers, Two Lives, 166) The funeral was on August 3rd. in Bayreuth.
1886 B. J. sent a notice to his piano pupils saying that he would be back by Monday, September 20. He arrived on September 20 in NYC on the UMBRIA from Liverpool to New York with his last address being Manchester, England. He was alone.
SIXTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1886-1887.
On December 21, 1886, the Society gave its ONE-HUNDRETH concert and featured the first American performance of Rinaldo by Brahms. The critic Ticknor in the Herald of December 16th. felt-“If ever 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, 87)
Arthur Reed, the founding secretary mentioned that “it was a rather odd coincidence that the club was formed in seventy-one; that we now have seventy-one active members, and that every one of that number was present at the one hundredth concert given last evening.” (Syford, 165) Reed also thanked Lang who had conducted these one-hundred concerts, “barring accidents, such as the occasional breaking of an arm or a neck, or some other portion of his anatomy; but at such times it has been found he could easily conduct the Club with A Foote.” (Osborne, 33) Mention was made that one of the founding members, and also a member of the original Chickering Club, had moved to San Francisco and there founded a singing group based on the Apollo Club. Reed also claimed that both the Boylston and Arlington Clubs of Boston had been founded in emulation of the Apollo model, and that Australian visitors from Melbourne modeled their choir on the Apollo and that a group in Sydney had in turn copied them!
The third concert of the sixteenth season was given in the “presence of one of the largest and as results proved one of the most favored audiences of the season. It was the freshest concert that any vocal club has given in this city for many a day…It was gratifying to find the American composer so well represented in this concert in the compositions of Messrs. Whiting, Thayer and Chadwick.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review) The Whiting piece was the world premier of Spring Greeting that was described as having “not a commonplace passage in the entire work. The flow of the melody is easy, the construction is careful and elaborate, the scoring is rich.” (Ibid) Tens lines of praise followed, ending with: “And all these we hardly need say are the distinguishing qualities of a masterpiece.” (Ibid) Chadwick’s Jabberwocky was deemed lacking in “any real beauty or interest,” and the composer “evidently does not understand the art of writing for voices.” (Ibid) Whiting’s March of the Monks of Bangor was praised as was Lang’s “interpretations that seemed more than ever sympathetic, and even affectionate.” (Ibid) The four soloists were drawn from the choir and Mr. Preston was the accompanist. For once “the orchestra played admirably.” (Ibid) C. L. Capen probably wrote this review.
Soloists had usually been selected from the choir, but at the 105th. concert given early in 1887, the soloist was Adele aus der Ohe, pianist. The Traveler writer was amazed that “the Music Hall contained four thousand people and was full a half hour before the concert began. All seats are rush seats. Where else could there be such interest in music?” (Baker, 11) [4,000 is excessive-Dwight estimated 3,000 before it opened (Dwight (April 10, 1852): 3) and reported that about 2,500 attended the first public concert (Dwight (November 27, 1852): 61)
In reviewing a solo concert sung by Mr. Arthur W. Thayer, “a bass vocalist of more than common merit,” the reviewer mentioned that at the last Apollo Concerts [February 16 and 23] the group had sung his Sea Greeting which had been “composed for” the group, and, of which, “everybody spoke so well.” (Daily Advertiser (March 2, 1887): 4, GB) No copy of this piece is listed in WorldCat.
ELEVENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1886-1887.
The Boston premier of Liszt’s oratorio Legend of St. Elizabeth, Opus 153 was presented on November 18, 1886 at Boylston Hall. (Johnson, First, 220) An orchestra accompanied, Arthur Foote was the organist and there were six soloists, none of whom were chorus members. A. Parker Browne, President of the choir, in his Eleventh Annual Report of June 1887 praised Lang: “Mr. Lang has been throughout this season the same hard-working, thoughtful, reliable man we have known him to be since we were a club. His capacity for work was never better shown than in the preparation of the St. Elizabeth at the beginning of the season, and the Damnation of Faust at its close, each being prepared in surprisingly short time. Let us all show him that we fully appreciate his value to us, and hope for an indefinite continuance of his services.” (Page 3 of the Report, BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 5) Of St. Elizabeth the Evening Transcript said: “The performance was one of the finest the Cecilia has yet given. The chorus sang grandly… and the music presents many difficulties both of the technical and of the highest artistic sort… But they were triumphantly overcome, with apparent ease, with precision and grace.” The reviewer said of the two soloists, Miss Louise Elliott and Mr. Gio. B. Ronconi: “We cannot remember when the Cecilia has had two such good and satisfying leading solo singers… The orchestra, although small, played capitally. A word of hearty commendation should also be given the new sounding-board; it doubled the effectiveness of the performance.” The Home Journal also commended the choir and the two main soloists. “Miss Elliott did excellently well in a very trying and elaborate part,” while Sig. Ronconi “sang the taxing and intricate part of Ludwig in a manner that deserves great commendation for his most self-forgetting devotion to his music.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
January 27, 1887 heard the Boston premier with orchestral accompaniment of Mendelssohn’s Music to Racine’s Athalia, Op. 74 given at the Music Hall with Bernhard Listemann’s Boston Orchestra Club [a group of amateur players] with Howard M. Ticknor as the narrator (Johnson, 254). In an extensive, positive review the Advertiser praised the choir, the soloists, and then spend some time on the Boston Orchestral Club. “It was an odd sight for Music Hall, that of the many young ladies who were among the string players of the Orchestral Club, and it was a good deal to expect of young players that they should hold their attention and their strength through the strain of so long and responsible a performance… Mr. Listermann led the first violins and Mr. Van Raalte the seconds… Mr. Listemann conducted the overture, Mr. Lang taking the harp part at the piano; but Mr. Lang led the Priests’ March, which was played with all the nervous energy and élan of a lot of young players who have not begun to lose anything of their enthusiasm… Altogether, then, last evening deserves to be brilliantly entered on the register of local musical annals.” The Post also noted that the Orchestral Club was taking part “in an effort somewhat more ambitious and more important than anything heretofore essayed by it. The result must certainly have been very satisfactory to the club and its friends, and to all who are interested in the cause of good music.” This seems to be painting a very positive picture of a decision that was most probably made on financial grounds, rather than artistic grounds. The Traveler questioned the use of an amateur orchestra, saying that by doing so, “the Cecilia immediately lowers its standard of performance.” However, the Evening Transcript wrote: “The performance last evening was very good on the part of the orchestra, absolutely superb on the part of the chorus… The orchestra, composed for the most part of amateurs, did very well; indeed, we have not heard such steady good playing from the Orchestral Club at any of its own concerts… The solo parts were excellently sung, Mrs. Whitney renewing the fine impression she has made on the few occasions has been heard in public here. She was well seconded, too, by Mrs. Ipsen and Miss McLain.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
The third concert of the season was on Thursday evening March 17, 1887 at the Music Hall with full orchestra performing a repeat of The Spectre’s Bride by Dvorak. The Advertiser wrote: “The public was indebted for its hearing of this original, romantic and fascinating work to the enterprise of the Cecilia, and again the presentation was adequate, delightful and honorable… The performance can be commended very highly.” The choir, orchestra and soloists were all praised, and it was noted that the soprano, Miss Kehew, who had been ill and not able to sing the part last year, had her chance at this concert. “Her unusually full and noble voice is always heard with pleasure for its own sake, and we were further gratified to hear her sing with purer and warmer style than usual, although she was not always exact in intonation.” The Evening Transcript felt this second performance of the work showed it to be “finer and more full of genius than ever. No more thoroughly original work has been given here for years.” This review also praised the choir and soloists, also noting that Miss Kehew”s “intonation is still not always unimpeachable.” Some fault was found with the orchestra whose contribution ranged from playing “fairly well” to “at times very well.” The writer hoped that the time would come when “they can afford to have more orchestral rehearsals and larger orchestras” so that the orchestral playing would be “on a level with the work done by the choir. When that time comes there will be little left to wish for, except great solo singers, and these do not grow on every bush.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
A “special supplementary” performance of the the Damnation of Faust was given at the Music Hall on Wednesday evening, May 25, 1887 “with the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Georg Henschel and other artists and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Male Chorus will be enlarged for this Concert to the number of one hundred and fifty. Tickets, with Reserved Seats, at $1.50 and $1.00, will be for sale at the box office of Music Hall on and after Monday, May 16.” On the night Mr. Henschel was ill and his part sung by Mr. Clarence E. Hay who had done the part at the first Cecilia performance of this piece. The Journal noted: “The hall was completely filled, while in spite of the sultryness indoors, as well as out, there was the closest attention throughout the evening… The club sang with excellent effect, earnestly and vigorously, and with confidence from the first… Mrs. Georg Henschel’s pure, sweet voice served admirably to sustain the part of Marguerite, and her singing was charming… Mr. Lang conducted, while the instrumental music was given by the Symphony Orchestra.” The lengthy review in the Transcript noted that this was only the second time that the Cecilia had sold tickets to one of their concerts directly to the public, “the first occasion being a performance of Schumann’s Faust in Tremont Temple some years ago.” The choral work was praised for its “unbounded enthusiasm. The result was admirable, the chorus singing with a finish, accuracy and fire that left little to be desired.” The soloists were also praised in this review, “and the heart of the whole performance was Mr. Lang himself; his magnetic influence was everywhere felt. It was a superb piece of conducting from beginning to end.” Howard Malcolm Ticknor’s spent three-quarters of his review noting that the availability of this concert to the general public was very unusual. In his last paragraph he complimented the orchestra but didn’t mention the soloists. He ended: “Mr. Lang conducted steadily and controlling, as usual, and a magnificent audience filled the house almost to overflowing.” [Ticknor had been a singing member of the Apollo Club since 1880] The Courier began its review saying that the choir and orchestra “did splendidly.” The review ended: “Boston owes an incalculable debt to this society and we cordially return our thanks for this fiery subject, given during the hot weather.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)
PIANOFORTE CONCERTO CONCERTS-FIRST SERIES-1887.
On March 1, 1887 Lang presented the first of four “Pianoforte-Concerto Concerts” at Chickering Hall. For these 2:30PM afternoon concerts B. J. conducted and featured a variety of vocal and instrumental soloists. For the first concert, four soloists were used. “The infrequent opportunities afforded to pianists to play with an orchestra have led Mr. Lang to devote these four concerts to a hearing of performers of creditable ability in standard concertos for piano and orchestra, and for this purpose he has engaged an orchestra of 35 picked musicians, and assumed the conductor’s baton for the more successful carrying out of his plan. In choosing the comparatively small auditorium of Chickering Hall for these events a gain has certainly been made, as the piano his given prominence not attainable in the halls more commonly used for such performances.” (Herald (March 2, 1887): 3, GB) Mr. J. T. Whelan played the Beethoven Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Mr. S. H. Gerrish played Raff’s Concerto Op. 135, and Mrs. Elizabeth Marsh played Chopin’s Krakowiak Op. 14. Mr. Whelan’s playing “was altogether delightful” while Mr. Gerrish “had the breath and vigor of style demanded by the” Raff, and Mrs. Marsh played “with spendidly brilliant effect.” (Ibid) “Tickets were placed by private subscription,” and for the first concert there was “a full audience of exceptionally fine quality.” (Advertiser (March 2, 1887): 4, GB) George Whitefield Chadwick noted in his Diary that during the 1887-88 season “B. J. Lang gave four concerts of concertos which his pupils played. He made them sell (and buy) the tickets too!” (Chadwick, Unpublished Memoirs)
At the second concert on March 8 Ethelbert Nevin was the soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Mrs. Alma Faunce played Chopin’s Concerto No. 2, Mr. S. W. Jamison played Weber’s Concertstuck Op. 79 and the program also included songs by Ivan Morawski. (Herald (March 6, 1887): 12).
At the third concert on Tuesday afternoon March 22 which was performed before “another large audience” which “again proved the popularity of these eminently well planned” events. Miss Mary Webster opened with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 in which she displayed a full appreciation of its many beauties, and her clear limpid touch and the musical feeling shown in her playing gave just the effect demanded for an enjoyable performance of this composition.” Mr. B. L. Whelpley played the Grand Fantasie on Polish Airs, Op. 13 by Chopin. It was “the most notable number of the afternoon, the brilliant interpretation of the pianoforte score creating quite a sensation, and winning for the pianist an enthusiastic recognition of his thoroughly good artistic work.” The Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor was played next by Miss Annie Fisher whose performance only “showed evidence of a very conscientious study of the score.” Mr. J. H Richertson, tenor, also appeared. (Herald (March 23, 1887): 3, GB)
For the fourth concert W. S. Fenollosa played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor; Harry Fay played Mendelssohn’s Serenade and Allegro Giojoso, Op. 43 giving it “a clear and artistic interpretation; while Joshua Phippen played the Boston premier of Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 17. “The final allegro was given with admirable dash and fine expression, creating quite a sensation.” Unfortunately the orchestra was not sensational. “The orchestral work of the afternoon was of somewhat uneven character, and the horn player was peculiarly unfortunate in the introduction to the Saint-Saens concerto.” (Herald (March 30, 1887): 2, GB)
PIANOFORTE CONCERTO CONCERTS-SECOND SERIES-1888.
The first concert of this second series was given April 3, 1888 at Chickering Hall where “nearly every seat was occupied, the audience representing the best musical circles of the city.” An orchestra of c. 30 accompanied and three major works were featured. The first was the Mozart Concerto No. 4 in B-flat Major played by Mrs. Elizabeth Marsh. “Mrs. Marsh’s abilities fitted the Mozart concerto with equal success, and her graceful playing gave the most enjoyable results, especially in the opening allegro and the andante. There is a fascinating clearness and purity in her tone.” The second work was the Andante, Splando and Polonasise, Op. 22 by Chopin played by Mr. Harry Fay; “his general style lacking something of the characteristics demanded for the best interpretation of this composer.” The concert ended with Mr. B. L. Whelpley playing the American premier of MacDowell’s Concerto in A minor, Op. 15, which “proved a work of grand proportions and well worthy the study demanded for its performance.” A detailed analysis of the work followed. “The masterly fashion in which Mr. Whelpley played the piano score fairly carried the audience by storm, and the utmost enthusiasm was shown in the applause which rewarded his performance.” (Herald (April 4, 1888): 4, GB) The Daily Advertiser wrote: “The concert of Tuesday was successful in every respect.” The orchestra was praised; Mrs. Marsh “showed excellent taste in her interpretation of the Mozart Concerto No. 4 in B Flat;” Mr. Fay played in a thoroughly artistic manner;” Mr. Whelpley was “the possessor of a broad musical comprehension as well as a technique of great excellence.” (Daily Advertiser (April 5, 1888): 4, GB)
The second concert was on April 10, 1888. Here Lang included a soloist who was not his pupil. Mme. Eugenie de Roode played Rubinstein’s Concerto No. 4, Op. 70, and “she had not played a dozen measures of the concerto before she had established her standing with the audience…her technical gifts are supplemented by a genuine musical nature.” Mme. Roode was from New York and making her Boston debut. Mr. George W. Sumner played the Boston premier of the Introduction and Allegro, Op. 49 by Godard, and he was “congratulated upon having sufficient courage to step outside the ruts of the classical routine in his selection.” He played the work with “magnificent brilliancy and fire.” Mr. Joshua Phippen presented the Boston premier of St.-Saens Concerto In D Major, op. 17. “The final allegro was played with fine effect, and gained Mr. Phippen a hearty recognition of his meritorious work.” (Herald (April 11, 1888): 5, GB)
The third concert in this series was given on April 17, 1888. The first concerto was the Bronsart in F Sharp minor played by Mr. H. G. Tucker. Lang had played the Boston premier with the HMA Orchestra on March 25, 1880. “Mr. Tucker has never had a greater success than in his playing on this occasion, and the applause which rewarded him at the close of the concerto was worthily bestowed.” (Herald (April 18,1888): 5, GB) Miss Caroline Pond played the C Major Concerto by Brassin, and her performance revealed her “abilities to excellent advantage and showed her to be a player of exceptionally good taste…The performance of this tuneful work gained Miss Pond an enthusiastic recognition of her skill and intelligence.” (Ibid) Brassin (24 June 1840-17 May 1884) was born in France, had much of his career in Belgium, and was known for his piano transcriptions of excerpts from Wagner’s operas which may have been the common interest that brought him to Lang’s notice. He also wrote two piano concertos. How did Lang hear of these? The high point of the concert was the playing by Mr. Alfred Hollins, the blind pianist from London, of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 “which caused quite a sensation, and gained him a grand ovation upon its conclusion.” (Ibid)
A most interesting reference was made to this concert in a book about the life and career of Anna Steiniger Clark. She mentions that her husband, Frederic Horace Clark, a Boston pianist whom she had married in 1882 “was now interested greatly in teaching…Mr. Long [i.e. B. J. Lang] was then the most popular and superficial teacher of ‘piano’ in Boston, and he had instituted some concerts in which his pupils played concertos with an orchestra led by their teacher. I had attended some of these Concerto Concerts, to find them overcrowded, rank with careless playing and the results of inadequate teaching and rushing with the noise of boisterous applause! Mr. Long had sent me a condescending invitation to play in one of these, his pupils’ concerts, little knowing, of course, the grave nature of such an insult. Mr. Long had no more idea of purism in art-activity, to say nothing whatever of organizing, unified activity, than had Mr. Twister [Otto Dresel] and Mr. Barking [maybe J. C. D. Parker]. But to them was not given the opportunity of expressing their ignorance in so unconsciously grotesque a manner of insult as this which Mr. Long stumbles! […] First had played Mr. Lucker [probably Hiram Tucker], one of the most brusque and graceless of Mr. Long’s followers; then came the frantic applause which was enough to offset, with its chaos, the confusion which Mr. Lucher had displayed. Then Mr. Long accompanied (on the pianoforte) some songs, displaying eccentric and detached thrusts of efforts and scattered acts, with bland arrogance, blissful in ignorance of the musical spirit of art-act! These pretty little deceits of Mr. Long his admirers never tired of lauding. After the songs, a blind man from London played Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto [Alfred Hollins].”(von Styne, 344-347, provided by James Methuen-Campbell) Other Boston musicians who felt their critical barbs were the BSO conductors, Gericke and Nikisch, and the pianist, Ernst Perabo. Mr. Methuen-Campbell mentioned that “Clark and his wife had hardly a good work to say about any of the musicians they met.” (Methuen-Campbell E-mail May 22, 2011)
Anna Steiniger had been born in Magdeburg, Prussia and studied with Deppe-a classmate had been the American Miss Amy Fay. Her first European tour was in 1878, and several tours followed. During a German tour she met her husband who was then a student in Berlin. (Jones, 160) “In 1882 she married Frederic Clark of Boston, an accomplished musician and teacher and the discoverer of many educational principles. The two together carry on a music school in Cambridge, Mass. Mrs. Steiniger-Clark has played in concerts extensively throughout this Country and in Europe, and being still young is likely to be heard much more in the future. Their public work at the present time, consists mainly in Literary Institutions, and private recitals before audiences of from one to four persons, for educational purposes. Mr. Clark is a very graceful, intelligent and artistic pianist. His work has been praised by the most careful critics in Boston and in other parts of the World.” (Mathews, 705) In 1885 she played Beethoven’s Concerto in G minor with the BSO under Gericke, and the next season she toured the mid-West with the BSO, again conducted by Gericke. (Jones, op. cit.) Mr. Methuen-Campbell’s comment that they “were perhaps a bit crazy, though she was a very talented and accomplished pianist” seems an appropriate summary. (Methuen-Campbell, Op. cit.)
The fourth concert was held on April 24 and included Hiller’s Concerto Opus 69 in F Sharp minor played by Arthur Foote (Lang had played the Boston premier in 1875), the Rhapsodie d’Auvergne Opus 73 by Saint-Saens played by Miss Marian Mosher (Lang had played the Boston premier in 1886), Grieg’s Concerto Opus 16 in A Minor played by Mr. Jas. T. Whelan and Mendelssohn’s Concerto Opus 64 in E Minor for violin played by Miss Edith Christie.
It would seem that Lang continued to support his pupils by using them whenever appropriate. Two years later Mrs. Marsh appeared at the April 30, 1890 concert of the Apollo Club as the accompanist for the assisting artist, the violinist Miss Maud Powell. (Program-Johnston Collection)
PIANOFORTE CONCERTO CONCERTS-THIRD SERIES-1890.
In March 1890 Lang presented the third in his series of “Concerto Concerts” in Chickering Hall. (He skipped the spring of 1889) “The pianists were accompanied by as large a part of the Symphony Orchestra as could be conveniently accommodated on the stage.” (Advertiser (March 11, 1892): 4, GB). Early in the month Mr. Tucker played the American or Boston premier of the Concerto in G Minor Opus 15 by Sgambati. “His style of playing is well suited to the composition. In the broad and massive effects his octaves and chords showed well. The more intricate running passages were played with a crispness and brilliancy of tone rarely excelled. “(Ibid) Mrs. March played Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brilliant Opus 22. “While Mrs. Marsh is much above the average pianist in musical conception, her technique is scarcely equal to the demands made upon it by a composition requiring so much dash and brilliancy as the Capriccio. Her touch is very graceful and dainty, but even in places where those qualities would have shown to good advantage, their effect was quite destroyed by the power of the orchestra.” (Ibid) Mr. Phippen played Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 in F Minor which was “in every respect a most artistic performance.” (Ibid)
For the second concert on March 25th. Mr. Whelply played the Boston premier (Herald (March 2, 1890): 9, GB) of Dvorak’s Concerto No. 2 in B minor; Mr. Foote played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor; and Miss Louise May played Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 in G Minor Opus 37. (Hale Crit., Vol. 1)
The Globe headline for the third concert was: “A Large Audience Listens to Piano Solos in Chickering Hall.” (Globe (April 2, 1890): 2) The review continued: “The third and last of B. J. Lang’s series of pianoforte concerts was given in Chickering Hall yesterday afternoon, [April 1, 1890] and, as at previous concerts, the attendance was limited only by the capacity of the hall. The programme was of unusual interest and the frequent hearty applause testified to the appreciative attention given the several numbers.” (Ibid) The Boston premier of Mozart’s Concerto No. 3, for Three Pianos, was played by Miss Ann Gilbreth, G. W. Sumner and Ethelbert Nevin, “three competent pianists, with an excellent orchestra.”(Herald (April 2, 1890): 4, GB) Arthur Mayo’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 2 showed him “to be a player of exceptionally good parts,” while an “allegro giojozo” of Sterndale Bennett performed by Mr. Harry Fay “was full of charm for the most critical.” The Schumann Concerto, played Miss Minnie A. Stowell “with rare intelligence, fine taste and feeling.” (Ibid)
LANG LEAVES SOUTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.
In 1887 the South Congregational Church merged with the Hollis Street Church. We do not have the South Congregational records for this period as they were destroyed by fire. (Faucett, GWC, Life and Music Pride,75) However George W. Chadwick did note various details as he was effected by this merger being the current organist of the Hollis Street Church. “Lang was a man known for high standards and precious little patience, and the church merger seemingly provided a convenient excuse for Lang’s firing, which had long been sought.” (Ibid) When Chadwick inquired about the elder musicians’s future prospects at South Congregational Church in the wake of the merger, the hiring committee stated curtly, ‘Mr. Lang will not be considered.’” (Ibid) However, some were unhappy-Lang’s pupil Arthur Foote wrote in his Autobiography: “I have never heard any church service with a quartet choir to equal the sort of thing they gave you at Sunday afternoon Vespers.” (Foote, Auto., 34) It certainly helped that Lang had such fine singers as Mrs. Julia Houston West, Mrs. Rametti, William Winch and John Winch. (Ibid) “Lang was not pliable on matters of repertoire, and he exuded the sort of gravitas that likely would not be welcome in a family church.” (Faucett, Op. cit., 76). Chadwick was hired and stayed for six years and then suffered the same humiliation of being fired. “Amid circumstances that remain unclear, Chadwick was forced to resign on March 22, 1893. at which time he reported with evident satisfaction, ‘The entire choir did the same.’ Chadwick was shocked at his dismissal, for he fully believed that administrators and parishioners alike were satisfied with his artistic results. It is true, however, that several of the church’s soloists [several: he only had four didn’t he?]-each politically connected to the church’s leadership-did not see eye-to-eye with his artistic methods and standards.” (Ibid) This certainly sounds like the same problem that Lang had- what should be the repertoire and who should ddecide it. Both men quickly moved on-Lang to King’s Chapel, and Chadwick to Second Universalist Church on Columbus Avenue where he had “a better organ, a better quartet, the same salary ($1,000) and no extra services.” (Ibid)
TWELVETH CECILIA SEASON. 1887-1888.
The first concert was given on Thursday evening, December 1, 1887 at the Music Hall with full orchestra; it was the group’s 65th. concert, and the repertoire was Scenes from Faust by Schumann and Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. Richard Heard in the Post noted how Schumann’s instrumental character of writing made it difficult for the chorus to do their parts, and this led to “a veiled, cloudy tone, or by a deviation from the pitch.” The two main soloists were praised, but no mention was made of the other eight soloists. The performance by the choir of the Mendelssohn was praised saying: “The singing was smoother and much surer and the body of tone was much larger; in fact, in many places it was more than double in volume to what it was in the Faust music, and established for the first time a true balance between itself and the orchestra.” The Gazette found the Schumann “dull and dreary. In addition, but little of this music is well adapted to the voice, and it is exceedingly trying to artists who may undertake to interpret it.” This reviewer also noted lapses in intonation and also noted: “The second part of the programme presented Mendelssohn’s Walpurgis Night, in which the chorus achieved so much better results than attended its singing in Faust that it was not easy to believe it was the same body. The intonation was purer, and there were better spirit, precision, smoothness and steadiness in its work generally.” The Herald echoed the same sentiments saying of the Schumann: “The work failed to arouse any interest in the audience, and it was evidently a relief to both singers and listeners when it was ended.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 3)
On Thursday evening, January 26, 1888 the choir sang the world premier of Arthur Foote’s The Wreck of the Hesperus, Op. 17 with text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It “was performed with piano accompaniment [the orchestration not being finished]… It was [not] given with orchestra until 27 March 1890.” (Cipolla, Foote Catalog, xixi) A modern performance was given at the Newport [R. I.] Music Festival in August, 1972. After being published in America by Schmidt in 1888, it was published in England by Curwen in two editions: “The vocal score and a tonic sol-fa edition (Cipolla, Op. cit., 46). One critic wrote: “The work made a most favorable showing,” but added: “Perhaps the treatment is held too much in reserve in the crucial moments… Mr. Foote evidently adheres to the old classic models and keeps himself at all times within moderate limits… Mr. Foote was his own accompanist, and gave to his rendering a composer”s enthusiasm. His accompaniment throughout the evening was delightfully intelligent and sympathetic.” (Cecilia Reviews) Another critic expressed somewhat the same feeling: “The cantata is perhaps lacking in marked individuality, but it is always thoughtful and refined in style. The choruses show some excellent writing for the voices, which are often massed with marked skill.” However, he thought that the solos were poorly written, using melodies that “zig-zag up and down the staff.” Finally Boston seemed to have a resident harpist and “an attractive and well-appreciated feature of the concert was the masterly harp playing of Mr. H. Schnecker.” (Cecilia Reviews) The Courier review devoted almost half of its extensive notice to Foote’s work, beginning: “We are sorry to have to say that Mr. Arthur Foote’s setting of The Wreck of the Hesperus, was not dramatic enough for the subject, though a clear and skillful piece of writing… To hear a sweet tenor voice give forth the bluff sailor’s warning, ”I pray thee put in yonder port for I fear a hurricane” is odd to say the least… The work was admirably sung by soloists and chorus.” The young harpist was also mentioned here: “All Boston has come to know what a great virtuoso and thorough artist this young man is. That he won the heartiest of applause is understood, for such playing could not fail to arouse enthusiasm.” (Courier, Cecilia Reviews)
The third concert of the season was given on Thursday evening, March 22, 1888 at the Music Hall with orchestra. The first Boston performance of eight sections of Beethoven’s The Praise of Music (1814) began the program followed by A Patriotic Hymn by Dvorak, then Gade’s Spring Fantasy for piano, orchestra and four soloists, and ending with Bruch’s Fair Ellen for choir and orchestra. The Herald review began: “The club has seldom given its subscribing members a more enjoyable entertainment than that furnished on this occasion, and the hard work done by the singers under Mr. Lang’s drill in the rehearsals was well rewarded by the generally excellent results attending the performance.” The Bruch was the only piece that the club had sung before. A recent addition to the BSO was praised: “Loeffler’s violin was heard with great satisfaction,” and “Mr. Tucker gave excellent aid in the performance of the piano” part in the Gade… The Fair Ellen of Bruch loses none of its attractiveness from frequent hearings, and the chorus and soloists entered into the spirit of the brilliant occasion that it met with a most appreciation from the audience. Miss Kehew has made many successes in this work, but her voice has never been heard to better advantage in it than last evening, and much of the spirited performance was due to her efforts… The orchestral work of the evening was generally excellent, and Mr. Lang is certainly to be congratulated upon the success attending this concert.” (Herald, Cecilia Reviews) The Gazette found the Beethoven “monotonous and dull… It is little more than routine work… The voices throughout are treated after the most brutal fashion, the soprano solos wanting a throat of brass and the lungs of an elephant to do them full justice.” Other comments echoed those of the Herald reviewer. Positive mention was made by both reviewers of a new, young tenor, Mr. Ivan Morawski who had also joined the Apollo Club that year. There were a total of eight reviews for this concert, many of which were quite long and detailed. (Cecilia Reviews)
The fourth concert was given at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, May 10, 1888 and included Margaret Ruthven Lang’s first appearance as a composer at the Cecilia Concerts. The four songs given (in order of the program) were: My Lady Jacqueminot, Sing, Birdling, Sing!, Nameless Pain, and Songs in the Twilight. The Boston Home Journal review dated May 11, 1888 began: “To the Cecilia Club belongs the verdict of having made at its concert in the Music Hall Thursday evening, some of the best effects of light and shade, of nicely proportioned diminuendi and crescendi, that any vocal club has made in Boston this season.” It continued: “the songs by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, that Mr. Parker rendered religiously well, are uncommonly good examples of vocal writing… Miss Lang’s songs are all marked by a tender sentiment, are founded each upon a clearly musical idea, and are alike treated with special elaboration and freedom in the accompaniment… My Lady Jacqueminot seemed to us the most pleasing of the four… Margaret Ruthven Lang should easily take rank with some of our very best song writers.” For this concert Mr. Harry Fay was the pianist and Mr. Arthur Foote the organist. One review ended: “Mr. Lang should feel additional pride in The Cecilia; at the close of its 12th. Season it is a better singing club than at any previous time.” (Cecilia Reviews) Another review noted: “Mr. Parker also sang the songs by Miss Lang (some of which were new). Miss Lang writes sympathetically for a tenor voice, and in a style which is rare enough to be called original. The accompaniments were played by Mr. Lang, beautifully it need not be said.” (Cecilia Reviews) Louis Elson in the Advertiser of May 11 felt that “The first two of the set seemed the best. My Lady Jacqueminot was both grace and pathos personified, while Sing Birdling Sing was appropriately brilliant in its opening, although the central section was conventional. Miss Lang imitates Jensen in the difficulty of her accompaniments. It is fortunate that she has a father who can accompany more easily and gracefully than any one we know of.” (Elson, Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) The reviewer of the Herald on May 11 had a different opinion-“Mr. Parker gave his best efforts to the singing of Miss Lang’s songs, but the compositions offered a thankless task to the singer, the writing being strictly in the modern German school, which, save to those who have the acquired taste, offer little that is pleasing or interesting. Mr. Lang’s accompaniments went far to redeem the songs from failure, however, and the singer was heartily applauded for his efforts.” (Herald, Cecilia Reviews) A more positive position was taken by the review in the Post of May 11. “Miss Lang’s songs are all marked by a tender sentiment, are founded each upon a clearly musical idea, and are alike treated with special elaboration and freedom in the accompaniment. Mr. Parker sang them with appreciation and the proper feeling. My Lady Jacqueminot seemed to us the most pleasing of the four.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906) One final review listed the four songs, and described them as “charming little fancies, delicately artistic in treatment,” and that Mr. Parker performed them “with rare finish of style and tenderness of sentiment, winning for his really beautiful interpretations, some of the heartiest plaudits of the evening.” (Ibid)
SEVENTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1887-1888.
The second concert of the 17th. season (106th. concert in total) was given at the Music hall on Monday evening December 5, 1887. The assisting artists were the pianist Miss Adele aus der Ohe and the horn player Mr. Xavier Reiter with Mr. J. Phippen as the choir accompanist. Miss aus der Ohe played Andante Spianato and Polonaise by Chopin in the first half and Rhapsodie Hongroise No. 9 by Liszt in the second half. Mr. Reiter played the obbligato part for a choral piece in the first half and Sonata for Horn and Pianoforte by Kling in the second half. The major choral pieces were the “Chorus of Vintagers and Sailors” from Loreley by Max Bruch and “Chorus No. 1” from Oedipus Tyrannus by J. K. Paine. (Program, Johnston Collection)
The 108th. concert was given at the Music Hall on Monday evening, February 20, 1888. It was the 4th. concert of the 17th. season. The assisting artists were Mr. Clarence E. Hay and an orchestra. The opening work was The Trumpeter by Templeton Strong for male chorus, tenor and baritone solos and orchestra. The English words were by the choir’s Honorary member and regular translator, Charles J. Sprague; no original author of the text was given in the program. (Program, Johnston Collection) This was a Boston premier for this work, and the club sang it again on February 17th. and 23rd., 1892. Columbus by Carl Joseph Brambach (1833-1902) for baritone and tenor solos, male chorus and orchestra filled the second half of the program. This was the Boston premier of this work, and the club would perform it again in January 1895. The work had received the first prize of the 24th. Festival of the North American Sangerbund, and was premiered in Milwaukee on July 23, 1886. Throughout the program were ten short excerpts from the plays of Shakespeare ranging from “I pray thee, get us some excellent music. The best I can, my Lord” from Much Ado About Nothing to “This is the period of my ambition, O, this blessed hour” from Merry Wives of Windsor.” (Ibid)
The officers elected at the Annual Meeting in June 1888 were: Robert M. Morse, Jr.-President, George H. Chickering-Vice President, Arthur Reed-Clerk, Charles T. Howard-Treasurer, and John N. Danforth-Librarian. (Journal (June 6, 1888): 4, GB)
During the late summer of 1888 sixteen voices from the Apollo Club formed the Schubert Club, conducted by Arthur W. Thayer. This group sang “a half dozen numbers in the program” of The Promenades, a series of summer concerts given at the Music Hall. “The organization has been admirably drilled in its vocal work, and last evening its members sung with excellent taste and well nigh faultless precision.” (Herald (September 18, 1888): 2) The orchestra was conducted by Adolf Neuendorff [1843-1897: conductor of the Promenade Concerts 1884-89] and its repertoire included a Strauss Waltz, a Verdi Overture, a Rossini Overture while the chorus sang, among others, the Tar’s Song by Hatton, In Absence by Buck and Slumber Soft by Mohring. These concerts had been given for four seasons and the 100th. was to be given the next week. (Herald (September 16, 1888): 13) Earlier in the summer season a quartet from the Apollo Club had provided the vocal music. Messrs. Parker, West, Hitchcock and Babcock were very well received, and “in answer to the most emphatic demands of the audience, the gentlemen sang” two encores. (Advertiser (July 31, 1888): 8)
MRS. JACK GARDNER PAINTED BY SARGENT.
Isabella Stewart Gardner (1888), by John Singer Sargent. Wikipedia, accessed December 17, 2017.
John Singer Sargent’s painting of Isabella Stewart Gardner caused quite a reaction when it was exhibited at the St. Botolph Club in 1888. Some critics, knowing that the Gardner’s had recently traveled to India and the Far East “read the symbolism in eastern rather than western terms. Whatever the association, many observers agreed that Mrs. Gardner had been depicted as a goddess…Bostonians debated the meaning of her pose and expression, discussed whether the image was a likeness or a caricature, and suggested ‘Women-An Enigma’ as an appropriate title. Mrs. Gardner’s friend Fanny Lang reassured her, writing that she ‘never saw anything so daring, so splendid, so really great.'” (Kilmurray and Ormond, Sargent) Mr. Gardner did hang the painting in his study but never allowed it to be exhibited after 1888. Isabella did not allow the painting to be exhibited until after her death.
A “Victorian era portrait” of Mrs. Gardner, c. 1888. Wikipedia, accessed December 17, 2017.
MRS. LOUISE INCHES PAINTED BY SARGENT.
This painting was also exhibited by the St. Botolph Club in 1888; it also created much gossip. Some thought that Sargent had not made her beautiful enough while others thought that he made her too beautiful! Mrs. Lang wrote astringently to Mrs. Gardner: “I think Mrs. Inches looks as if she would bring you the head of Holofernes for the asking.” (Ibid) Holofernes was the Assyrian general who was decapitated by the beautiful widow, Judith, after he became drunk celebrating his good luck in luring Judith into his tent.
EUROPEAN VACATION, SUMMER OF 1888.
The Herald published a lengthy article outlining Lang’s travels during the summer of 1888. “His visits to the Birmingham Festival and to the performances at Bayreuth gave him much satisfaction…He is pronounced in his praise of the chorus work done at Birmingham, but thinks than in unaccompanied numbers the members of the Cecilia can sustain themselves against any body of singers at home or abroad.” The older soloists then appearing at Birmingham “would not be tolerated by American audiences. He relates, with considerable satisfaction, the details of a performance of the Berlioz Requiem under Hans Richter, in which the assisting orchestras were even more diminutive in numbers than these bodies of musicians were when the work was given at Music Hall under his direction a few years ago., at which time certain critics unkind enough to comment adversely upon the numerical strength of these orchestra forces.” Lang felt that the 1888 Parsifal that he heard was not “equal to that of previous years.” Also noted was that Edward MacDowell would become a resident of Boston. “Those who heard his pianoforte concerto at Mr. Lang’s last season’s concerts need not be told of his ability as a composer.” The article finished with the news that B. J. had brought back with him “a well filled portfolio” of new pieces for consideration by the Apollo Club and the Cecilia. (Herald (September 16, 1888): 13, GB)
Wikipedia. Accessed January 29, 2018.
MacDOWELL, EDWARD ALEXANDER. Born in New York City December 18, 1861. “As a boy, he studied the pianoforte with Juan Buitrago, a South American, and Pablo Desvernine, a Cuban, and for a brief span with Teresa Carreno, a native of Venezuela.” (Grove, 1921, 4) Beginning in 1876 he studied in Europe? He studied piano for three years at the Paris Conservatory, then with various teachers in Germany. He started his teaching career in Darmstadt followed by a time in Frankfort as a private teacher not attached to any music school. He gave up teaching settling in Wiesbaden for four years through 1887 where his chief work was composition.
Beginning in 1887 MacDowell’s mother proposed various plans that would bring him back to America; one was an offer to teach harmony and composition at the new National Conservatory of Music in New York City-MacDowell said no. Lang not only looked after the professional growth of his own pupils, but he also helped others advance their careers. In the summer of 1887 Lang visited MacDowell in Wiesbaden and told him that he had already played some of his music in concerts, and would like to know more of his works. Lang had introduced the composer to Boston by teaching MacDowell’s works to his pupils. At the April 3, 1888 “B. J. Lang Pianoforte Concerto-Concert” where Lang conducted an orchestra of 33, his pupil B. J. Whelpley played the solo part in MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 15. (MYB, 1887-88, 12) This would have been the first American performance of the complete work; Movements 2 and 3 had been played at a “Novelty Concert” in New York City in 1885.
In 1887 George Chadwick, and then Arthur Foote sought him out. The next summer Lang was attending the 1888 Bayreuth Festival, and again visited MacDowell stressing that it was MacDowell’s duty to return to America. Somehow Lang was successful, and after twelve years in Europe, Edward and Marian sold their house (with a profit of $200) and sailed on September 21st. for home-he was 28. When they arrived in Boston early in October, Lang was at the station with the news that he had arranged a “boarding house” for them. This turned out to be Lang’s own home which MacDowell described as being in the “Swellest part of Boston” with “rooms fit for a prince” and breakfasts of “oriental magnificence.” (B. MacD, 126) He was also impressed by the four pianos in the home! Some they moved to an apartment of an entire floor, and the rent included a “bathroom, heat, lights and meals served in their rooms.” (B. Op. cit., 127) Chickering sent a piano and so he could both practice and also use one room as a teaching studio.
Within two weeks Lang gave a reception for over 200 people, mostly musicians and all men, where MacDowell was introduced to everyone who mattered in the Boston musical world, from The Boston Symphony conductor, on down. (B. Op. cit., 129) Lang arranged that MacDowell played at a pair of Apollo Club concerts in December and at private affairs of the St. Botolph Club and the Harvard Musical Association. Soon MacDowell began to turn against Lang feeling that he wanted to “be the Lord God in Boston>” (B. Op. cit., 149) They disagreed over the pianist Rosenthal; MacDowell was critical about Lang’s tempo in a work by Templeton Strong, his friend in Germany; MacDowell felt that Lang should be sending him piano students. According to Chadwick, “B. J. Lang found him [MacDowell] very ”difficile” although I was sure his efforts were meant in all kindness. With me, MacD was very frank & companionable for a time. He and Mrs. often came to our house and we had many long walks, rides and talks together. Of others he was suspicious and shy. It was difficult to get him to commit himself on any subject except publishers and royalties. From [?] these he was absolutely convinced that we were all getting a raw deal. He disliked some of our friends, especially Arthur Whiting who was a bit too witty for him. He had a subtle vein of irony of his own, but he was very careful of its use among strangers.” (Chadwick, Diary, unpublished) Chadwick remembered that “we would not go out among people if he could help it and was very ill at ease when he did so. It was for this reason that he resented Lang’s good offices. He [Lang] tried to ”arrange” functions for him and MacD thought he wanted to pose as his discoverer. MacD really had B. J. to thank for his start for he produced his Suite (his first work) and his first Piano Concerto at his concerto concerts and did a lot of talking.” (MYB, 1887-88, 12) On March 3, 1893, the Apollo Club sang the Boston premier of MacDowell’s Dance of the Gnomes, “a spritely piece that features an infectious bouncing pattern for the second bass…The text, written by the composer himself, paints a bizarre picture of ugly gnomes dancing by moonlight in the forest.” (B. Op. cit., 176) Possibly MacDowell was still angry with Lang as he did not attend the performance. He probably regretted this as “he was told repeatedly of its ‘enormous success.’” (Ibid) Based on this performance the Cecilia Society asked him for a new piece for their concerts.
MacDowell made his American debut in Boston as composer-pianist at a Kneisel Quartet concert at Chickering Hall, November 19, 1888 playing three movements from his First Modern Suite and assisting in Goldmark’s Piano Quintet in B-flat. At this concert “he stumbled a little as he came on stage which at once evoked the sympathy of the audience. Playing with orchestra he was rather unsteady, lacking repose, and his fingers sometimes ran away with him. I think he had not played much with orchestra before he came to America. He always hated public performance and eventually confined his programs almost entirely to his own works.” (Chadwick, Op. cit.) On Lang’s recommendation, Wilhelm Gericke invited Mac Dowell to play his new Second Piano Concerto, Op. 23, with the Boston Symphony in the spring of 1889, but he actually played the work with an orchestra under Theodore Thomas in New York’s Chickering Hall on March 5, 1889, a month before the Boston performance on April 12. The conductor Frank van der Stucken invited MacDowell to play the concerto in a concert of American music at the Paris Exposition Universelle on July 12 [Margaret had a song in this concert and MacDowell played the accompaniment]” (Phoenix CD note)
MacDowell must have cut into Lang’s piano teaching more or less for he was a very facile, brilliant player and an interesting figure on the stage. (Chadwick, Op. cit.) However, Lang continued to support MacDowell by hiring him as a soloist for the December 4 and 10, 1888 concerts of the Apollo Club at the Music Hall where MacDowell played Berceuse – Chopin, Rhapsody No. 14 – Liszt, and his own composition, Hexentanz. (MYB 1888-89, 13) MacDowell dedicated his Opus 33, Drei Lieder to “Mrs. B. L. [sic] Lang.” (B, Op. cit., 133)
The “L” mentioned above must have been corrected for this printing. Accessed
In 1896, MacDowell was called to Columbia University in New York to fill the chair of music, a new foundation… He remained professor at the institution until January 1904, when he resigned the post because of a disagreement with the faculty touching the proper footing of music and the fine arts in the curriculum… Mr. MacDowell’s career ended in the spring of 1905, when overwork and insomnia, the consequence of morbid worry over disagreeable experiences, brought on what eminent medical specialists pronounced to be a hopeless case of cerebral collapse.” (Grove, 1921, 4 and 5)
In early June 1888 a choir of “1000 selected Boston singers from the Handel and Haydn and Boston Oratorio societies and the Boylston and Cecilia and Apollo clubs” joined with another choir of 1000 singers from the choral societies of New England, which took part in the Jubilee of 1869 and a third chorus of 1000 children’s voices from the Boston public schools” joined to make the Festival Chorus” to mark the 20th. Anniversary of Gilmore’s 1869 “Peace Jubilee.” (Advertiser (May 18, 1889): 4) Fouteen different schools sent representatives who were rehearsed at their own schools, and then, after only one mass rehearsal sang their first concert. (Herald (June 9, 1889): 10) Well known vocal soloists, both local and international were to perform. Gilmore was the overall music director with Arthur W. Thayer as conductor of the two adult choirs and H. E. Holt conducting the school choir. The event began on the evening of Wednesday, June 5 and then continued with two concerts each day through Sunday night, giving a total of five evening and four afternoon concerts, “the programmes being distinct for each and all the concerts.” (Ibid) Lang seems to have had no part even though two of his choirs were taking part. The main organist was W. J. D. Leavitt with J. Frank Donahoe as a substitute.
EIGHTEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1888-89.
The opening concert was on Tuesday December 4, 1888, and the Advertiser called it “A Very Satisfactory Miscellaneous Programme.” (Advertiser (December 5, 1888): 5) It was quite different from the Brahms Requiem given by the Cecilia the night before, “but gave instead a pleasant, enjoyable programme which was doubly agreeable because of its excellent execution…The club still distinguishes itself by the massive solidity of its tone, a broad and manly style.” (Ibid) The major work of the program was Longbeard’s Saga by the Englishman, Lloyd, which “might have been called the Long-winded Saga instead.” (Ibid) The reviewer noted the strangeness of having the female lines of the poem sung by the basses, fortissimo, “as it gave the lady’s remarks the style of speeches of a bearded woman at a circus.” (Ibid) However, the club sang the work spendidly! Lighter works and the vocal soloist, Guiseppe Campanari were in the second half. Also, Edward MacDowell played Liszt, Chopin and two of his own compositions, both of “which were finely played and cordially received.” (Ibid) The reviewer, Louis C. Elson, then praised MacDowell calling him”manly, earnest…has something to say…a fine pianist.” (Ibid) The concert was repeated the next Monday evening.
The second concert was given on Wednesday February 20, 1889 with the first part being Rinaldo by Brahms with the tenor soloist, George J. Parker. The work’s orchestration was interesting and showed the choir “to great advantage.” (Journal (February 21, 1889): 4) The solo part “was especially suited to his voice,” and “Mr. Parker was in good voice.” (Ibid) The Haunted Mill by Templeton Strong was well done-no other comment. Templeton Strong was Edward MacDowell’s American friend living in Germany who decided not to return to America when MacDowell did in 1888. Possibly the programming of this piece was done at MacDowell’s suggestion. The Advertiser critic found the Brahms a “phlegmatic affair,” and he longed for the “fire and melodic power of Bruch.” (Advertiser (February 21, 1889): 4) For once the orchestra was “generally excellent, especially the prominant trumpet phrases.” (Ibid) The Haunted Mill and its composer were praised; “A more poetic composition has not yet emanated from a native pen,” and “Templeton Strong is a composer whom America will yet be proud.” (Ibid) And, for the choir: “The club has seldom given a concert so thoroughly enjoyable, so well contrsted in its numbers, and so finely executed, as the one last night.” With all this praise, Lang’s name was not mentioned once! The concert was repeated the following Monday.
1889 involved the Club in a rather unusual performance. The New York Times reported on April 27, 1889 of “BOSTON’S FANCY BALL. THE SOCIETY OF THE HUB ARRAYED IN BRILLIANT COSTUMES. Boston, April 26. -The Artists’ Festival of the Art Students’ Association, for which the social world here has been preparing for two months, took place at the Museum of Fine Arts, while outside the wind howled and the rain poured down as it has not done before since the big gale of last November. Among the patronesses were Mrs. J. L. Gardener [sic] and Mrs. B. J. Lang, all patronesses wearing Venetian costumes of the sixteenth century.” (New York Times, April 27, 1889) They represented “the best social, literary, musical and artistic circles of the city.”(Herald (April 27, 1889): 2 GB) “About 45 members of the Apollo Club, all dressed as pilgrims, sang, among their selections being the grand chorus from Tannhauser; ” (New York Times, Op. cit.) their ” mellow voices echoing softly through the halls and galleries, and lingering among the statuary and old tapestries.” (Herald, Op. cit.) B. J. Lang was listed among the members of the “Committee of Arrangements,” in charge of the “Sub-Committee On Music.” Part of his duties included arranging an orchestral concert using BSO musicians which totaled 15 pieces-only the best composers were represented. A “Frans Hals costume” was worn by B. J., and Frances was lent “a gold belt to wear with my gown” by Mrs. Gardner. “Mary Cassidy has begun work on the Venetian costume that I am to wear at the Ball. Went to Mrs. Gardner’s to lunch…Went to Mrs. Gardner’s. She showed me and put on the gorgeous dress of brocade that she is to wear to the Ball…Sunday evening we went to Octavie Apthorp’s, all wearing our costumes.” On the night “Maidie’s Turkish costume looked very well…The crowd was tremendous, and the scene brilliant.” (Diary 2, Spring 1889)
Getting back to their usual concert repertoire, the May 2, 1889 review in the Globe said: “The new things were a quaint and ingenious part song in waltz form, written for the club by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, entitled The Maiden and the Butterfly… [this piece] is delicately wrought up from parts which have much independence and even some apparent contradictions, but which, when sung to the composer’s injunctions, blend into a flowing and graceful tissue.” However the Advertiser felt: “I did not like Miss Lang’s The Maiden and the Butterfly as well as some other things she has written. It began well, but the short interjectional phrases seemed artificial, and gave only thinness to parts of the work without attaining the archness and coquetry of the poem. The end is especially weak in this respect. But the young composer has proved that she does not often lapse into an inconsequential vein.” (Advertiser (May 2, 1889): 4) The Journal spent most of its space on the vocal soloist, gave one sentence to “Lang’s excellent technique and marvelous expression,” and mentioned that Arthur W. Thayer’s piece was well received and the composer called for a bow, but never mentioned the name of the work. (Journal (May 2, 1889): 3) The Advertiser called Thayer’s piece, Heintz von Stein, “rollicking fun,” and the club was “overwehelmed with applauseMargaret’s piece was not mentioned. The second performance of this program was on Monday evening May 6, 1889 (116 Concert total-6th. concert of the 18th. Season), and the singer Miss Flora E. Finlayson with Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. as the pianist. Lang solos were: Etude in C Sharp Minor, Op. 25 by Chopin, Evening by Schumann and Caprice (Fairy-revel) by Mendelssohn.
Program of May 6, 1889. You can see the Maiden offering the rose to the butterflies. Johnston Collection.
THIRTEENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1888-1889.
At the December 3, 1888 Music Hall concert the choir sang one of their more important premiers, the first Boston performance of the German Requiem by Brahms. This was the first half of the concert, with a repetition of the Patriotic Hymn by Dvorak as the second half. The soloists were Miss Elizabeth Hamlin and Mr. Eliot Hubbard with Arthur Foote as the organist and a full orchestra accompaniment. The Boston Transcript December 5th. review written by William F. Apthorp noted: “Here is a composition to find the like of which we must go back to the soulful conventionality of the oratorios of Handel and Haydn, back to the inspired technique of Mozart’s Masses and Requiem and search among the works of the preacher of the musical gospel, Sebastian Bach.” (Transcript, Cecilia Reviews) The review in the Herald recorded: “The merits… failed to fully appear, the composer having apparently a somewhat indefinite idea of an idea not readily grasped by the forces engaged in its presentation. While it shows the hand of a skilled musician, its vagueness and fragmentary themes do not offer much satisfaction. The soloist[s], chorus, and orchestra appeared to be alike in doubt as to a full understanding of the score and the ill success attending its presentation was about evenly shared by all participants.” (Herald, February 12, 1888 as shown in Johnson, 87) Johnson lists the first American complete performance as one given by the Oratorio Society of New York, conducted by Leopold Damrosch on March 15, 1877 in Steinway Hall. The New York Times of March 16 noted: “It is exceedingly scholarly, but its length and its monotonousness are such that it is scarcely likely to impress any but students.” (Johnson, 86) Warren Davenport writing in the June issue of the Folio noted: “Brahm’s [many made this apostrophe placement mistake at this time] Requiem proved to be a work of great contrapuntal value exhibiting this learned composer in a most classically scientific light. At one hearing it seemed to lack in spontaneity and as it proceeded became monotonous in its effect upon the listener. The chorus parts are quite difficult and consequently the singers had a hard struggle with the work and had it not been for the happy thought of Mr. Lang to put a piano among the singers to assist in taking up the leads it is doubtful what might otherwise have been the result. The Club deserves credit for the general effectiveness of the effort. Mr. Lang conducted with his usual care and held the forces well together… Dvorak’s Patriotic Hymn, a warm, effective composition, brilliantly scored, was finely rendered by the Club and brought a strange dull concert to a pleasant conclusion.” (Folio, Cecilia Reviews) Davenport had been a bass in the Apollo Club in the early 1880’s but was no longer a member in 1891. The Traveler review felt that “The eminently sympathetic results of the initial presentation of the Brahms Requiem is due in a large measure to Mr. Lang’s intelligent rehearsing of the work in private, and to his splendid hold upon his forces through its performance. The orchestra, made up of Symphony players, was excellent; but its unfamiliarity with the music was apparent more than once.” (Traveler, Cecilia Reviews) This review also noted that there was only one rehearsal with orchestra!
The headline of the Globe’s review by Howard Malcolm Ticknor was: “SUPERB CHORAL WORK,” with smaller headlines of: “First Acquaintance of Bostonians with This Charming Piece” and “Large Audience is Delighted by the Performance… It is only just and reasonable to say [that this work] could not have been heard but for this society… The performance was a triumphantly successful one, and it was but rarely that there was anything like reluctance in taking up the leads or uncertainty in following them.” This review also mentioned the piano among the singers to provide “unobtrusive help.” Other reviews had mentioned various problems of the soprano soloist, and Ticknor finished his piece by saying: “One fundamental thing she has yet to learn, however [she had just returned form study in Europe], before she can be accepted for a first place among singers, and that is enunciation; I caught some single syllables, but not one solitary entire word reached me in an intelligible form.” (Globe, Cecilia Reviews) The Journal noted how difficult the piece was, but wrote: “Mr. Lang was evidently not to be staggered by the intricacies of harmony or the difficulties in the way of its rendition, and the result is a triumph for Mr. Lang and the club, and a critical and intelligent musical audience heard this work for the first time.” (Journal, Cecilia Reviews) The Transcript also noted the difficulties of the work: “To undertake a performance of it is no light matter for any choral society; its difficult is so exceptional that none save the finest choral forces can dare to face it… Of the composition itself one can speak only in reverent admiration. If ever Brahms has shown himself to be truly great, it is here, in this stupendous work… Dvorak’s Patriotic Hymn was superbly given, and outdid even the fine impression it made when the Cecilia first sang it here.” (Transcript, Cecilia Reviews) The choir never sang this piece again until its performance on March 16, 2003 at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory. (Cecilia program Note by Steven Ledbetter) In President Coale’s Report of June 1889 he quoted a review by “a well-known critic” who called the choir “fine, vigorous, and wonderfully impressive” in a work “many pages of which can be hopefully met by only two classes of singers, the professional choristers of England and the Continent; or such intelligent, earnest, and well-equipped amateurs as the Cecilia can boast.” (Cecilia Clippings, President’s Report June 1889)
The Thursday evening, January 31, 1889 concert at the Music Hall included Margaret’s In a Meadow sung as a quartet. Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. and Mr. G. W. Sumner were the accompanists. (Cecilia Reviews) This was the second time that her works had been preformed by the group. One review noted: “Miss Lang’s piece, a good deal developed in form, is new evidence of a gift for composition from which something of real moment is likely to come. She handles the voices with certainty, considers their range like a sympathetic craftsman, while she infuses a charming melodic manner in a form which is harmonically pure.” (Traveler, Cecilia Reviews) Another review called Margaret piece one of two “prominent successes of the evening,” (Cecilia Reviews) and another described the piece as “a pretty, graceful and effective piece of writing, with some interesting harmonies and a charming piano accompaniment.” (Cecilia Reviews) “Much commendation must be given to a quartet by our young composer Margaret R. Lang. It is entitled In a Meadow and, although some of the solo phrases sound thin, it has moments of high power.” But then the reviewer continued: “It is melodious in an unwonted degree, and its grace and daintiness (admirably suited to the words) together with the excellence of its execution, by Mrs. Galvin, Miss How, and Messrs. Want and Wellington, made it one of the best appreciated numbers of a programme which, as will be seen, was rich in good things.” (Cecilia Reviews) Another review made about the same comment. “Miss Lang’s new composition, In a Meadow, proved to be a very graceful and refined vocal quartet, which was only weak in some of its solo phrases” (Cecilia Reviews) Possibly both were written by the same pen-one for the daily press and the other for a music periodical. “Miss Lang’s quartette was enthusiastically received by the audience. It is extremely well written both in voice and piano parts, and one only misses the logic and richness of construction which thought and experience will bring.” (Cecilia Reviews) It was noted, “that with fatherly care Mr. Lang played the piano accompaniment” of Margaret’s piece. (Cecilia Clippings, American Art Journal, February 1889)
The third concert was on Thursday evening, March 28, 1889 at the Music Hall with orchestra and Mr. E. Cutter Jr. and Hiram Hall as organists. The featured work was the Stabat Mater by Dvorak which one reviewer describes as “undoubtedly a very great one” but monotonous due to “adherence to minor keys… The performance, though creditable in some respects, was rough and crude in many essentials.” Other problems were cited and traced to the reviewer’s view that all the problems were traced to shortcomings of the conductor. “The soloists were scarcely efficient to do the highest justice to their tasks,” but then Mr. Parker’s major solo “was sung by him with fine grace and tenderness,” and “the best solo work, however, was done by Mr. Babcock, who may be commended unstintedly for the largeness, the nobility and the clearness of his singing throughout. His rich, warm voice was used with splendid effect in his solos, and afforded steady and strong support in the concerted numbers. A large audience was present, and, though not over-cordial, it was appreciative.” (Cecilia Reviews) This review may be the work of Benjamin Woolf in the Evening Gazette. The Post also found the work gloomy, but noted: “The excellent work of the orchestra should not be passed over, which, under the careful leadership of Mr. Lang, was in every way commendable.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews) The Transcript noted that this was the third time that the Cecilia had presented this work: first, some selections in January 1884 , “and afterwards, the entire work, several years ago.” [January 15, 1885] The reviewer mentioned that after the concert he consulted what he had written about these two earlier performances which had “left a very strong and fine impression upon” him while the current performance he found “upon the whole, rather dreary. All we can say is that we are rather thunderstruck at finding ourselves half bored, half nonplussed, by a composition which once filled us with delight. The performance certainly could not have been at fault, for it was one of the very finest the Cecilia has ever given. The chorus sang admirably from beginning to end, and in some passages of the final chorus, gave out the most superb volume of choral tone we have yet heard in the Music Hall. The solo singers, too, did excellently well… The orchestra was adequate, and Mr. Lang may well feel proud of achieving so fine a performance of a work, the difficulties of which are both many and serious.” (Transcript, Cecilia Reviews) This reviewer was probably William F. Apthorp—he never did give an answer to his opening question of why this performance didn’t move him. The Home Journal singled out one of the soloists—”On the whole we are inclined to regard the most laudable achievement of the performance as unquestionably with Miss How. She was not only in her best voice, but throughout she sang in a noble sympathetic style that was simply charming in its relation to the music of her part. Mr. Lang was fully master of the difficulties the work presented to his lead, and the honors of the Cecilia’s success with the choruses belong largely with him.” (Home Journal, possibly by Philip Hale, Cecilia Reviews)
The season ended on May 16 with a miscellaneous program that President Coale called “more successful than previous” such concerts. The most interesting part of the concert was “a new set of Gipsy Songs by Brahms” performed by the Brahms Quartet”—Mrs. Allen, Miss Edmands, Mr. Parker, and Mr. W. L. Whitney with Lang as accompanist. This was a Boston first performance, and “Mr. Lang’s playing of the piano-forte part will long be remembered for its beauty and delicacy. It was a real treat in itself. The members of the Brahms Quartet deserve our thanks for their kindness in singing at this concert in a work which required so much study as this book of songs.” (President’s Report, June 1889) This concert was the 68th. given by the club and ended its 13th. Season. But, just before the final concert, the club received a letter from the BSO conductor Wilhelm Gericke asking it they would sing at his May 23rd. Farewell Concert selections from Wagner’s Parsifal. They did, and then received a very kind letter of thanks calling them “so splendid a chorus.” (Ibid)
This photo was used by Mathews in A Hundred Years of Music in America, 427, copyright 1889. This signed copy is from the Johnston Collection. In this book Lang was described as “hale and hearty, a young man [though he was then in his early fifties], albeit thinly thatched with white and gray upon the top of his well rounded skull…He is happily married and lives in elegance.”
SINGING WITH THE BOSTON SYMPHONY.
“In Boston it [the Cecilia Society] has rarely sung except to its own associates, the most notable instance being in 1885, when it joined with the Symphony Orchestra in doing honor to the memory of John [sic] Sebastian Bach.” (Courtesy BSO Archives-100th. Concert Program) The Cecilia, prepared by Lang, also performed with the BSO during the ”89, (Parsifal, mentioned above) “92, “94, “99, “00, “09, “10 and “11 Seasons. Prepared by Malcolm Lang, they appeared in the “25, “26, “27, “28 and “29 Seasons, and prepared by Arthur Fiedler, they sang in the “30 and “31 Seasons. Other choral groups also appeared during this period- a BSO Chorus appeared in the “86, “92 and “93 Seasons, and prepared by Stephen Townsend they appeared in the “18, “19 and “20 Seasons, and also in the “21 and “22 Seasons. (Howe, BSO, 246) The Boston Singers Society appeared once during the “91 Season as did the Boston Choral Art Society who appeared once in the “03 Season. The Handel and Haydn Society sang once in “04 prepared by Emil Mollenhauer while the Thursday Morning Musical Art Club appeared once in each of the “03, “06, “11 and “16 Seasons. Lang-prepared choruses supplied most of the voices for the BSO during Lang’s connection with the groups and even beyond. (Howe, Op. cit., 246-260)
The Annual Report of the Cecilia President for June 1889 noted: “only six members” had withdrawn during the previous summer leaving “an unprecedentedly small number of vacancies” for new members. He described the Brahms Requiem concert as “one of the important, if not the most important, of the musical events of the year,” and noted that two other Boston choirs had previously scheduled the work but not brought it to performance. The President noted the death of Dr. E. C. Bullard “one of the organizers of the Club.” (President’s Report June 1889)
HYMN OF PRAISE FOR CHARITY.
Lang returned to South Congregational Church for a performance of Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise on Saturday, April 7, 1889. The building was now the Union Park Street Synagogue-it had been sold after the merger of the South Congregational congregation with the Hollis Street Church. The performance, which was in aid of the South End Industrial School, “enlisted the services of the singers of the leading quartet choirs of the Unitarian city churches, making a chorus of about 40 voices,” and it used organ accompaniment by Lang (Herald (April 8, 1889) 5, GB) The church was full, mainly of people from the area who had looked upon this edifice as their home church. “A handsome amount was realized for the object benefited.” (Ibid) This performance was 27 years after Lang had given the Boston premier of this work at Old South Church in January 1862, but at that time he was only able to organize a quartet choir of 16 singers.
ARTHUR NIKISCH. Postcard of an autographed photo done by Dreyfoos in New York – the card was printed in Germany. Johnston Collection.
Leichtentritt described the BSO audience of the early 1890s as being Boston’s most exclusive society, the residents of Back Bay, with additional forces from Brookline and Cambridge [who] set the tone. In this festive assembly of dignified ladies and gentlemen, the socially unimportant little music lovers in the second balcony and the standing room [of which, as an undergraduate at Harvard, he was one] only served to heighten by contrast the general picture of rank, wealth, and proud self-consciousness. Arthur Nikisch, the conductor, seemed to be especially created for this Boston Symphony audience. The handsome man with his raven-black hair and artistically shaped beard, the pallor that made his face even more romantic, his slim figure with its perfectly tailored dress suit, was elegance itself. As he raised his fine hand, overshadowed by broad snow-white cuffs, with an inimitable wave and the most graceful bend of the wrist, with a nonchalantly protruding little finger crowned by a sparkling diamond ring, and as his long, tapering baton gave the sign for the orchestra, one could feel in the air the pent-up admiration of the ladies – one almost expected a loud acclamation of bravos and enthusiastic applause. The faux-pas was, however, averted at the last moment by the sounds emanating from the orchestra. So far Nikisch might have been taken for a Hungarian count, a fascinating hero of the salon. But as his baton seemed to draw the music out of the instruments – now caressing, now beseeching, now commanding – he was transformed into a true artist, a musician filled with the ecstasy of the creator, and at the grand climaxes he carried the orchestra away to an irresistibly brilliant dash, a frenzy of passion that never missed in its effect on the audience. With his wonderfully keen sense of orchestral color Nikisch often produced real marvels of sound. (Leichtentritt, 368) He was thirty-three years old when he came to Boston. “Nikisch was hypnotic, a poised Svengali with fathomless eyes. ”He does not really conduct,” Tchaikovsky later testified. ”He resigns himself to a magical enchantment. ”(Horowitz, 56 and 57) He brought his family with him and settled in Mrs. Scully’s house on High Street in Brookline. He was pleased with everything, very amiable and gracious to everybody, complimentary to the orchestra and everybody thought he would be an improvement on the humdrum Gericke. “The new broom swept very clean for a little while, but before very long we began to hear some queer tempi in familiar classic works, inner parts of small importance inflated to twice their natural size, and other innovations which made things different but not better… but they did gain in elasticity and brilliancy whenever Nikisch took it in his head to require it.” (Undated and unsigned article, courtesy of the Boston Symphony orchestra Archive”) Artur Foote wrote of the “remarkable memory of Nikisch. When he first came to Boston he conducted everything without score: later, with twenty-four different programs each season, he gave this up. In 1891 he conducted from memory a MS. suite of mine, and probably never thought of it again. But when I called on him in London, four years later, he said, ”You remember that suite we played?” and, sitting down at the piano, went through the first movement. I could hardly have played four measures of it. An extraordinarily gifted man he was: at [the] sight of me the tune came right into his head.” (Foote, Auto., 111)
Soon after he arrived he dined with the Lang’s. “Lel invited Nickish [as it appears] to dinner. He is altogether delightful. Handsome, small and exquisitely nice. And such white hands. Speaks English very well, and he’s only been here ten weeks. He and Lel played Billiards later in the evening. Soon after Lang arranged a reception for Nikisch. “Lel’s reception for Nickish was a great success. About 250 people came. Malcolm [aged 8] passed cigars and cigarettes. Nickish had dinner with us afterwards.” He again dined with the Lang’s in early December (Diary 2, Fall 1889)
LANG AS A PIANO INSTRUCTOR.
“Mr. Lang’s reputation as a teacher is national, and perhaps few instructors have so many pupils before the public today in concert work as he. He began with full classes and his days are always crowded. When a mere boy in Salem, his father being taken suddenly ill, young Lang was at a moment’s notice obligated to take so many pupils that every day and every hour were devoted to teaching.” (Globe, (December 22, 1907: 33) “A teacher of incredible activity (when I knew him he was giving regularly lessons from 8.30 to 6).” (Foote, Auto, 45) Lang “considered teaching to be one of the great professions.” (Cecilia Program, December 2, 1909)
The singer Clara Kathleen Rogers (Clara Doria) wrote that Lang “had an unusually large following of devoted disciples… [His] pupils, one and all, adored him, and only awaited a sign from him to render willing service. One sometimes wondered what was the secret of his magnetism. I fancy, however, that it lay largely in the subtle, inferential admiration which his manner conveyed. (Rogers, Two Lives, 146 and 147)
As a piano teacher Lang was very well regarded. “His class of private pupils upon the pianoforte belongs to the very elite of Boston, and is as distinguished for talent as for style-a combination peculiarly Bostonian.” (Mathews, 429) Another source from c. 1886 said that “He is highly esteemed as a teacher, and of his many pupils over sixty are concert soloists. Though not a virtuoso in the strictest sense of the word, he is a fine player, and above all a thoroughly educated and sound musician.” (Jones, Handbook, 84) Fox states that his “pedagogical dedication was indeed remarkable, since he taught as many as fourteen lessons daily and claimed to have instructed over two hundred concert pianists.” (Fox, Papers, 4) My research found sixty soloists; they are listed at the beginning of the Chapter “Piano Instructor.” His obituary in the Globe was headlined: “B. J. Lang Dies of Pneumonia-Half a Century One of Boston’s Foremost Musicians-Noted as Conductor and Organist and Had Taught 5,000 Pupils.” (Globe (Apr. 5, 1909): 1) The article listed among his most well known pupils, “Arthur Foote, J. A. Preston, H. G. Tucker, and the late G. W. Sumner. The building at 6 Newbury St. where he had his studio is entirely peopled with his former students.” (Ibid)
He had quickly established himself among his peers, for in late December 1860 his name was used in an ad for the “New Modern School for the Piano-Forte” published by the Boston firm of Russell & Tolman. Among the many hundreds of international artists who have given the highest testimonials of their “Modern School,” local names included B. J’s teacher, Francis G. Hill, Lowell Mason, J. C. D. Parker, Otto Dresel and thirty-three others. (BMT (December 15, 1860): 355)
Early in his teaching career he was connected with the “National College of Music” which had been established by the Mendelssohn Quintette Club with its clarinetist, Thomas Ryan as the Director in September of 1872. Dwight had announced in his June 1872 issue that, “The Mendelssohn Quintette, with Mr. B. J. Lang, and other good musicians and teachers, will open in September, here in Boston a new National College of Music.” (Dwight (June 15, 1872): 255) “The assistant piano teachers were all brilliant young men whom Lang had taught and developed, namely: Mr. Geo. W. Sumner, well known and beloved organist for seventeen years at the Arlington Street Church, Mr. Hiram Tucker, Mr. W. F. Apthorp, Mr. Dixie, and Mr. J. Q. Adams. All these men would naturally teach according to the Lang method, and that certainly was a commendable system…Our plans were all right, and we started off with goodly numbers, -not far from two hundred pupils. In October, just one month later, the great Boston fire occurred; and it made everybody poor. The majority of the pupils were from the city or neighborhood, and over one half of them were forced to notify us that they could not continue their attendance another term. The fire really killed our school. We worried along to the end of the year, met our losses as best we could, and returned to our old system of traveling.” (Ryan, 172 and 173) Dwight reported on the school’s first “Exhibition Concert of Pupils” held on April 15, 1873, “The solo singing all gave evidence of talent and of excellent instruction,” but “The most remarkable performance of the afternoon was that of the difficult Schumann Concerto by Miss Barton, a young pupil of Mr. Lang, whose rendering of the first movement was highly satisfactory…It was a most arduous undertaking for a young girl, and such a measure of success seems full of promise.” (Dwight (Journal, May 3, 1873): 14)
Lang’s association with the National School of Music lasted just the one-year of its existence, 1872-1873. In the summer of 1873, he published a notice to his students saying that he was resuming his “connection with New England Conservatory of Music (Music Hall), and that all class teaching he may do in the future, will be in that institution. ” He then recommended that school to his students as he had been connected “with the school during its entire existence, excepting last year.” (BPL, Lang Program Collection, Vol. 1)
The critic Philip Hale took time during a review of one of Lang’s students, Benjamin Lincoln Whelpley; to outline what he felt were the problems with Lang’s teaching. His April 11, 1891 review of a Whelpley recital began: “Mr. Whelpley has good fingers and many excellent musical ideas. He is careful and conscientious in his work, and there are many things to be admired and praised in his playing. He belongs to a certain school of pianists [Lang’s], a prominent school in this city; and this is unfortunate, and it hampers his artistic development. For the members of this family do not pay sufficient attention to tone production and gradation of tone; the legato is so slighted by them, and the use of pedals is so imperfectly understood that song-passages are not sung; and these players are deficient in appreciation of rhythm and rhythmic effects. And when any one of this school plays in public, the hearer is at once aware of the fact that the pianoforte is a percussion instrument.” After getting this off his chest, Hale continued, “Not that Mr. Whelpley pounds.” (BPL Hale Criticism, Vol. 1)
A reference to Lang’s own piano technique was part of a review of a concert by the Cecilia on February 12, 1896. Mr. Fay accompanied the choir that evening, but Lang accompanied the soloist. “Mr. Lang’s accompaniments gave genuine delight. We venture to suggest to Mr. Fay that he profit by the lesson given him by Mr. Lang. Where the latter’s touch was delicate and subdued, Mr. Fails seemed harsh and noisy. Mr. Lang’s pianoforte work was a treat in itself.” (BPL Lang Program Collection, Vol. 8)
In 1893 William Apthorp, one of Lang’s pupils mentioned above, wrote an extensive article about his teacher. “The amount of work he would get through in a day, what with pupils and rehearsals, seems almost fabulous. No one but a man of the most vigorous constitution and of his regular singularly abstemious habits-he has never touched beer, wine, spirits, tea or coffee in his life, and his experience with tobacco is limited to part of a cigar that Satter once gave him when he was a very young man, and which he has not forgotten to this day-could stand such work: sometimes fourteen to eighteen lessons in a day!” [seven to nine hours] (Boston Evening Transcript, April 13, 1907, being mostly a reprint of Apthorp’s article for Music magazine in 1893)
Lang taught privately at various places during his career; his home, at the studios in the Chickering Building at 153 Tremont Street (as late as 1903) and at 6 Newbury Street where he “and a colony of his pupils occupied rooms at the Lang Studios.” (Foote, Auto, 49) On Jan. 9, 1910, just a few months after B. J.’s death, a newspaper clipping entitled “Notes of the Studio” described the Newbury Street location: “In the great front studio on the second floor, with its high windows with large globular colored spots, the fine old marble fireplace, its big pipe organ and grand piano works the son [Malcolm] of B. J. Lang, founder of the Lang studios…Just outside the door is the Ruth Burrage library of orchestral scores…To this rich reservoir may come the student of music to take away for four days’ study and practice famous scores of orchestral music.” The Globe “Table gossip” of April 30, 1905 had reported that “Mrs. Whiteside had sold her house, numbered 6 Newbury St. adjoining the St. Botolph Club, near the corner of Arlington St. to Mr. B. J. Lang, who will make extensive improvements and occupy. It is one of the very few Back Bay estates on Newbury St. that has an extensive frontage, being a four-story octagon brownstone front brick house. It was thought at one time that the St. Botolph Club would buy this estate.” (Globe (April 30, 1905): 46) Amy DuBois related that this building was the last in Boston to have gas lighting, as “My grandfather [Malcolm] didn’t think things were getting better.” (Amy Dubois Interview)
NINETEENTH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1889-1890.
For the Apollo concerts of Friday evening December 6 and Monday evening December 9, 1889 at the Music Hall, Margaret Ruthven Lang did an orchestration of the male choral piece Estudiantina by Paul Lacome [1838-1920] “the accompaniment to which was arranged in a very dainty and charming manner for orchestra.” It was given “most delightfully, and was redemanded.” The Post review said that the orchestration “was delicately done; so prettily that the absence of the castanets was but a pleasing relief from the usual methods”. (Scrapbooks) For this concert the chorus numbered 75 and the orchestra 44. (MYB 1889-90, 14) The major work in this concert was Damon and Pythias by the English composer Prout which filled the first half of the concert. There was very little critical comment of this piece. Estudiantina was repeated at the March 5, 1893 “Miscellaneous Concert” which was also accompanied by an orchestra. (MYB 1892-93, 15)
The February 19 and 24, 1890 concerts again included a world premier-The Knights and the Naiads by Templeton Strong for Soprano, Alto and Bass soloists, male choir and orchestra was sung. This piece had been written for the Apollo Club. The poem was originally in German; “But German humor is often another name for German rudeness…The result is an exhibition of ingenuity; but where is the music? This trivial subject is treated as though it were a symphonic poem…The composition throughout is musical hifalutin…Truly there is ingenious writing for the orchestra, but it is labored, often irrelevant and sometimes impertinent, while the voice parts are inexcusably uninteresting and difficult. (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review, but probably by Hale) The “German rudeness” referred to by the first reviewer is described in more detail by the Beacon. “It is a setting of a long and not attractive German ballad, the point of which is a feeble mother-in-law joke, and its most interesting and valuable portions lie almost exclusively in the orchestral score, which is often fanciful, quaint and absolutely original.” (Beacon) This writer found the chorus and solo parts unmelodious and unvocal. “The orchestra did pretty well with their share, and the singers, considering the difficulties they had to meet, did wonders.” (Ibid) The final piece of the concert was Whiting’s Henry of Navarre, Opus 48 for tenor solo, male choir and orchestra that was also originally written for the Apollo Club and premiered by them in 1886. “There are effective passages of a descriptive nature for the orchestra; but the work is too heavily scored. There is little contrast; the brass and the drums are too busy. The orchestra is so used that the voices are covered.” (Home Journal) “It is an extremely elaborate composition, not always easy to sing or to hear, the accompaniment contains many bold and brilliant suggestions of battle and its excitement, but it really does not add much. (Beacon, undated and unsigned review) Arthur Weld in the Post disliked the Whiting. “This composition is openly uninteresting and so noisily scored, as far as the orchestra is concerned, that at times one’s ears suffered severely.” The choir he praised: “The work was sung in a conscientious and painstaking manner by the club, and the orchestra (especially the brass) played very well.” (Post, undated review by Arthur Weld) Elson was disappointed in Strong’s work, especially after he had praised an earlier work, The Haunted Mill by calling it “an honor to the American repertoire…The female voices in the trio of the Naiads were not quite in Character. Naiads can swim, but these sank distressingly.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) Whiting’s work was also compared negatively to his earlier Monks of Bangor. “Taber’s Cannibal Idyll was one of the great successes of the evening, its pretty waltz theme for first basses and its direct humor charming everyone.” (Ibid)
At the choir’s mid-winter supper the club performed a parody where the club’s secretary, Mr. Arthur Reed combined texts from the Knights and the Naiads and Cannibal Idyll which resulted in a new poem of three stanzas, The Knights and the Cannibals. “The music was a bit of patchwork, made out of original tunes by Mr. Arthur Thayer.” (Apollo Reviews) The poem began: “Twelve cannibal Naiads loved too well, Twelve helpless Knights of old. And charmingly their love did tell, For passion made them bold; But the Knights held back, for they were poor, And had nothing in the bank. And the maidens’ wardrobes seemed to be Almost a perfect blank. ‘T was a problem vexing, vexing quite, For every maid and every Knight…But a youth appeared, to their great surprise, Who had known the girls of old…And those twelve Maids each lost a Knight.” (Ibid)
The April 30 and May 5, 1890 concerts featured the famous violinist, Maud Powell and the singer, Miss Mary Howe. B. J.’s pupil, Mrs. Marsh accompanied Miss Powell in the Polonaise de Concert by Laub. (Program, Johnston Collection) It also included the third appearance of B. J.’s only published piece for men’s choir, Hi-fi-link-i-le. It had been premiered in February 1884 and repeated in May 1886. Its humorous style was appropriate for the end of the Apollo season. “It was written with a decided bias toward the bass parts, and it has as much unison work as a chant of the third century, but, all the same, it is jolly, and it shows that the man who has done so much for the club music of Boston is as yet a youth as any of us.” (Advertiser, Apollo Reviews)
“Musical Matters” noted: “As for directing from the piano, Mr. Lang does it all the time at rehearsals, and the club likes it.” The Post reviewer, Arthur Weld seemed to be in a bad mood: “There is no denying the fact that there is very little good music written for men’s voices…The smaller pieces are all more or less dreadful.” (Post, Apollo Reviews) Weld made reference to the accompanist but said it was Mrs. Marsh [a Lang piano pupil] which brought forth the following Letter to the Editor: “The enterprising musical critic of the esteemed Post must have heard the Apollo concert rather with his imagination than his senses, for he confounds Mr. Lang with a woman and attributes to Mrs. Marsh, who was ill at home, the piano accompaniments, which were all played by that gentleman, undisguised by any feminine apparel. He also says, “Mr. Lang was recently quoted in a contemporary as having uttered some very sound and sweeping statements with regard to the granting of encores, but last night he seemed to have forgotten these remarks, or else has changed his mind. The most feeble and scattering applause was sufficient to insure a repetition, and it was hard to keep count the number which were granted.” The fact is, that but one encore was given by the club and this after Mr. Lang had been called out three times, while the solo artists-with whose encores the conductor had nothing to do, of course-Miss Powell yielded once and Miss Howe repeated the last page of her first air and added a new song after her second selection upon almost universal demand.” (Apollo Reviews)
It seems that people leaving concerts during the final number continued to be a problem. To deal with this, a sentence was placed in the program just before the words of the final piece: “Those who wish to leave the hall before the end of the concert are respectfully, but earnestly, requested to do so during this pause.” (Program December 3, 1890-Johnston Collection) Then the length of the final piece was given so that the concertgoer could decide if leaving was really necessary.
Around 1889 the group was described: “the Apollo Club still occupies an honorable position in Boston, the concerts being sold out at the beginning of the season, the audiences being distinguished for elegance and musical appreciation-a combination rare outside the limits of Boston. The standard of vocal work in this society has always been high, and it was one of the first to introduce many of the better class of compositions of this school.” (Mathews, 428) “Among the names on the list of the original fifty-two members is that of Henry Clay Barnabee of ‘The Bostonians’ fame; also Myron W. Whitney, the great bass.” (Syford, 165)
FOURTEENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1889-1890.
The season opened on Monday, December 2, 1889 at the Music Hall. Dvorak’s Spectre’s Bride was presented with full orchestra-it was the third time the choir had programmed this work. The Advertiser wrote: “From the very start the chorus brought to bear an immense amount of enthusiasm that bespoke success, and sustained throughout the reputation they have so well and honestly earned in the past.” Mr. Parker’s contribution was praised: “His beautiful voice is always listened to with great pleasure,” and the return to the Music Hall stage of the older singer J. F. Rudolphsen was noted but no critical comment made. “Mr. Lang kept the orchestra and chorus under good control for the most part, and with the exception of too much prominence being given to the accompaniments in some places, can be congratulated upon having given a very satisfactory reading of one of the principal works of this Slavonic composer.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) Another review recorded the “large audience,” and that the “full orchestra including two harps, assisting.” This was certainly a step forward from the usual use of piano for harp parts. This review praised the chorus, but felt that the “orchestra, though composed of admirable material, acquitted itself with a ragged, noisy effect, and too often with a woeful lack of precision.” Mme. Zela “who was heard here for the first time, has a soprano voice of rather uneven and throaty quality,” while “Mr. Rudolphsen, whose voice is remarkably well preserved, manifested all of his old fire and musicianly taste, and much of the efficiency that characterized his work here years ago.” This reviewer found the work as a whole “monotonous and dreary… It was listened to apathetically, and there was no enthusiasm and but little applause.” (Cecilia Reviews) A third review described Mme. Zela’s as having “a high soprano voice of some power, of excellent quality in its upper range-she took her high C with great ease-but wanting in timbre in its lower part… Of Mr. Rudolphsen’s singing of the part of the Narrator, one would rather say nothing; let us try to forget it, and remember, instead, the admirable work he used to do here twenty years ago.” (Cecilia Reviews) The Post reviewed previous performances of this work by the Cecilia. “The club sang this work as a novelty at their spring concert the year after it was first produced at the Birmingham festival and repeated it the following March.” Of this third performance, “The Cecilia has never sung better than last night… and the addition of two harps lent peculiar charm to the two choruses where they had before been replaced by the piano… Mr. J. F. Rudolphsen suffered most unfortunately as the narrator by comparison with Max Heinrich, who sang the part at both previous renderings of the work.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews)
The second concert was held Thursday evening, January 23, 1890 at the Music Hall with the largely amateur Boston Orchestral Club. Selections from Haydns The Seasons (about ninety minutes of music) were presented with the soloists Miss Gertrude Franklin, Mr. G. J. Parker and Mr. C. E. Hay. Louis C. Elson in the Advertiser wrote of Franklin: she “deserves great praise for the intelligence she displayed in every part of her work. The orchestra was described as “generally excellent and often more than that. Mr. Sabin was concertmeister, with Miss Lillian Shattuck at second desk and a liberal sprinkling of Mr. Julius Eichberg’s advanced students in the ranks.” Elson noted that the final chorus from the “Spring” section closed the work, “and as Haydn was never over-proud of the actual finale of this work, one may let the transference pass unchallenged, but it would be a hazardous thing to do with any other masterpiece.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) Arthur Weld wrote that “the cuts which were made were very injudicious, and some of the most celebrated numbers were omitted. Very little good can be done by presenting classical works in so insufficient and incomplete a manner, and they would be better left on the shelf, dead and forgotten.” Weld also did not like Lang’s conducting technique. “The chorus sang very roughly and were particularly at fault with regard to rhythmic precision, and the orchestra, which does so well under Mr. Chadwick was apparently dazed and confused by Mr. Lang’s different methods, and played in a very wooden and mechanical style.” (Probably Post, Cecilia Reviews) Another review noted that selections were presented, “but this mattered little, as the pure musical treatment of any and every scene is apparent whatever the context.” This review also noted how moved the audience was: “expressions of approval during last night’s performance were numerous and deserved.” It was also commented upon “The Cecilia found no difficulty in doing ample justice to the choruses… Mr. Lang held his combined forces under good control.” (Cecilia Reviews) Maybe Weld and this reviewer sat in very different places in the Music Hall. Philip Hale in the Home Journal began with: “Improper liberties were taken with the body of this sturdy child of Haydn’s old age,” but he was very positive about Miss Franklin. “It is a pleasure to pay tribute to ” her art, and he also described the cadenza as “musical in itself.” The two male soloists were also praised, but the orchestra “played roughly and without rhythm. Often it apparently groped its way from measure to measure,” and the fault was laid upon Lang. “However versatile and accomplished a musician Mr. Lang may be, it is plain that when he takes his stick in hand to lead a chorus or orchestra, his beat is indecisive and perplexing.” (Home Journal, Cecilia Reviews) The reviewer in the Times also noted the incomplete performance: “The entire work was not given by the Cecilia, but excellent taste was shown in the selections that were made; and by the substitution of the ‘God of light’ chorus with its free fugue for a finale instead of the last chorus of ‘Winter’ with its drunken fugue,’ as Haydn called it, the work gained an effective climax… The choruses [were] all sung with an integrity and heartiness that none present could have failed to appreciate [well, a couple did fail to appreciate].” Miss Franklin’s performance was singled out was praised for a whole paragraph ending with: “In brief, she sang in a wonderfully finished and flawless manner.” The review ended: “Despite the inclement weather the concert was attended by a large audience.” (Times, Cecilia Reviews)
On Thursday evening, March 27, 1890 at the Music Hall the choir gave the Boston premier of Massenet’s Eve with orchestra. Also on the program were a repeat of The Wreck of the Hesperus by Arthur Foote and The Song of Fate by Brahms. Johnson quotes Hale’s review from the Post of March 28: “Dubois’ idea of the Fall in which we all sinned was spectacular and erotic. Massenet, in his Eve, is more than erotic, he is pornographic.” (Johnson, First, 230) The premier of this work had been on March 18, 1875 in Paris. G. Schirmer published an undated edition in English, which was probably the one used in Lang’s performance. Louis C. Elson began his review in the Advertiser: “Another red letter night for the Cecilia!” However, of the Foote work he wrote: it “does not make a better impression on a second hearing.” The second work in the concert, “Brahms’ noble Song of Fate was sung in a manner that did honor to director and chorus, every difficult detail, even the sforzando effects and the staccato passages being given as a single voice… Then came a work new to Boston, and exciting enough to be classed as ‘extra hazardous.’ It is a mystery how Eve, a mystery, could have been transplanted to cold-blooded Boston. It is as erotic and ecstatic as the most passionate of French composers-Massenet-could make it and the chorus sang it as if inspired. Never have the Cecilians surpassed their work of last night.” The soprano soloist, Mrs. Jennie P. Walker was praised for her “charming, shading expression, and intonation even in alt passages.” The review ended: “We must have this work again and soon… I doubt whether any Parisian vocal society can excel the work of the Cecilia in it.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) G. H. W. [George H. Wilson, editor of the Boston Musical Yearbook] wrote that he was only mildly enthusiastic about the Foote cantata. Of the Brahms, he felt that it “was splendidly sung by the chorus,” and he made the same comment concerning the Massenet. “The performance of the chorus portions of Massenet’s work was of a high order, and in places, notably the unaccompanied writing which introduces part two, very fine. Excellent attention was paid to Mr. Lang, who gave to the work his best pains.” Some fault was found with the orchestra and this was linked to the limited funds available. “The town should see to it that a society like the Cecilia should have a plethoric not a fading treasury.” The soprano soloist was also praised in this review. “Mrs. Walker is no less an artist because she is a Boston church singer and Boston taught… The singer is musical and has advanced in her art by normal, honest and conscientious labor.” The review ended with extra praise: “We must add a word about the sopranos of the Cecilia chorus; these voices are angelic.” (Cecilia Reviews)
By far the longest review (probably for the Home Journal) was that by Philip Hale who, after much introductory material, finally mentioned the music: “It is extremely well written both for voices and for orchestra; in fact the instrumentation is often of exquisite fancy,” and examples followed. “The performance was upon the whole a very creditable one.” The came the usual Lang slam. “It is true that Mr. Lang did not seem to have a keen sense of the proper tempo of several numbers; nor has he apparently the true idea of the andante, which he invariably takes at too slow a pace. The work of the chorus in Eve, and throughout the program, was a marked improvement over that shown at former concerts of this season. The body of tone was fuller and better balanced.” Of Mrs. Walker he wrote: she “sang well the difficult part of Eve. One could have here wished a little more passion, there more breadth; but it was an admirable performance of a difficult task.” Hale also referred to the orchestra: “There should be money enough raised to insure a finished performance of the orchestra score.” The Brahms work received only one line ending with: the work “was sung with accuracy,” while the Foote was dismissed with “it is not a musical work. The passages given to the soloists are not dramatic. They are indeed feeble.” (Home Journal (?), Cecilia Reviews) The Transcript [William F. Apthorp] noted the problem facing a composer when the text is “a simple, homely ballad in a very catchy and quite unvarying rhythm.” The reviewer felt that the orchestration helped to overcome this basic problem. Of the Brahms: “Here we have ‘the real Brahms,’ who is not content with a fine plan, but must carry out that plan in a fine and noble way. The music is not only suggestive and appealing; it is solidly satisfying. You feel that you could hear the work again and again, with ever growing delight and edification.” This was certainly a progressive opinion in Boston of this time. Of the Massenet: “It shows the composer fairly at his best in every respect… the performance of all three works was admirable. Not only did the chorus sing with all their usual firmness, purity of tone and perfection of ensemble, but the orchestra did its work most excellently, with precision, brilliancy and nicety of finish, and the solo singers were more than adequate… Mr. Lang is highly to be congratulated upon the success of this concert, which was not only brilliant artistically, but called forth enthusiastic applause from the large audience.” (Transcript, Cecilia Reviews)
Photo below from New England Magazine, February 1890.
However, another review had high praise for the Foote cantata: “It is a work which might be claimed with pride by any of the elder nationalities. It was finely sung by the soloists and chorus, and heartily applauded.” Of the Massenet: “The work is one of fascinating beauty throughout, and bears the stamp of inspiration and genius in every measure… To the chorus and orchestra no words of praise can be too excessive, for better work could not be desired than that given in the performance of the many beauties of the work.” (Cecilia Reviews) One final, short review ended: “It is a credit to Mr. B. J. Lang, the director of the club, that the skillful efforts of the club, and the disciplinary effects exhibited, were first-class in every respect, so that tokens of approval were freely bestowed by the audience.” (Cecilia Reviews)
The fourth concert of the season was given on Thursday evening, May 22, 1890 at the Music Hall with Foote as pianist and Cutter and Nevin as organists. “Variety programmes without orchestra are not precisely the things one looks forward to with most pleasure, in the way of choral club concerts, but this one of last evening provided a delightful exception to the rule; it was well balanced, well diversified, and nothing in it was dull.” (Cecilia Reviews) However the Herald began by saying that the concert was “a dull ending to the events of the year…the programme having little to relieve its general dulness,” however it did say that “the singers of the club gave their best efforts throughout the evening.” The novelties of the program included three songs composed by Lang: Aladdin’s Lamp (James Russell Lowell), Sing, Maiden, Sing (Barry Cornwall), and Cradle Song (Words from the German by Charles T. Brooks). (Cecilia Reviews) [Sing, Maiden, Sing had been sung at the Cecilia concert of February 4, 1886 by Miss Bockus, a member of the choir] “Mr. Lang’s three songs seem to us to reach about the high-water mark in American song writing. They show such genial melodic invention, such easy command of style, and are withal so essentially lyrical in character… Both in form and expression they are songs pure and simple; the lyrical element always predominates. In a word, they are charming. They were capitally sung, with great expressiveness, by Mr. Winch.” (Cecilia Reviews) The program also included a first public performance of a MacDowell choral piece, his Barcarole, which was encored, and Nevin’s Wynken, Blynken and Nod along with instrumental pieces by the cellist Mr. Griese, which were well received. (Cecilia Reviews) The Post (Weld or Hale) review called the Barcarolle “a very satisfactory number” while the Nevin “was one of the most delightful parts of the programme.” The Lang songs “all of them charming in color and particularly melodious, although the first two are somewhat overweighed by the too florid accompaniment. Mr. Winch sang them all in a most artistic manner and with his usual elegance and finish of phrasing.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews) A review entitled “Musical Notes” also approved of Lang’s songs, they were described as “graceful and pleasing in style, though conventional in character. The first two suffered from too elaborate accompaniments, which imparted to them the effect of piano studies with vocal interpolations. Mr. Winch sang them very beautifully.” (Cecilia Reviews) Another review wrote: “Mr. Lang’s group of songs got a well-merited round of applause, and those styled Aladdin’s Lamp and Cradle Song were in this composer’s best vein. Mr. Winch sang the songs with charming effect.” (Cecilia Reviews) The Traveler praised the MacDowell: “Certainly few if any of the American school could write more lovely music than that which marks the climax of the piece, at the words, ‘Ah, loved one.’” On Lang’s songs: “Mr. Winch sang with the purest musical feeling and with a freer emission of tone than he sometimes uses. The three songs by Mr. Lang, all new, are simply gems; we wish they might be published. Mr. Lang was Mr. Winch’s accompanist.” (Traveler, Cecilia Reviews)
MacDowell’s Barcarole is available at the Library of Congress-American Choral Music site. It is scored for SSAATTBB choir and piano, four-hand accompaniment. “One could easily imagine MacDowell playing the piano part alongside his wife Marian.” (LC Site) Nevin’s Wynken, Blynken and Nod was published by Boston Music (then at 28 West Street) but copyrighted by G. Schirmer in 1889 in arrangements for Mixed, Female and Male voices-each 40 cents per copy. “Orchestra parts may be had of the publisher.” (Copy in Johnston collection)
KING’S CHAPEL-CHRISTMAS 1890.
The Daily Advertiser gave a detailed account of the Christmas Day service at King’s Chapel. “The decorations were simple and massive hemlock everywhere, here in graceful convolutions and there in heavy masses…Everything was encircled with evergreen trimmings,” including the organ. The music included a prelude from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, four extracts from Handel’s Messiah, Te Deum in F Major by Lang, Jubilate by Dr. Hopkins, Christmas Song by Lang, and a Hymn by Sir Arthur Sullivan.” (Daily Advertiser (December 26, 1890): 2, GB) Leading the service was Lang’s former Pastor from South Congregational Church, Rev. Edward Hale. That must have been an interesting reunion.
HANDEL AND HAYDN SALARY.
For the 1890-91 Season Lang’s salary as “organist and pianist” was $300. Zerrahn was promised $750 “and such further sum not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250) as the Society may be able to pay out of the current receipts of the season.” (History-1911, 7) For the next season, 1891-92 Zerrahn was promised $1,000 while Lang remained at $300. (Op. cit., 15) These terms were the same for the 1894-95 Season. (Op. cit., 45)
NEW CHOIR: THE BOSTON SINGERS (REPLACED BOYLSTON CLUB)
Arthur Weld wrote a piece, probably for a music periodical, in which he noted the fact “that Mr. Osgood has started a new [singing] society,” and that he hoped that a rivalry would not develop between it and the Cecilia. “Not only is our city amply large enough for two such institutions, but it would be extremely detrimental to either should the other cease to exist.” This new choir, the Boston Singers, was to fill the place of the recently “defunct Boylston Club.” Weld then went on to catalog the many important premiers that the Cecilia had given, calling it a “remarkable list… Mr. Lang is sure to offer good work and excellent programmes to the public, and it would be gross ingratitude on the part of the musical world if they should fail to support him.” (Cecilia Clippings)
FIFTEENTH CECILIA SEASON. 1890-1891.
The first concert was on Thursday evening, November 20, 1890 at the Music Hall with Franz Kneisel as concertmaster and Cutter at the organ. After the success of Eve the previous March, Lang turned again to Massenet and gave the first Boston performance of his Mary Magdalen. The Herald notice mentioned a “new departure made this season by this organization,” and this was “throwing open its subscription books to the public.” It also noted that the officers of the choir “recognize the necessity of securing competent professional singers in appealing to the general public for support.” The review also asked why “an organization, which has shown so much enterprise in the production of novelties of all schools” was just getting around to present this work which had its world premier in 1873.” (Herald, Cecilia Reviews) Hale’s extensive review in the Post gave a detailed description of the plot, but then called the work a “very unequal composition.” Of the performance he wrote: “The best work was done by the chorus… The female voices, especially the altos, were beyond reproach… As a whole the performance of the Cecilia chorus was a marked advance upon the work of last year.” The work of the orchestra “was not what it should have been… There was a general lack of precision and observance of dynamic marks. The audience heartily applauded solo singers and chorus.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews) Elson in the Advertiser wrote of the Massenet: “It is altogether too sensational for an oratorio, and too ambitious for a cantata… It has al least one merit-it is oriental in many of its touches… As to the performance, very much praise can be spoken; the club is to be congratulated on having had excellent soloists… the chorus sang well; the shading and delicacy of all the ”choruses of women” cannot be over praised… The orchestra played roughly.” Elson’s final paragraph sounds very reactionary: “Everyone should be grateful to the Cecilia for such an important concert, and even if one does not approve [!] of the theatrical style of the chief work given, it is none the less a valuable lesson to hear specimens of such a school, and we may learn to appreciate the works of Bach and Handel, or even Mendelssohn, better, for this experience of the sacred side of the music of Massenet.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews) It was not such a bitter pill for much of the audience, as Hale reported, “The audience heartily applauded.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews) Woolf in the Gazette liked the instrumental portions of the Massenet. “The instrumental preludes are the best portions of the score, the introduction to the second part being of rare beauty.” Following this was an extensive description of the various parts of the work, and then another Lang slam. “The work made no very profound impression, and the audience evidently became weary of it long before it was over. It is true it was heard under some disadvantage. Mr. Lang is never quite at ease when at the head of an orchestra… The uncertainty of Mr. Lang’s beating time placed the orchestra frequently at odds with the singers. The chorus work was, as a rule, very well done. In fact its efforts were the best feature in the performance. The female voices were particularly good, and in one of the choruses for these voices alone, were heard with charming results, notably the altos.” The final sentence of the review-“There was much applause for both soloists and chorus”-contradicted the earlier statement-“The audience evidently became weary of it long before it was over.” (Gazette, Cecilia Reviews)
The photo below is from New England Magazine, February 1890.
On April 2, 1891 (their 75th. concert) at the Music Hall the choir sang the world premier of George Whitefield Chadwick’s The Pilgrims based on the poem “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England” originally published in Edinburgh in 1828, written by Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans (1793-1835). The singers were: Gertrude Edmands, William Ludwig, George J. Parker and Joshua Phippen [one of Lang’s piano pupils]. The composer conducted. (Faucett, GWC, A Bio-Bibliography, 143) Chadwick noted in his Diary: “I had been teaching counterpoint eight years, during which time I learned more myself that I should have taught my pupils. This accounted for [the] next work I tackled which was The Pilgrims. The final fugue with two subjects in that work I had started as an example for my class at the conservatory and the middle part I worked out as an example of a choral concerted piece. Several anthems (trios) were preliminary studies for this piece. When this piece was done by the Cecilia a year or two afterwards L. C. Elson remarked that I had used the trumpets at the line “Not with the roll of the stirring drum and the trumpet that sings of fame” to show the Pilgrims did not come! This shows that even a critic may have an occasional gleam of humor.” (Chadwick, Memoirs) “I never had any great affection for this piece and never made another in the academic style. But singularly enough this piece has been performed more times than any other of my choral works. Probably on account of the words, which are dear to the popular heart…I was not very proud of it – except as good voice writing.” (Op. cit.) But Chadwick added a footnote noting that he was writing this comment on January 20, 1920, and that “The Pilgrims is being performed this very night in Lowell, Mass.” (Op. cit.) Hale, in his Post review, devoted one-half of his space to the Chadwick work, saying: “The composer has been very successful in his treatment of this poem. It is descriptive without being extravagant: it is melodious without being trivial; it is scholarly without being dull. There are many harmonic effects that are so happily invented that they seem spontaneous and inevitable… The Pilgrims is an effective and pleasing composition, and it well deserves a second hearing.”(Post, Cecilia Reviews) Elson in the Advertiser gave an extensive description of various parts of the work including the humorous comment referred to by Chadwick above. “The execution of the choruses [of the Chadwick] as up to the Cecilia standard, which is praise enough for anything. The same high compliment can be paid to the performance of Bruch’s Odysseus, a work which the Cecilia has made peculiarly its own, and one which never seems to lose its savor, either for the singers or the public… To the chorus here belongs the lion’s share of admiration and praise, for they sang the work as if they loved it… When a chorus can take B flat in soprano and A in tenor parts and do it sweetly and without screaming, when the altos become a really melodic part and not merely interior padding, when the basses are sturdy, the soloists zealous and the orchestra (with just a few mental reservations here as to ensemble) fiery and dashing, the critic can surely suspend their fault finding side of his occupation and join in the general plaudits.” (Advertiser, Cecilia Reviews)
The fourth concert was given at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, May 14, 1891 with accompanists Foote, Nevin and Cutter. Miss Gertrude Franklin sang three songs by Margaret: My Lady Jacqueminot, In a Garden, and Night. This was the third time that her works had been part of this group’s concerts-the first was May 10, 1888 and the second January 31, 1889. Hale, in the Post wrote a rave review, at least for him, (though shorter than usual) praising the choir, the soloists, Miss Franklin and Mr. Winch, who stood in on short notice for Mr. Dunham who was ill. Hale also mentioned Mr. Nevin whose piano solos were praised, as was “his setting of Eugene Field’s poem” which was encored repeatedly. He also mentioned that Nevin was making his last appearance in Boston before leaving for Paris “where he proposes to study composition for three or four years.” Hale then recalled the highlights of the season: “These concerts have been of a high order of merit, so far as the work of the singers was concerned. The society also gave an admirable performance of Eve in aid of a charity, and it supplied the chorus in Mr. Lang’s private performance of Parsifal. The concerts of next season will be looked forward to with genuine interest.” (Post, Cecilia Reviews) The Herald review began by calling the concert “full of attractive features… Mr. Lang’s careful work in rehearsals brought forth admirable results.” Whereas Hale had found Schubert’s Miriam’s Song dull, this reviewer called the performance a “grand interpretation. Margaret’s songs were called “graceful,” and Nevins piano pieces “won him the hearty commendation of the audience.” (Herald, Cecilia Reviews)
An extensive article (nine paragraphs) reviewed the Annual meeting as presented by its President George O. G. Coale. Most paragraphs were devoted to the orchestral accompaniment problem, noting that all Boston choral groups suffered, no matter who was conducting-“Whether it is Mr. Lang, or Mr. Zerrahn, or Mr. Nikisch, this orchestra… plays loosely and at random in the accompaniment of chorus or singer.” Coale then made a very interesting observation that countered the recurring comments of some critics concerning Lang’s conducting style. “The players from New York who did such excellent work in the private performance of Parsifal, were unfamiliar with Mr. Lang’s methods, but their respect for the music itself was such and the esprit de corp was so great that they played as though Mr. Lang had been their sole conductor, and in so doing they gave an object lesson.” He then mentioned that for an orchestra of 40 players, each rehearsal would cost $160. “If some of them continually talk and laugh and show a disposition to treat the performance as a colossal joke, would even ten such rehearsals prove to be of benefit?… Accompanying choral numbers is not a task unworthy of their skill. For two years at least oratorios and cantatas have met with shabby treatment at their hands.” (Post, Report of the Annual Meeting)
TWENTIETH APOLLO CLUB SEASON. 1890-1891.
The December 1890 concerts, which opened their twentieth season, included the premier of Margaret’s The Jumblies. The Transcript of December 8 noted that in spite of the stormy night, the audience at the Music Hall was full. “The programme was carried out in a manner that reflects great credit upon all concerned. The parts were well balanced and, and all the numbers were sung with precision and steadiness.” Margaret’s piece was “given with spirit,” but the reviewer didn’t find much humor in the piece, although he did admit that it was very difficult to create humor through “musical tones and harmonies.” (Apollo Reviews) Louis Elson in the Advertiser of December 4 also didn’t find much merriment in the work, and “felt sorry to find a brilliant young composer giving a set of merely correct harmonies to a succession of nonsense verses.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906)
At the April 29 and May 4, 1891 concerts at the Music Hall Mr. G. L. Parker, tenor, sang B. J. Lang’s Nocturne, the Club sang Chadwick’s Song of the Viking with orchestral accompaniment. They ended with Schumann’s The Dreamy Lake and Mendelssohn’s “Bacchus Chorus” from Antigone, the last two pieces with the additional help of “fifty former members of the Club.” (Yearbook, Vol. 10, 15) Also on the program was Chadwick’s The Boy and the Owl. (Program-Johnston Collection)
The Herald “Personal and Social Gossip” page of Sunday, March 22, 1891 announced that Lang’s “private performance of the music of Wagner’s Parsifal, to be given in the Music Hall on Wednesday afternoon and evening, April 15, promises to be one of the most fashionable musical events of an unusually interesting and notable musical winter. The most remarkable array of distinguished soloists are to take part, in addition to a chorus of solo singers, and an extra pleasure will be in hearing the great Seidl orchestra that is coming over from New York for this special occasion…Mr. Lang announces that there can be but this one performance of this remarkable work, and it is further announced that there will be no public advertisement of the event.”(Herald (March 22, 1891): 19) Well what was this story, if not a public ad-it even gave information on how to obtain a ticket.
The Lang family did much of the behind-the-scenes preparation. Frances wrote: “Went to Stearns and got 6000 envelopes which will be used in connection with the Parsifal notices etc. Also went to the Printer’s to have a talk about the Parsifal Circulars. Very satisfactory interview. This P.M. stayed at home planning about the circulars…All day long we are writing on envelopes or folding Circulars. Friends come in to help, but it will be a long job. People even come here to ask for Circulars. The tickets are very handsome. Coupons are already printed and this means more work. More than 1000 Parsifal tickets have ben ordered already. Today Maidie timed (for Lel) the 1st. and 2nd. Acts. The 1st. Act was one and a quarter hours, and the 2nd. was 54 minutes…I may go to Providence tomorrow to see about Bells for Parsifal...The Bells from Theodore Thomas’s Orchestra in Chicago have arrived…Lel fortunately sleeps wonderfully, for the detailed work of giving Parsifal is appalling…Lel returned from N.Y. Says the rehearsal was a splendid one…Today Lel had three rehearsals. (Day of performance) Mrs. Gardner came to the house to copy the cuts…When Lel walked on to the stage he was received with wild enthusiasm…[Afterwards] Such a scene of excitement…Afterwards we went to Young’s Hotel…The Homers gave Lel a most beautiful silver cup.” (Diary 2, Spring 1891)
SALEM ORATORIO SOCIETY.
Carl Zerrahn was the conductor of the Salem Oratorio Society which, in addition to their own concerts, sponsored other concerts as well. On Wednesday evening, April 22, 1891, the choir presented a concert by The Ladies Vocal Club of Salem which was conducted at that time by Arthur Foote. Among the assisting artists were B. J. Lang, W. S. Fenollosa (accompanist for the oratorio Society) and Joshua Phippen. With the addition of Foote, this made possible some eight-hand pieces that Lang often programmed in Boston. For this concert they performed the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and Les Contrastes by Moscheles. Lang and Foote played the Variations on a Theme from Beethoven by St. Saens.This concert was part of the “Popular Concerts held at the Cadet Amory Hall in Salem.” (Program from HMA Collection)
LANG’S MAGIC AS AN ORGANIST AT KING’S CHAPEL.
Lang had now established himself at King’s Chapel, and one aspect of the music program that he had created was Sunday Afternoon Vesper Services. Arthur Foote attended many of them and wrote of his impressions. “Many will remember the beautiful Sunday evenings at King’s Chapel; he would play in the dark church for an hour or so, before each piece leaning over the edge of the choir and telling us what it was to be. In those evenings was seen a characteristic trait, -the keen perception of how surroundings and conditions affect our enjoyment of music. The dark church, with only a spot of light at the organ desk, the absolute quiet, the churchly feeling, all helped to create a mental picture that made the listener doubly sensitive. A curious manifestation of this feeling for fitness was shown in his various experiments in programmes that should not rattle, or rustle, or require leaves should be turned over at inopportune times (Transcript, May 1, 1909). Another source describes these recitals as follows: “Mr. Lang has provided many musical treats of his own motion for the musical people of Boston. Among the chiefs of these are the Sunday evening organ recitals at the Chapel. Here his dusky neophyte inspects your card of invitation at the door, and you enter the dim interior, only lit by the veiled burners of the organ-loft, the pews peopled with shadowy, silent forms which might be Dr. Caner, Vassal, and the other departed worthies who once filled them in the flesh. You find your way to some quiet corner and become one of the ghostly, expectant company. All at once the air quivers and throbs with the opening of a mighty fugue of the greatest contrapuntal master, and, whether in the body or out of the body you cannot tell, you are swept up into the heavens, passing from circle to circle at the will of one and another of the Immortals as they appeal or soothe or thrill through the commanding interpretation of those skilful fingers. Such an hour is scarcely possible elsewhere on this side of the Atlantic. The hearers melt away in the gloom when it is over, and as they pass into familiar Sunday evening streets of loiterers and shopgirls, smug churchgoers and holiday-makers, they seem to themselves ghosts again in a sordid, unfamiliar world.” (Elizabeth Porter Gould Collection, HMA)
TRIP TO EUROPE. 1891.
The Post Card shows a few passengers on board, but many still milling around. The building to the right was the “Landing Post Office.” Johnston Collection.
B. J. and Margaret spent part of the summer of 1891 in Europe. Their return voyage was from Liverpool on September 4, 1891. The passenger list of the S.S. UMBRIA seems to show that Margaret shared a room with Miss Marien Otis who was possibly a Lang pupil. “Mr. B. J. Lang and Miss Margaret Lang were the recipients of much attention in musical and social circles in Paris before leaving for Bayreuth.” (Herald “Personal and Social Gossip,” (August 9, 1891): 23, GB)
For this trip B. J. applied for a new Passport which also included a “daughter,” “Margaret R. Lamb (sic), aged 20 (sic) years.” Two mistakes within one line- the last name is clearly “Lamb” instead of “Lang,” and the age should have been 23 instead of 20. And, strangely B. J.s birthday was listed as December 28, 1840 instead of 1837.
The specific description items of B. J. were: STATURE- 5 feet, 8 inches; FOREHEAD- medium; EYES- blue; NOSE- straight; MOUTH- medium; CHIN- full beard; HAIR- partly bald; COMPLEXION- fair; FACE- oval; AGE- 51 (sic). Just under this information is Lang’s signature swearing as to the truth of all the information.