The Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto-A WORLD Premier. SC. WC.
Word Count-5,369. 01/01/2020.
Hans von Bulow “is known to have given more than 3,000 concerts during his career as a pianist and conductor. His long and arduous tours took him through a dozen or more countries.” (Walker, vii)
Steven Ledbetter’s assessment in the 2001 “New Grove” was that Lang “ was a solid orchestral conductor and unsurpassed as a choral conductor, in which area he was Boston’s principal exponent for four decades.” (Ledbetter, 231) Almost 100 years earlier (1904) Elson had stated, “Lang’s conducting was generally stronger on the vocal than upon the instrumental side. He could not play on an orchestra as Gericke, Paur, Nikisch, or Thomas have done, but he equaled almost any of these men in conducting or in training a chorus. Fortunately, his chief work led him into that path…. as conductor of the Apollo and the Cecilia clubs it is simply impossible to overrate his labors.”(Elson, 260). However, Lang conducting of the world premier performance of the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto with Von Bulow as the soloist on Oct. 25, 1875 created quite a sensation. (Foote, Auto., 44) Johnson in First Performances states that this concert was not actually part of the regular season given by the Harvard Musical Association, but that the group was “generally speaking the same body of players.” (Johnson, Op. cit., 364)
Verlag Hans Dursthoff-Berlin: J. W. Johnston Collection.
Von Bulow almost did not make it to America in 1875. “During the end of the 1874-75 season, while on a tour to England, he suffered an ”apoplectic stroke” that partially paralyzed the right side of his body. In late June  he wrote Cosima that his health was ”completely shattered,” and he feared he would be ”incapable of starting for America.” A couple of weeks later he was able to view his situation not ”too tragically or pathetically” but still made arrangements for a ”fatal ending,” drawing up his will and giving instructions to Cosima for disbursing his possessions. It was in this debilitated physical condition and cynical state that Bulow began the musical preparation for his American tour.” (Lott, pp. 237 and 238) He had done his will as “He knew that he would be in North America for at least nine months…There was a predictable division of money and personal property to the three daughters Daniela, Blandine, and Isolde (the last whom he continued to call his own.” (Walker, 211)
“The American tour began in Boston, on Monday, October 18, 1875, after a very rough transatlantic crossing on the steamer Parthia, during which Bulow was seasick. Immediately after his arrival in Boston, he locked himself away in his private quarters at 23 Beacon Street. The local newspapers reported that he practiced for eight or nine hours a day-as well he might in view of the workload before him.” (Walker, 213)
For his first concert on October 18th. the Music Hall’s 2,700 seats were filled. His entrance caused some comment: “Bulow walked onto the platform, a short, dapper figure, carrying a hat. This disconcerting appendage he proceeded to place under the piano. He also wore gloves which he ceremoniously removed before surveying the audience with his usual aristocratic distain…This opening concert was hugely successful and Bulow could not have been happier with the press notices…The New York Times accorded him a position of preeminence among the pianists who had visited America during the past fifteen years…During the first few days in Boston, Bulow gave four more concerts. But it was his appearance the following week, on October 25, that has entered the history books.” (Walker, 212 and 213) This was the world premier of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.
Dwight’s Journal of November 13, 1875 states that this concert was the fifth in a series of seven, [dates of the concerts were: #1-Monday, October, 18;#2-Wednesday, October 20; #3-Friday, October 22; #4 -Saturday, October 23;#5-Monday, October 25;#6-Friday, October 29; #7-Saturday, October 30] and that the entire program of number five was repeated for the seventh concert. Between the Monday, October 25 Fifth Concert and the Friday, October 29 Sixth Concert, Bulow gave two recitals in Providence! (Lott, 301) “Mr. Peck, to whose enterprise we are indebted for these seven feasts, has made arrangements to have him [von Bulow] return in January  and give some concerts of Chamber music with the Philharmonic Club (Messers. Listemann, etc.).” The program for the Fifth Concert was:
Grand Concerto in B-flat (sic) Tschaikowski
Sonata, Opus 27 (Moonlight Sonata) Beethoven
Grand Fantasie, Opus 15 Schubert arranged for Piano and Orchestra by F. Liszt
Wedding March Mendelssohn
“The Overtures went smoothly under the baton of Mr. Lang who had been called to succeed Mr. Bergmann and who [Lang], being himself a pianist and an enthusiastic admirer of von Bulow, was in better sympathy and understanding with him for the rendering of the extremely difficult, strange, wild, ultra-modern Russian score. It is the composition of a young professor at the Conservatory in Moscow, a pupil of Rubinstein’s (indeed the work contained not a few suggestions of the master), and is dedicated to Bulow, who complimented Boston very first performance. A compliment well meant, and warmly responded to by the applauding audience, -twice-for this program was repeated for the seventh concert…How wonderfully von Bulow rendered it, there is no need of telling; all that a hearty sympathy, a masterly conception and an infallible technique could do for it, it had the fullest degree; and the young author well knew that his work could not suffer in such hands.”(Johnson, First, 364) “Privately, Bulow thought Lang’s performance was ”very decent” and a repeat performance of the Tchaikovsky was ”most spirited.” Publicly, he linked his arm in Lang’s after his first performance and insisted on sharing the applause with him. ” (Lott, 243) Lott amplifies this story in a footnote, saying: “One writer remembered Bulow being ”extravagant in testifying his satisfaction” with Lang and reported this conversation with the pianists: “Did you see my little scene with the conductor?” I said that i did, and asked why he was so desperately demonstrative, and why he made such a scene. “Ah! you ask that? I expected you would,” he said. “But why not? It did me no harm, and it may do him good. Beside, I was so grateful that the conducting was no worse, that I could not restrain myself.”” (Lott, 339) Bulow’s gratefulness extended to having Lang also conduct the sixth concert: “The little orchestra still manifested improvement,” and Lang also appeared with von Bulow in the last piece: “The Chopin Rondo (in C Major for two pianos) was very finely rendered by both artists, who kept perfectly together; and this compliment of Von Bulow to his new conductor, like the one before, when he led him out to share the honors of a recall, found sympathetic audience.” (Dwight (November 13, 1875): 126) Steinberg muses: “I do wonder, though, what it all sounded like with B. J. Lang’s little orchestra with its four first violins (Steinberg, 477) Dwight had reported in his issue of October 30, 1875 concerning the fifth concert in the series: “Carl Bergmann’s baton gave a fair outline, although, to be sure, four first violins were rather thin and feeble for the great crescendo of the Leonora No. 3. Dwight earlier in this same review had said: “There has been an orchestra, a small one to be sure, with the best conductor in America at its head during the first week” of the von Bulow concerts. (Dwight (Oct. 30, 1875): 118) This would then make Lang better than the best conductor then in America!
The question remains as to why Bergmann was dismissed which then gave Lang his chance to conduct. Bulow recorded that “Bergmann had not taken much interest in the concerts as he had in drinking beer, he had missed two meetings to discuss the concerts which forced Bulow to make suggestions to the orchestra himself, and then, while Bulow was beginning his solo pieces in one of the concerts, Bergmann audibly invited the musicians to ”go get some refreshments,” and brought six of them back half tipsy.” (Lott, 251) At Bulow’s next stop on his tour, New York City, he was asked during an interview with the New York Sun to explain why he had fired Bergmann who was well regarded, especially in the German community. Bulow began “by denouncing Bergmann as incompetent. He then went on to berate him for ”showing more interest in drinking beer” than in pursuing his duties as a conductor…The interview was so outspoken that it created what Harper’s Magazine called a ”hullabulow”. The German press gored him, calling him a great artist but a small man. That only made matters worse. Bulow went on to criticize the Germans in general as a beer-swilling crowd who drank until their brains were stupid, rendering them incapable of appreciating great music because they listened to everything through an alcoholic haze. This led to a further outcry and Bulow received the predictable crop of hostile letters.” (Walker, 214)
As late as the program for the Forth Concert held on October 23rd., Bergmann was still listed as the conductor of the fifth concert to be held two days later! In the fifth concert program Lang is advertised as the conductor, and also for the sixth and seventh concerts which was a repeat of the material from the fifth concert. Nowhere in the program is there any mention of who the orchestra was. Walker describes the group as “a scratch orchestra of a mere thirty-five players.” (Walker, 213) Also, there were no notes about the music, but only various articles about von Bulow.(HMA Program Collection) Bergmann, as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, had built that group “into a fine orchestra,” but according to Howard Shanet, “the modern chronicler of the Philharmonic,” Bergmann “was now professionally so sloppy, spiritually so depressed, physically so decayed, and continually so drunk that only the great affection that his men bore him kept him in his post.”…”By August 1876 he would be dead.” (Lott, 251 and 152) This was a sad ending for someone who had conducted the New York Philharmonic beginning in 1858: “Bergmann was the Philharmonic’s most potent artistic personality for more than three decades. He also happened to be America’s first potent advocate of the music of Richard Wagner.” (Horowitz, Wagner, 38) The careers of Theodore Thomas and Bergmann “intertwined…Thomas, fourteen years Bergmann’s junior, frequently played the violin under Bergmann’s baton. Bergmann was initially the cellist in the historic chamber-music concerts of Thomas and the pianist William Mason. It was Thomas who brought the work Bergmann had helped begin to a plateau of high fruition.” (Ibid) In Thomas’ autobiography he evaluates Bergmann: “Bergmann was a talented musician and a fair cello player…He lacked most of the qualities of a first-rank conductor, but he had one great redeeming quality for those days which soon brought him into prominence. He possessed an artistic nature, and was in sympathy with the so-called ”Zukunft Musik” [”Music of the Future”]. He lacked the force, however, to make an impression, and had no standard.Hhe derived his principal inspiration from our chamber music practice. His readings of Beethoven’s works showed clearly that he had no tradition, and that it was not based on study.” And, if this was not damning enough, Thomas ended with: “Bergmann never practiced.” (Horowitz, Op. cit., 38 and 29)
HMA Program Collection
Von Bulow had made known that “the grand composition of Tschaikovsky, the most eminent Russian maestro of the present day, composed last April and dedicated by its author to Hans von Bulow, has NEVER BEEN PERFORMED, the composer himself never having enjoyed an audition of his masterpiece. To Boston is reserved the honor of its initial representation and the opportunity to impress the first verdict on a work of surpassing musical interest.” (Steinberg, 477) Originally the composer had
Nicolai Rubinstein. Wikipedia, January 10, 2019.
dedicated the piece to Nicolai Rubinstein, Head of the Moscow Conservatory (from its founding in 1866 to his death in 1881), but Rubinstein’s reaction, which Tchaikovsky recorded three years after the event in a letter to his patron, von Meck. so upset the composer that he vowed to ignore Rubinstein’s suggestions and publish the work “exactly as it stands”-which he did (Steinberg, p. 475) He wrote to von Meck: “It transpired that my concerto was no good, that it was impossible to play, that some passages were hackneyed, awkward, and clumsy beyond redemption, that as a composition it was bad and banal, that I had pilfered this bit from here and that from there, that there were only two or three passages which would do, and that the rest would have to be either discarded or completely reworked.” (Lott, p. 241 quoting from a letter) The connection between the composer and von Bulow seems to be Karl Klindworth who “was a colleague [of Tchaikovsky] at the Moscow Conservatory,” and with Bulow, a fellow pupil of Liszt. (Lott, 241) “Bulow had already written favorably of some of Tchaikovsky”s earlier works… Upon receiving the concerto, Bulow wrote to Tchaikovsky: ”The ideas are so lofty, strong, and original. The details, which although profuse, in no way obscure the work as a whole…The form is so perfect, mature, and full of style – in the sense that the intention and craftsmanship are everywhere concealed.”” (Ibid) After such a response, naturally the work was given to von Bulow.
Not everything was perfect at the premiere. “The distinguished Boston composer George W. Chadwick, then just about to turn 21, heard the performance and recalled in a memoir years later, ”They had not rehearsed much and the trombones got in wrong in the ”tutti” in the middle of the first movement, whereupon Bulow sang out in a perfectly audible voice, ”The brass may go to hell.” This was the first Tchaikovsky piece [I] ever heard and I thought it the greatest ever, but it rather mystified some of our local scribes [critics], who could not have dreamed how many times they would have to hear it in the future.” (Ledbetter, Program Note) “Critical reaction to what is now the world’s favorite piano concerto was decidedly mixed. its lyrical themes and colorful orchestration were immediately recognized and praised, but the sheer length of the work and the rambling first movement in particular were obstacles to appreciation. The Boston Evening Transcript found the ”elaborate work [to be] as difficult for popular apprehension as the name of the composer.” because of the ”long stretches of what seems, on the first hearing at least, formless void, sprinkled only with tinklings of the piano and snatchy obbligatos from all the various wind and string instruments in turn.” Dwight judged the last movement of the ”strange, wild, ultra-modern work” to be ”extremely brilliant and exciting,” but he wondered whether the public could ”ever learn to love such music.” …The public’s response was not nearly as guarded. A reporter for the New York Daily Tribune, in Boston for the premiere, thought the performance was ”irresistible, and the effect upon the audience most intense.” In fact, the exhilarating last movement, despite some ensemble problems, was so enthusiastically received that it had to be repeated. Tchaikovsky wrote to Rimsky-Korsakov after Bulow informed him of this demand, which happened more than once: ”Think what appetites these Americans have: after every performance Bulow was obligated to repeat the entire finale! Such a thing could never happen here.”” (Lott, 241 and 242) Having taken over as conductor of the fifth concert, Lang was retained for the sixth concert and then the seventh. For the sixth concert he had only two or three days to prepare another new piece, the Raff Concerto!
HMA Program Collection.
Lang was also the conductor for the Sixth Concert on October 29, 1875 (see program above). Note that Lang and von Bulow ended the concert with Chopin’s Rondo in C Major, a piece that Lang would later program with his pupils.
Lang and von Bulow repeated the Grand Concerto as part of von Bulow’s Seventh and final Concert in Boston. Then at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on Friday December 17th. and continuing the 18th., 21st. and 22nd. of the same year (1875). Lang’s name was printed as the conductor for the third and fourth concerts and written in as conductor for the first and second concerts, but the Tchaikovsky does not appear in any of these programs. (BPL Lang Prog.) Lang’s biographical entry in the 1886 of A Handbook of American Music and Musicians edited by F. O. Jones characterized his conducting as follows: “His calmness and presence of mind under all circumstances and surety of score reading has more than once saved a careless or nervous performer from disaster. These qualities make him one of the best conductors, and enabled him to successfully act in that capacity for the belligerent von Bulow and the meteoric Joseffy.” (Jones – first page of ‘L’ section) Von Bulow played the Tchaikovsky Concerto in 139 out of a total of 172 concerts that he presented that 1875-76 season! As a performer himself, Lang was very considerate of the soloist when he conducted. Apthorp relates more of Lang’s experience with von Bulow in their Philadelphia appearance. Lang, “having heard reports that the Philadelphia orchestra was none of the best at that time, besides knowing that von Bulow was liable to be nervous and at times rather obstreperous at rehearsals, thought it wise to have some rehearsing without his presence. Among other things Beethoven’s G major concert [sic] was to be played; Lang agreed with von Bulow to have the rehearsal at ten o’clock the next morning, but privately sent word to the orchestra that it would be called at nine. This would give him an hour’s rehearsal before von Bulow appeared on the ground. The orchestra assembled as ordered, the orchestral numbers and accompaniments were rehearsed; when it got to be six or seven minutes to ten, Lang and the orchestra were still hammering away at the accompaniment to the G major concerto. But it happened that von Bulow got there some minutes before his appointed time, and, finding Lang already rehearsing without him, took a seat at the back of the hall to wait until this unexpected preliminary rehearsal should be over. Lang standing with his back to the house, of course did not see him, and went on with his work unsuspicious of his presence. When the orchestra got to the tutti hold on the dominant that ushers in the cadenza, and Lang had cut the chord short with a wave of his baton, he was not a little startled to hear von Bulow shriek out behind him in his sharpest and most acrid voice: ‘The woodwind may go to h—ll!’ Lang turned around just in time to see the infuriated pianist jam his stove-pipe upon his head and rush out of the hall as fast as his legs could carry him; von Bulow was not to be found again that morning, and the G major Concerto was played in the evening without rehearsal with the pianoforte.” (Apthorp, 357 and 358) However, the concerts went well: the pick-up orchestra played accurately and expressively under Lang’s meticulous direction. What he lacked in magnetism, Lang compensated for through his careful study and preparation of the orchestra… Bulow’s faith in Lang’s abilities was validated by excellent performances…Bulow continued to share the credit publicly with Lang. After a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Bulow grabbed both of Lang’s hands and ”led him impulsively to the footlights to share blushingly the honors of the occasion.” (Lott, 260) Later, Lang himself was the soloist in this work at performances with the BSO in 1883 and 1885. (Steinberg, 473)
Tchaikovsky was very moved by the news of Bulow’s success with his concerto. In a letter date February 13, 1876 he thanked Bulow for the news of “another American success that I owe to you,” the first being the Boston premier. (Walker, 214) This second success was the New York performance of the concerto led by Leopold Damrosch whom Bulow had known in Weimar. For this performance the finale was also encored as it had been in Boston. Tchaikovsky also noted that he had known Bulow “only a short time,” and having been treated so badly by his mentor, Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky expressed to Bulow “the immense gratitude that I owe you, to you who were not my master and who are not even a compatriot.” (Walker, 215)
Bulow had some interesting observations on the musical audience in Boston. A year after his first appearances there, in 1876, Bulow told the Chicago Times: “There are two types of musical cultivation: for want of better terminology. I might call them in-breath and in-depth. In the latter respect. I would consider Boston the most cultivated; but the people are narrow and too pretentious for the measure of their knowledge. Puritanism has frozen art in New England; it’s a miracle that it hasn’t killed it altogether in the last 100 years. The Bostonians feel their indifference not only to an extreme degree: they even display it openly with pride. Presumably they reckon it as one of the Fine Arts. But that it is not. It is simply a form of paralysis…nevertheless, for a certain sort of technical facility and depth of musical cultivation, Boston takes first place.” (Howoritz, America, 10 and 11)
Lang also learned the solo piano part of the Tchaikovsky work. At the February 19 and 20, 1885 concerts (19th. Pair of the Fourth Season) of the BSO Lang soloed in this work which just ten years earlier he had conducted its world premier; this time the conductor was Georg Henschel. He had done the “Allegro” only at a Fitchburg concert of March 1883. The Home Journal 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. “In regard to Mr. Lang’s performance of the work, we can see no reason for changing our former opinion as to a method which prevents him from playing with either clearness or breadth of tone which it would be extremely gratifying to have him bestow, and which he evidently aims at with the artistic fervor and fidelity that are requisite for an absolutely perfect performance. It is yet our pleasure to acknowledge that we have not yet known him to play in Boston with such excellent taste, and to renew our appreciation of his nice sense of phrasing. It is as a master of accentuation that we find him making his efforts that naturally count for more than they are worth. During the past two years his technique has beyond all cavil developed in elasticity, which enables him to play runs and octaves with rare freedom; nor are his mannerisms so pronounced; so that all in all the treatment to which he submitted the concerto was eminently just and masterly. Mr. Lang was enthusiastically applauded and recalled.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The Traveller devoted just under one-half of its space to the concerto. The reviewer wrote that: “To one not an especial student of the pianoforte, the concerto of Tschaikovsky which Mr. Lang played makes an unsatisfactory effect. It is not absolute music, though doubtless the writer conceived with definite outline the picture he would express. It would seem a good plan if modern writers for the pianoforte, beginning with Rubinstein, would search out a new name for what they are now obliged to call concerto, for their methods, and the point of view from which they write for orchestra and pianoforte, are in effect different from those of Mozart or Beethoven, and, therefore, distracting to the student. But the work is not dull; it is only untransparent. The difficulties of what Mr. Lang is playing can never be established by seeing or hearing him play. The most extraordinary technical demands are met by him with just the same fortified complacency. He is never at fault technically, and his impassioned, nervous manner is indicative of a fine, susceptible temperament, which makes his interpretations uniformly just. Mr. Lang was heard with interest by the large audience, and warmly recalled.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The Transcript reviewer devoted his second half to the concerto saying in general that he liked the work , even if “some portions of the work are marvels of systematized cacophony…Mr. Lang played the concerto with evident enthusiasm, and with a finish of detail that was altogether fine. For grace of phrasing, purity of style and general artistic completeness, his playing could only call forth admiration. Nor was anything wanting in force and vigor of accent. The only thing that we felt the want of was a more commanding volume of tone from the pianoforte; in this, as in many of the modern concerts, the pianoforte has literally to vie with the orchestra in power, and it requires almost superhuman strength to make the solo part really dominate over the accompaniment. Yet it was only in a few passages that any weakness was felt in this respect, and this occasional physical shortcoming was as little when compared with the high intellectual and artistic qualities of Mr. Lang’s playing.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The short review in the Globenoted 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.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The review in the Courier began by saying: “The piece de resistance of the concert of last night was Schumann’s ”Cologne” Symphony…Not far behind the symphony in interest was the Tschaikowsky concerto played by Mr. Lang. The pianist was greeted with the heartiest applause from first to last, and in the last two movements certainly deserved it. the development of the first movement smacked somewhat of the etude order of music, although the first theme, given first in orchestra with piano accompaniment and then in reversed treatment, was finely give. Best of all was the second movement, with its pastoral, musette-like opening, and we can complement Mr. Lang on the perfection of ensemble in this movement of the work. He was also successful in the finale, where, in spite of the heavy orchestration, he made his part always clear and intelligible. It was rather a musicianly than a fiery performance., but its clearness and steadiness had a decided charm for both the critic and audience.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) 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.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The Gazette review spent close to half its space on the concerto. “The soloist was Mr. B. J. Lang, who played Tchaikovsky’s [sic] concerto for piano, op. 23, a work which, the better 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. In arpeggio runs the first notes and the last notes were heard, while the intervening notes were scarcely audible. It was the same in nearly all the brilliant passages where the hands took in the whole extent of the keyboard. The opening phrase was attacked with force, and then but little was distinct until the hand sprang up with a thump from the piano at the last note. This restless dancing up and down of the hands at last became a distracting feature of the performance. As a reading the performance was barren of interest. The artist played with exemplary pedantry, but with no breadth or largeness of style, and with a phlegmatic coldness that was wearily uninspiring. The best effects were achieved in the first half of the opening movement, and in the middle of the andante. For a performer of Mr. Lang’s long experience his playing throughout showed extraordinary lack of repose and of artistic balance. 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] (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The Herald review reported: “Mr. B. J. Lang was the soloist, and his clear, intelligent and accurate presentation of the piano score of the concerto made this number the leading attraction of the evening. The presentation of the work was a far more satisfying one than that
given by the same soloist during the second season of the ill fated Philharmonic Society, in 1882, and Mr. Lang was enthusiastically applauded at its finish.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) The last quarter of the review in the Journal noted: “Mr. Lang gave again the evidence of his true mastery in the art when he bestowed upon the technical concerto of Tschaikowsky every atom of beauty and power which the notes would allow. The strong, staccato intonations in the allegro were given with the vividness and grace so peculiar to Mr. Lang, and at each turning point there was the delicate poising on pivotal notes which adds so much to the magnetism of the music.” (Courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)
Bulow returned to Boston two more times that season. In January 1876 he gave six concerts, mainly of solo pieces, but with some chamber music included. He then returned in April for five solo recitals at the Music Hall which were billed as “Positively his last appearance in Boston.” (HMA Program Collection) But, then he returned in April 15, 16, 17, and 18, 1889 to give 3PM recitals at the Music Hall of just Beethoven works. Then on May 1, 1889 there was a “Farewell recital,” but that was followed by concerts of mixed repertoire given on Monday March 31, 1890 and Saturday April 5, 1890 which were billed as “Positively last appearances.” (HMA Program Collection)
B. J. studying a full score. Collection of Amy DuBois.
Lang was still conducting this work 25 years later. At a Sunday night December 16, 1900 concert at Symphony Hall, Lang conducted an orchestra of 55 in a “GRAND CONCERT given by and for the benefit of the Musicians” Aid Society.” The orchestra solos were the “Overture” to St. Paul by Mendelssohn and the Overture-In Memoriam” by Sullivan (Mr. J. Wallace Goodwich-organist) The main soloist was Ossip Gabrilowitsch who played the Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor Opus 23 and Liszt’s Hongarian Fantasie for piano and orchestra. (BPL Lang Prog., 6664)
Lang’s orchestral conducting experience began early in his career. On May 12, 1867 at aged thirty he conducted (a) Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Mechanic Hall in Salem, MA “In aid of the New Music Hall.” This concert was promoted by Mr. M. S. Downs and also included as soloist “Miss Adelaide Phillips, the celebrated Prima Dona.” The program was:
Symphony # 5 – Beethoven
Song – Donizetti
Overture: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn
Waltz – J. Strauss
Wedding March: Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn
Dwight’s review said: “The object was to raise funds towards the erection of a new music hall, which Salem surely ought to have, for it is now a city, and has some very musical people, sending quite a delegation always to our oratorios and Symphony Concerts in Boston. The occasion is said to have been in every sense most successful.” (Dwight (May 25, 1867): 39)
In the fall of 1892 B. J. was part of the judging panel for the “Grand Opera” category of the New York City National Conservatory composition contest. The other judges were: the head of the Conservatory, Antonin Dvorak, and Arthur Nikisch, Anton Seidl, J. K. Paine and Dudley Buck.