MIDDLE YEARS: 1881-1891.
LANG PREMIERS: (Non Apollo and Cecilia) (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. Whelply played the Boston premier (Herald, March 2, 1890, p. 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, p. 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, p. 12). This would have been the first American performance of the complete work; sections had been played earlier in New York. (Johnson, First, p. 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, p. 13)
(Boston) St.-Saens: Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 17 by Joshua Phippen. (Herald, March 30, 1887, p. 2, GenBank)
(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, p. 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, p. 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).
( ?? ) 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, p. 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) Mendelsson: 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) Bach: Coffee Cantata. March 21, 1885 (2) Herald review of March 15, 1885, p. 10, GenBank, says this was an American premier. (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) Bruch: Salamis. April 26, 1882. Brainard’s Musical World, June 1882, p. 93. (Boston) Buck: Chorus of Spirits and Hours. February 11 and 16, 1885. (1)(3) (World) Chadwick: Jabberwocky, February 16 and 23, 1887. Wriiten 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, p. 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 Poet and the King. April 26, 1882. Gazette review probably written by B. E. Woolf. (Boston) Kremser: A Venetian Serenade. February 20 and 25, 1884. (1)(3)(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, p. 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) 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. (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. (12 point Georgia)
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.
LANG AND THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
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. 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 the Theodore Thomas 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.”[Record American, (October 25, 1971): 13]
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 1881-1931, 253] He had been scheduled to make his BSO debut at the fourth concert of the first season, but illness forced him to cancel.[B.S.O. Website, accessed March 3, 2016]
However Lang made his B.S.O in 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 premiere of the Rubinstein with the Harvard Musical Association on February 1, 1872.[Johnson, First Performances, 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 B.S.O. Archives] The Globe said of Lang: “He was received with evident satisfaction and unmistakable enthusiasm. Rubinstein’s Concerto for the Piano-forte 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 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 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 B.S.O. Archives]
In February 1885, during the B. S. O. fourth season Lang played the 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, (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 Tschaikowsky’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 reviews taken from undated and unsigned reviews provided courtesy of the B.S.O Archive]
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.”[Ibid]
CECILIA SIXTH 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 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]
On Sunday evening February 12, 1882 at the Music Hall, The Cecilia presented the first Boston performance of the Requiem by Berlioz. The work had been written in 1836 and performed in the Church of the Invalides, Paris, in 1837. Dr. Damrosch led a performance in New York in May 1881. For the Boston performance Lang expanded the choir to 300 voices. 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.”[Ibid] 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 ‘n 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, undated and unsigned, Vol. 1]
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]
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): no page]
APOLLO CLUB ELEVENTH 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 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 an 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, undated, unsigned review) The choir’s pianist, John A. Preston was singled out for “unstinting praise.” (Ibid) Most of these new pieces were performed by Madame Urso and the tenor soloist, Mr. Theodore J. Toedt (Boston singing teacher, 1853-1920). 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, undated, unsigned review) 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. The music of the Buck was “strikingly interesting on a first hearing.” (Op. cit.) The Home Journal mentioned that the program continued “more things of a substantial, noble character than has been usual in programmes mostly made up of part songs.” (Home Journal, undated, unsigned review) 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, undated, unsigned review)
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, undated, unsigned review) 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 that “its mighty voice [was] much out of tune.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) 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 strengthed 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 which 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 suddeness.” (Ibid)
There were only three concerts in the 1881-1882 season with the third set being held on April 26 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, Undated and unsigned review, possibly by B. E. Woolf) One premier of the evening was Summons to Love, Opus 37 by J. K. Paine which 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.” (22M 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) The Transcript wrote: “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, undated and unsigned review) 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.” “Dux” wrote: “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 Musical World, (June 1882): 93]
DAMNATION OF FAUST AND FIDELIO.
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.”[Lang Program Collection. Card inviting singers to again perform the Berlioz]
On Wednesday evening, March 29, 1882 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.[Herald, (March 5, 1882): 5, GB] 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 tickets sales, and all the other elements of the concert. He also could keep all the profits.
THE CECILIA SEVENTH 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.” The Transcript wrote: “It were [sic] 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, Undated and unsigned review] 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 Clippings, President’s Report-June 1883.]
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. 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.”[Ibid] The Musical Herald agreed that the piece was not equal to Gade’s Crusaders, but 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 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… 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 Reviews. Transcript undated and unsigned review] “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’s Musical World, (May 11, 1883): 76]
The fourth and final concert for the season was 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 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.[Cecilia Clippings. Vol. I. Journal undated and unsigned review] Even though Lang had the foresight to hire Bruch to appear with 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.”[Cecilia Clippings. President’s Report of June 1883]
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 and unsigned review found in Foote’s Scrapbook]
A second attack against Lang was made through a review of Arthur Foote’s BSO performance of the 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.”[Undated and unsigned review found in Foote’s Scrapbook] 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 corpe-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]
APOLLO CLUB TWELFTH SEASON: 1882-1883.
The December 5 and 11, 1882 and February 14 and 19, 1883 concerts ended with choruses by Wagner. Lang was doing his best to make Wagner’s name known. This would help with the fund-raising activities that Lang was doing on behalf of the building of the opera house at Bayreuth.
A review in Key Note described the club as “an organization which is at the head of all the male choruses in the city. It is a private club, and one of the most fashionable in the city…In the Apollo concerts there is really very little to criticize. The ensemble is generally perfect, the power of the voices magnificent.” [Key Note, February 16, 1883] But, this reviewer found a degree of monotony as none of the pieces had orchestral accompaniment. “The club sang their finest in Schumann’s Dreamy Lake and Rheinberger’s Stars in Heaven. No German maennerchor that I have ever heard could equal the in these. But, a lack of enthusiasm while singing the drinking songs was attributed to the fact that “their director is not addicted to the brew which makes the Germans hilarious.” [Ibid] The Boston premier of the evening was Dudley Buck’s Chorus of Spirits and Hours which seemed “too ornate, being overcrowded with figures in the accompaniment. It has a grand climax, however, which is well worked up.” [Ibid] Another reviewer felt that this work was “decidedly higher than anything of Mr. Buck’s that we have yet heard here. Great facility of style, an easy mastery of form and material, may be taken for granted in anything this fluent composer writes.” [Undated and unsigned review under the heading Theatres and Concerts] However the reviewer found the music too operatic “in a not very high sense of the word….He is too careless in letting common places slip from his pen.” [Ibid] The Courier made the same comment. “Mr. Buck’s work, taken altogether gives the impression of being ‘made music,’ the easy utterance of a composer who has a facility of construction and who could have done equally well with any other subject he had chosen…The accompaniment is crowded with figures…Mr. Sumner’s accompaniments on piano and Mr. Foote’s work at the small organ also call for favorable mention.” [Courier, undated and unsigned review]
The April 25 and April 27, 1883 concerts with full orchestra accompaniment were the final group of this season. The opening work, dedicated “To the Apollo Club of Boston,” 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. “A pure, melodic atmosphere pervades the whole work, the harmony is always natural and often striking in its suggestiveness, and the essence of the poem is well reflected by the music. The orchestra is treated modestly, but effectively.” [Transcript, undated and unsigned review] Another world premier “written for the Apollo Club” was Free Lances by George E. Whiting for chorus, wind instruments and drums. Whereas Parker represented the older generation, Whiting was of the present. “He is nothing if not brilliant, and one finds in his writing, as one does in almost all the music that belongs to the present day, what an integral part orchestral clang-tints are of the inspiration. [Ibid] Another review called the music “Brilliant in the extreme. It is military music, and is just a trifle sensational in effect, but it displays that wealth of melody which I have always found a distinguishing trait in this composer’s music. [Undated and unsigned review] The final world premier was by Paine and entitled Radley’s Ready Relief, which was a setting of a newspaper advertisement for a cure of acute and chronic rheumatic pain! [Courier, undated and unsigned review] 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.]
THE CECILIA EIGHTH SEASON: 1883-1884
The 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 undated and unnamed review] 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.”[Cecilia Clippings, Vol. 2. Courier, undated and unsigned review] 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 Clippings, Vol. 4. Undated and unsigned review]
Dvorak’s Stabat Mater had its world premier in Prague in 1880. The Cecilia performed five numbers from the work on Thursday evening, January 24, 1884 with full orchestra, J. Phippen (organist) at the Music Hall. 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.” (Cecilia Clippings. President’s Annual Report 1884, 3)
The 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 than before.”[Cecilia Reviews. Transcript, (January 25, 1884) no page number] The Transcript closed with: “Mr. Lang conducted, and the performance constantly showed his taste and training, which had not, however, been able to prevail on the male chorus to pronounce ‘mountain’ and ‘fountain’ correctly.” [Ibid] 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” verses “The Vintage Chorus” which was deserving of better success, but it was so tamely sung that it seemed to contain more water than wine.”[Cecilia Reviews. Courier, (January 27, 1884) no page number] 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). 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. Review signed by L. C. E. (Louis E. Elson) but dated and no source cited]
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 Reviews, Vol. 2. Undated and unsigned]
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 Report, June 1884, 4]
APOLLO CLUB THIRTEENTH 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.[Ibid]
For the first (December 5, 1883) and the second (Monday evening, December 10, 1883) concerts of its Thirteenth Season the opening piece was the Boston premier of Rinaldo, Op. 50 by Brahms. The critic Ticknor in the Herald of December 16 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, First Performances, p. 87] The Transcript called the piece the work of genius with great melodic beauty. 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.” [Transcript, undated and unsigned review] The reviewer mentioned that he had suggested this arrangement some ten to fifteen years before. 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, undated, unsigned review] 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.” [Op. cit.] Elson writing in Key Note spoke of the Cowen suite: “Every one of these pieces is a gem.” [Key Note, December 9, 1883 review by Louis Elson]
For the Wednesday night, February 20, 1884 concert the 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-The full text can be found under this 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, undated, unsigned review] 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, unsigned, undated review] For the repeat of this concert on February 25, 1884, Lang and Perabo played Moscheles’s Hommage a Handel. Perabo repeated his Iolanthe Fantasy 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 Musical Magazine, 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, unsigned and undated review]
After the May concert the Advertiser critic, “The Modern Athenian,” to rite about the “persistant determination evinced by most orchestras to overpower the singers they are supposed to accompany.” The critic suggested a “large extinguisher” which could be lowered over the orchestra so that the soloist would have a chance to be heard. “As it is now, solo singing with orchestral accompaniment is apt to be an unequal struggle of one againt many.” [Advertiser, (May 10, 1884): 2. GB]
The reviewer for the New York City Key Notes wrote of his visit to Boston and being invited to attend a rehearsal of the Apollo Club. The invitation was given by C. T. Howard, who was then (1884) the club’s Treasurer. The reviewer told of a previous Boston visit when he had heard the club 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 himself from a rehearsal than from his own funeral.” [Key Notes, (May 5, 1884)]
APOLLO FOURTEENTH 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 were 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.[Ibid] 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.”[Courier, (June 1885)]
The first concerts of the fourteenth season were sung on December 3 and 8, 1884. The major work was the first Boston performance of Raff’s Italian Suite for orchestra. Choral works receiving their first Boston performances were Lovely Maid, Sleep On by Debois, Love Song by Engelsberg, and Mahomet’s Song by Esser. The Raff Italian Suite also had its Boston premier. This was a major work that included an Overture, Barcarolle, Intermezzo, Notturno and Tarantelle. The Courier said that this concert was “one of the most interesting that the club has ever given.” [Courier, December 7, 1884 unsigned review] Elson in Key Notes of December 8, 1884 found the Alberto Randegger “Forge Scene” from Fridolin to be “sensational in a high degree. Of course there were flickering flames, dashing of hammer and anvil, and a fierce hurly-burly generally…The work, however, was a fair type of the modern school, and decidedly woke up the audience, who, by the way, were apathetic to the degree of frigidity.” [Elson, Key Notes, (December 8, 1884)] The Courier described the work as “a cross between Wagner and a circus band.” [Op. cit.] Randegger was an Italian composer born in Trieste in 1832. After some success as a conductor in Italy, he emigrated to England where he was a noted voice teacher, opera conductor and later in life, a conductor of some of the English regional music festivals. Fridolin (or The Message to the Forge) had been written for the 1873 Birmingham Triennial Festival. The work was for four voices, SATB choir and orchestra. The “Forge Scene,” which is near the end of the work, uses only men’s voices. [Wikipedia article, accessed September 29, 2016]
The February 11 and 16, 1885 concerts had four premiers. They were: Young Siegfried by H. Zoller, The Soldiers of Gideon, Opus 46 by Saint-Saens, The Chorus of Spirits and Hours by Dudley Buck and Love, as a Nightengale by Engelsberg. The Transcript was very taken with the Saint-Saens, calling it “the most interesting and exciting thing for unaccompanied male chorus we have ever heard.” [Transcript, February 12, 1885, unsigned] The assisting artists were the Listemann Concert Company, Mr. Fritz Giese, cellist, and Mr. G. W. Sumner-pianist and Mr. Arthur Foote-organist. Listemann’s group played two selections from Bizet’s Suite Arlesienne and accompanied the Buck work. “Mr. Griese “played his solos with all his well known grace, elegance and warmth of expression.” [Ibid] The Buck was judged “decidedly higher than anything of Mr. Buck’s that we have heard here,” but there was also “a certain inherent triviality of artistic point of view.” [Ibid] The Advertiser found the Zollner Young Siefried to be very “heavy” and it was not helped even by Mr. Sprague’s “great skill as a translator.” [Advertiser, February 12, 1885, unsigned] The Courier wished that every concert did not have to end with a drinking song. [Courier, undated, unsigned review]
March 21, 1885 heard the Boston premier of Bach’s Coffee Cantata with Louise Gage, William J. and John F. Winch as the soloists in a concert that was in commemoration of the birth of the composer.[Johnson, First Performances, 14]
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, Foote Catalog, 64] 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. [1885 Boston Directory]
It was reported in the Worcester Spy that “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. GB] Certainly Lang could be very proud of such statements!
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. 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.
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.”[Advertiser, undated and unsigned review] 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.”[Journal, undated and unsigned review]
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.[Ibid]
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, Op. cit., 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 Program Collection. Information card about the conert lectures] 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 First 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 Program Collection. Programs for the twelve “Symphony Concert Lessons”]
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. Chadwick, 235 and 236]
THE CECILIA NINTH 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 became 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. Herald] Woolf in the 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.”[Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2, Gazette]
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, Gazette]
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.”[Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2. Advertiser]
The third concert was held on Thursday evening, March 19, 1885 at the Music Hall and consisted of Mendelssohn’s operetta Camacho’s Wedding: The Advertiser wrote: “Mr. [H. G.] Tucker left his triumphs in pianoforte music and became Camacho for the occasion…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.”[Advertiser, undated and unsigned review] 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.” [Home Journal, undated and unsigned review] 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, undated and unsigned review]
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.” [Elson, Key Notes, undated review] 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.”[Advertiser, undated and unsigned review]
BACH BIRTHDAY CONCERT.
B. J. Lang organized a concert at Chickering Hall for the 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. Mr. B. J. Lang, who did much for enlarging the horizon of music in Boston, organized a festival for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bach, born March 21, 1685. 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. The soloists for the Coffe Cantata were Miss Louise Gage and the Winch brothers. This was a Boston premier.
SUMMER OF 1885. MARGARET BEGINS STUDIES IN MUNICH
During the summer of 1885 the Lang family and nurse Ellen Sheehan spent time in Europe. They left Boston on June 13, 1885 on the S. S. Catalonia, and visited Brussells, Cologne, Wurtzburg and “then Munich 48 Brienner Strauss 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-probably transcribed by Rosamond Lang Galacar]
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 was 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.”[Herald, (September 27, 1885): 13, GB]
THE CECILIA TENTH 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” [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 Programs. Letter inviting new Associates] 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 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. Transcript]
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. “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.”[BMYB, Vol. 3, 52]
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 one reviewer found “rather tame and uninteresting,” while another found that the work “added zest and contrast,” but a third 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.” So much for President Thorndike’s recent comments about how neither the audience nor the choir enjoyed a miscellaneous program. Another review [Traveler] 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.”[Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2. Traveler and Courier]
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,” 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. Traveler and two others]
LISZT DEATH AND FUNERAL
During the summer of 1886, the Lang family was again in Europe. Once in Munich he was reunited with the rest of the family who had spent the winter/spring there to enable Margaret’s studies. At this time Liszt died, and B. J. was considered such a friend to Liszt that he was part of the funeral. Clara Doria, the singer (wife of Henry Rogers) wrote of her own trip in 1886 which included 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.
APOLLO CLUB: 1886-1887.
On December 21, 1886, the Society gave its ONE-HUNDREDTH CONCERT, all of which had been led by Lang. The featured work was 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, Op. cit., 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, “The Apollo Club,” New England Magazine (April 1910): 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.”[Osbourne, American Singing Societies, 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!
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, Op. cit., 11]
THE CECILIA ELEVENTH 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, Op. cit., 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.”[BPL Lang Programs, Vol. 5. President’s Annual Report, June 1887] Of St. Elizabeth the 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.”[Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2. Transcript]
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, Op. cit., 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.” [Advertiser, undated and unsigned review] 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.” [Post, undated and unsigned review] This seems to be painting a very positive picture of a decision that was most probably made on financial grounds, rather than artistic grounds. One review questioned the use of an amateur orchestra, saying that by doing so, “the Cecilia immediately lowers its standard of performance.” However, the 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.[Transcript, undated and unsigned review]
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.” [Advertiser, undated and unsigned review) The 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.” 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.”[Transcript, undated and unsigned review]
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 sultriness 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 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 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] [Cecilia Reviews, Journal, undated and unsigned review] 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 Reviews, Courier, undated and unsigned review]
On March 1, 1887, Lang presented the first series of four “Pianoforte-Concerto Concerts” at Chickering Hall. For these 2:30PM afternoon concerts B. J. conducted and featured his advanced piano students together with a variety of primarily vocal soloists. “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 splendidly 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]
A second concert was advertised for March 8 to include the Piano Concerto in E minor, Opus 2 by Chopin played by Mrs. Alma Faunce Smith, the Concertstuck in F minor by Weber played by Mr. S. W. Jamison and the Concerto No. 1 in E flat major by Liszt played by Ethelbert Nevin. Mr. Ivan Morawski offered songs by Handel, Rubinstein and Jensen. [Herald, (March 6, 1887): 10, GB]
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-SPRING 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. The second work was the Andante, Splando and Polonasise, Op. 22 by Chopin played by Mr. Harry Fay. 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 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.” Mr. Joshua Phippen again presented the St.-Saens Concerto In D Major, Op. 17; he had done the Boston premier the previous year. “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].”[Clark, Iphigenia, Baroness of Styne, 344-347, provided by Mr. James Methuen-Campbell] Other Boston musicians who felt their critical barbs were the BSO conductors, Gericke and Nikisch, and the pianist, Ernst Perabo. In fact the Clarks had few good words to say about any of their fellow Boston musicians.
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. [Ibid] “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.”[Clark, Op. cit., 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.[Ibid] The English musicologist Mr. James Methuen-Campbell’s commented that they “were perhaps a bit crazy, though she was a very talented and accomplished pianist” seems an appropriate summary.[E-mail May 22, 2011 from Mr. James Methuen-Campbell. noted Chopin scholar]
The fourth concert was held on April 24 and included Hiller’s Concerto Opus 69 in F Sharp Minor (Lang played the Boston premier in 1875) played by Arthur Foote, the Rhapsodie d’Auvergne Opus 73 by St. Saens played by Miss Marian Mosher, 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. Mr. Foote’s first appearance was greeted by applause and his performance of the Hiller earned him an ovation. Mr. Whelen’s Grieg performance also received an ovation, while Miss Mosher “captivated the audience with the St.-Saens.[Herald, (April 25, 1888): 2, GB]] “Mr. Lang has ahd his usual success in the series of concerts.” A dozen competent pianists plyed pieces “which would otherwisw have remained unfamiliar to local audiences.” (Ibid) 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]
CONCERTO CONCERTS-THIRD SERIES-SPRING 1890.
In March 1890, Lang presented the third, and final series of his advanced pupils in three “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, 1890): 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 Capricc0o 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, 1892): 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.[Philip Hale’s Reviews, Vol. 1]
The Globe headline for the third concert was: “A Large Audience Listens to Piano Solos in Chickering Hall.” 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.”[Globe, (April 2, 1890): 2] The concert began with the Boston premier of Mozart’s Concerto No. 3 for three pianos, was played by Miss Ann Gilbreth, G. W. Sumner and Ethelbert Nevin, followed by Arthur Mayo’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 2. Then an Allegro Giojozo of Sterndale Bennett performed by Mr. Harry Fay and finally the Schumann Concerto, played Miss Minnie A. Stowell.”[Herald, (April 2, 1890): 4, GB]
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, George Whitefield Chadwick, The Life and Music of the Pride of New England, 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 musician’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] Not everyone was 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, Autobiography, 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-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. 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]
THE CECILIA TWELVETH 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 Herald wrote 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, Herald (December 2, 1887)
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.128] 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] 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.”[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’s 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Herald] 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. One reviewer wrote: “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.” [Cecilia Reviews] 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 Reviws] 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.”[Ceceilia 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 it’s 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.” [Advertiser, (May 11, 1888)] The reviewer of the Herald 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, (May 11, 1888)]
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]
Lang not only looked after the professional growth of his own pupils, but he also helped others advance their careers. During the period that Edward MacDowell was in Wiesbaden (1885-88) Lang made his acquaintance (probably during a summer tour of Europe). “Several colleagues from the United States-composers Arthur Foote and Otto Floersheim and critic and teacher Benjamin Lang-came to Germany and met with MacDowell, encouraging him to return to America and take part in the shaping of the emerging musical life of the nation…Lang was particularly persuasive. He convinced MacDowell of the fame he had already achieved back in Boston and of the quality of musical life that had been established there… In September 1888, for reasons of patriotism and of the desire for new challenges, MacDowell sold the cottage, at a $200 profit, and moved to Boston.”[Levy, Edward MacDowell, 54] Another source said that Lang convinced Mac Dowell to move to Boston in order to expand “his career as a composer, performer, and teacher”. Lang had conducted the Boston premier of MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No. 1 that spring at Chickering Hall on April 3, 1888 with an unnamed orchestra and B. L. Whelpley as the soloist; the composer himself played the work with the BSO on November 18, 1892 conducted by Nikisch.[Johnson, First Performances, 225]
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. 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 concerto (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’s songs were also part of this concert].”[Phoenix CD note]
ORGANIST OF KING’S CHAPEL.
About a month after Lang’s death in 1909, Foote elaborated on the Sunday Vesper services at King’s Chapel. ”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 skillful 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]
APOLLO FOR 1888-89.
The Home Journal commented about the concerts given on December 4 and 10, 1888. “A partiality for German composers that does not seem wholly warranted, is often shown in the programmes for the Apollo Club concerts. This characteristic prevailed to a somewhat monotonous extent in the one-hundred-ninth. We see no reason why the Old English glees and madrigals should be so persistently neglected by the club. On the other hand, it is exceedingly liberal and appreciative on treatment of native composers.” [Baker, History of the Apollo Club, 12] This last statement was reflected in this 109th. Concert as the opening piece was Hymn to Apollo written by the Boston composer, Arthur W. Thayer. The piece was “Written for the Apollo Club.” [Program, Johnston Collection] No copy is listed in the ILL Catalog. This same concert also included three songs composed by another Bostonian, Helen Hood. [Ibid] The use of native composers is also reflected in the 111th. Concert on December 4, 1888 where the twenty-seven-year-old Edward A. MacDowell was the soloist-he had just returned to the United States, partly at the suggestion of B. J.
Louis C. Elson was most complimentary about MacDowell who was the “chief interest” of these December 1888 concerts. “The fact is that Mr. MacDowell is a great addition to the ranks of resident composers. He is a manly, earnest composer, who not only has acquired the routine of his art, but has something to say, a very refreshing contrast to those who are giving learned mediocrity to almost every concert programme in Boston.” [Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson] One wonders whom Elson had in mind? In this concert MacDowell played Berceuse-Chopin, Hexentanz-MacDowell and Concert Study-MacDowell in the first half, and finished the second half playing the Hungarian Rhapsody-Liszt. [Program-Johnston Collection] The main choral work was the Boston (American?) premier of The Longbeard’s Saga by the English composer Lloyd. One reviewer found the work “over-long, and lacking in contrast,” the work was wholly for chorus, [Gazette, undated and unsigned review] but another wrote, “the composer has given to it a variety and a vivacity that makes it a very delightful thing to hear.” [Transcript, undated and unsigned review] The accompaniment was for piano and was played by Mr. E. Cutter, Jr.
The concerts on February 20 and 25, 1889 had Rinaldo by Brahms as the featured work. Unusual was the inclusion of the composer’s photograph in the program. “The cantata is rather a phlegmatic affair. Throughout its measures one continually longs for the fire and melodic power of Bruch.” [Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson] The other major work was the premier of The Haunted Mill by Templeton Strong. He “is a composer of whom America will yet be proud, if the Haunted Mill is to be taken as a criterion of his work. A more poetic composition has not yet emanated from a native pen.” [Ibid] However, the audience gave the piece the least applause of the evening. The rest of the program was mainly short, a capella works. “It is in these unaccompanied works where the fine shading of the club is apparent, that the club excels. Here, also, is shown the able leadership of Mr. Lang.” [Journal, undated and unsigned review] Howard Malcolm Ticknor recorded that “several pieces were encored and repetitions of others were asked for but refused.” [Globe (?), undated review by Howard Malcolm Ticknor-as recently as 1886, he was a bass in the choir] Ticknor also mentioned the choir’s program book-each front page of which was different. “It goes without saying that there was a beautiful engraved title to the book of words, in which Mr. Ipsen had caught the witching and seductive charm of Armida and that Shakespeare had yielded some most apt quotations to the studious demand of the secretary of the club, Mr. Reed.” [Ibid] The Courier also predicted a major career for Strong. “If this is a fair sample of what Mr. Strong can do, then he belongs to the very front rank of American composers, for there was poetry and beauty in every part of it, and also a thorough knowledge of the routine of orchestration was displayed.” [Courier, undated and unsigned review] The Home Journal reviewed the second performance of this program primarily to mention The Haunted Mill again. “In our report of last week inadequate mention was made of one of the brightest and best written selections that the club performed, namely, Templeton Strong’s The Haunted Mill. It is one of the most commendable works that has yet been heard from this composer…There is a vast deal of learning in the music; the harmonic treatment is original even to the extent of being revolutionary; and the whole is remarkably well orchestrated and vocalized.” [Home Journal, undated and unsigned review]
The May 1 and 6, 1889 concerts introduced Margaret’s The Maiden and the Butterfly. “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 was especially weak in this respect. But the young composer has proved that she does not often lapse into an inconsequential vein.” [Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson] The Gazette found the piece “a little work, graceful in its tunefulness, but not equal to other things of the kind that we have had from the same source. It is overelaborated for so simple a thing, and is somewhat confused and unsatisfactory in its effect.” [Gazette, unsigned and undated review] This piece, “ingenious in waltz form, [was] written for the club by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, [and is] …delicately wrought up from parts which have much independence and even some apparent contradictoriness, but which, when sung according to the writer’s injunctions, blend into a flowing and graceful tissue.” [Globe (?), undated review by Howard Malcolm Tichnor] “Miss Lang’s new piece is a subtle composition; the melody is constantly shifting in the parts, which move quite independently throughout. The composition is original, and, in view of the youth of the composer, we are led to say daring; it is trying to the voices, particularly the first tenor, who are asked to sustain a high note pianissimo in the closing measures…The design by Mr. Ipsen on the programme cover was symbolic of Miss Lang’s piece; a compliment to her and the club’s director such as the club’s secretary, Mr. Reed, is continually think of.” [Musical Matters, undated and unsigned)
Program of May 6, 1889. Johnston Collection.
THE CECILIA THIRTEENTH SEASON: 1888-1889.
At their December 3, 1888 Music Hall concert the choir sang the first Boston performance of the German Requiem by Brahms as the first half of the concert, with a repetition of the Patriotic Hymn by Dvorak as the second part. The soloists were Miss Elizabeth Hamlin and Mr. Eliot Hubbard with Arthur Foote as the organist and full orchestra accompaniment. 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.”[Johnson, First Performances, 87] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Folio] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Traveler] 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 the.”[Cecilia Reviews, Globe] 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 Annual 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. 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.”[Cecilia Reviews] Another review called Margaret piece one of two “prominent successes of the evening,”[Cecilia Reviews, Traveler] 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] It was noted, “that with fatherly care Mr. Lang played the piano accompaniment” of Margaret’s piece.[Cecilia Reviews, American Art Journal, (February 9, 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 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Post] 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]
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.”[Cecilia Clippings, President’s Annual Report, June 1889] 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, p. 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.”[Mathews, A Hundred Years of Music in America, 429]
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.”[Program, 100th. Concert] 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, Op. cit., 247] 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.”[Cecilia Clippings, President’s Annual Report, June 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 obliged to take so many pupils that every day and every hour were devoted to teaching.”[Globe, (December 22, 1907)] “A teacher of incredible activity (when I knew him he was giving regularly lessons from 8.30 to 6).”[Foote, Autobiography, 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, Op. cit., 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, Op. cit] 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] 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, (April 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] The musical press even reported on his more important pupils: “Miss Brainard, the popular lady teacher of St. Louis is in Boston, taking lessons of Mr. Z. W. Wheeler and Mr. B. J. Lang.”[Folio, February 1872]
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. “We give the names of a few among the many hundreds of artists and professors of music who have given the highest testimonials of the intrinsic merits of the ‘Modern School.'” Other names listed included B. J’s teacher, Francis G. Hill, S. Thalberg, Alfred Jaell, 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 15, 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.'” “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, Recollections, 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 Programs, 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 Reviews, Vol. 1]
A description of 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. Fay’s seemed harsh and noisy. Mr. Lang’s pianoforte work was a treat in itself.”[BPL, Lang Programs, Vol. 8]
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, Autobiography, 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.” (Unknown paper, “Notes of the Studio,” January 9, 1910) 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 installed, as “My grandfather [Malcolm] didn’t think things were getting better.”[Amy DuBois Interview]
APOLLO CLUB: 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 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”.[Apollo Scrapbooks, Post] It was encored. 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. Estudiantina was repeated at the March 5, 1893 “Miscellaneous Concert” which was also accompanied by an orchestra.[MYB, (1892-93): 15]
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 then given so that the concert goer could decide if leaving early 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.”[Howe, One Hundred Years, 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, Op. cit., 165]
THE CECILIA FOURTEENTH 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 noted: “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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Advertiser] 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.” [Undated and unsigned review] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Post]
The second concert was held Thursday evening, January 23, 1890 at the Music Hall with the largely amateur Boston Orchestral Club. Selections from Haydn’s 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 concertmaster, 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Elson in the Advertiser] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Arthur Weld, probably in the Post] 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.” [Undated and signed review] It seems that 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Hale in Home Journal]
On Thursday evening, March 27, 1890 at the Music Hall the choir gave the Boston premier of Massanet’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 performances, 230] 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… 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 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.”[cecilia reviews, Elson in the Advertiser] 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 review ended with extra praise: “We must add a word about the sopranos of the Cecilia chorus; these voices are angelic.”[Cecilia Reviews, George H. Wilson in the Boston Musical Yearbook: 1889-90]
By far the longest review 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.” 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Philip Hale, probably in the Home Journal] The Transcript [William F. Apthorp] wrote 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, William Foster Apthorp in the Transcript]
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 dullness,” however it did say that “the singers of the club gave their best efforts throughout the evening.” Of Lang’s songs the review said: “Mr. Lang’s group of songs got a well merited round of applause, and those styles Aladdin’s Lamp and Cradle Song were in the composer’s best vein.”[Herald, (May 23, 1890): 5, GB] Actually there were three Lang songs on the program, the “novelties.” 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.” 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.[Cecilia Reviews] The Post review said of the Lang songs: “all of them [were] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Post-either Weld or Hale]
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 Reviews, Weld]
THE CECILIA FIFTEENTH 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Weld] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Hale in the Post] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Elson in the Advertiser] It was not such a bitter pill for much of the audience, as Hale reported, “The audience heartily applauded.”[Hale, Op. cit]
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, George Whitefield Chadwick, a Bio-Bib, 143] Chadwick noted in his Diary that “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.”[Ibid] “I was not very proud of it – except as good voice writing.” 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.”[Ibid] 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.”Cecilia Reviews, Hale in the Post] 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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Elson in the Advertiser]
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.”[Cecilia Reviews, Hale in the Post] 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 Nevin’s piano pieces “won him the hearty commendation of the audience.”[Cecilia Reviews, Herald]
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.”[Report on the Annual Meeting as reported in the Post]
APOLLO CLUB: 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 Scrapbook: 1887-1906]
At the April 29/Monday evening May 4, 1891 concerts at the Music Hall Mr. G. L. Parker, tenor, sang B. J. Lang’s Nocturne in a program with orchestral accompaniment that opened with Chadwick’s Song of the Viking and 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.”[Musical Yearbook, (Vol. 10: 15.] Also in 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 as to how to obtain a ticket.
TRIP TO EUROPE.
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 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, (August 9, 1891): 23, GB]
For this trip, B. J. applied for a Passport which gives us specifics: SATURE- 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.
GB = GenealogyBank