Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Název události:

First annual Conservatory concert

Místo konání: Platýz

Typ akce: Art music culture

Datum: 03/03/1850 12 noon

Sézona: Lent

Programme comprising, part 1:

  • Prague Conservatory: participating institution, orch
  • KITTL, Jan Bedřich: director of institute, conductor
CATEL, Charles-Simon : Overture to opera Sémiramis
HRABĚ, Josef : Divertimento for contrabasso and orchestra, db, orch
     • Abert, Jan Josef : db
DONIZETTI, Gaetano : aria unspecified, from opera La Favorita, v, orch
     • Engst, Therese : v
BÉRIOT, Charles Auguste de : Concerto for violin and orchestra Military, vl, orch, nr.1, D major, op.16
     • Bennewitz, Antonín : vl

Part 2:

HAYDN, Franz Joseph : unspecified Symphony, orch, E-flat major


The Prager Zeitung 2/3/1850 advertisement, published in both German and Czech, related the date, time, venue, programme and participating soloists of this concert. The date, time and venue of the event were listed by the Tagesanzeiger texts of Bohemia 1/3/1850 and 3/3/1850.

A two-part review, signed ‘V.’, of this concert was published in Bohemia 7/3/1850 and 8/3/1850. The first text, specifically focussing upon the Conservatory itself, seems to have been guided by a definite agenda. Opening with a paean of praise for the institute, the correspondent observed that ‘Our magnificent Conservatory, which demonstrates in full measure what can be achieved in Art [i.e. in music] even with relatively modest means, is justly famed for the goodness it brings to music in general in our homeland.’ The institute was noted to provide pupils for orchestras and ensembles throughout Europe, and its effectiveness and reputation for training musicians to the highest standards was well known. For a city like Prague that was relatively limited in its resources this was viewed as a great achievement, and such success was attributed to excellent leadership and direction. However, in their earnings
the professors of the institute were said to receive ‘no great or brilliant reward’. Since 1811 [when founded] the Conservatory had been funded only by the regular annual subscriptions of friends of art. The critic therefore suggested that funding could be gained from the state, with the matter being considered by the regional government that finds ‘Art and the Fatherland by no means of secondary interest.’ The text noted that during the last year reforms and changes to the institution of the Conservatory had been agreed and effected, specifically the introduction of a six-year course for pupils.

The second Bohemia post-event report, published on 8/3/1850, concerned the event itself, the works given and their performances. Of Catel’s Overture to Sémiramis the text noted only that the piece began the concert. Haydn’s E-flat major Symphony inspired considered comment, the essence of which comprised a description of the essential expressive effect and musical content of the work in comparison with the techniques of the modern symphonist. The former, ‘the real founder of this highest of musical genres’ was felt to obtain similar effects through the use of much greater economy and simplicity of means. With ‘father’ Haydn the passion and development of the expression maintains the interest of the listener, but in absolute terms and not over-extended, so that ‘the complete poetic experience is different from that of our modern composer.’ This distinction had already been noted, stated the critic, in the previous ‘Concert spirituel’ when the composer’s G major Symphony had been performed. The performance of the symphony by the Conservatory orchestra ‘was as precise as it was nuanced.’ Of the soloists appearing in the concert, all of whom were graduating pupils, ‘all gave brilliant debuts, although the [works they gave] were mostly calculated only for their display of extraordinary bravura.’ Josef Abert played a Divertimento for the Contrabasso by his teacher Hrabě. These overly-difficult variations on a theme from Bellini’s
Montecchi e Capuletti were performed with such great accuracy and ease that the soft, sonorous tone of the instrument and the clarity and cleaness of the passagework and ornamentation reminded us more of the violoncello than its ponderous blood-relation.’ Miss Therese Engst sang an aria from Donizetti’s La favorite. A powerful range of almost 3 octaves – we heard a low E given with the full powerful resonance of a contralto, and the second-line B sounded with ease – caused as great a sensation as the volume of her voice.’ Her performance was also observed to have been characterized by a clarity of enunciation, a spirited talent for dramatic expression and an already pleasing technique; the singer showed promise to enjoy a significant future career. ‘Anton Bennewitz, who played the First Concerto by Bériot, testified once again to the brilliant reputation of our Conservatory as a Classical nursery [Pflanzschule] for accomplished violinists. All three soloists were stormily applauded. The concert took place in the Platteysssaale [Platýz], a change in venue, for which we can be grateful to Mr Kittl. The Theatre [the Estates Theatre, where the concert would usually have taken place] with its strange accoustic presents no favourable battleground [Kampfplatz] for a small orchestra, not to mention for soloists. The event was numerously attended.’

The review thus provided a clutch of important insights into the Conservatory, the Theatre and local musical life. For example, the issue of funding of the institute not only by stressing the school’s fame abroad but in particular with respect to its importance for native musical life. In the wake of the 1848 uprising and the re-centralization of power and finance back to Vienna, the petition to the local government demonstrated that the local Prague authorities still maintained significance influence and guidance of local social, economic and cultural issues. The review also confirmed Kittl’s active and effective leadership of the Consevatory in diverting the concert away from the Estates Theatre, and the issue raised of the questionable acoustic of the theatre itself for this type of concert is certainly noteworthy.

Přehled zdrojů:

Bohemia (01/03/1850)
Prager Zeitung (02/03/1850)
Bohemia (03/03/1850)
Bohemia (07/03/1850)
Bohemia (08/03/1850)