Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881


Concert given by violinist Antonín Benevic

Aufführungsort: Konvikt

Programmsorte: Art music culture

Datum: 22/04/1860 12 noon

Programme comprising:

  • BENNEWITZ, Antonín: soloist, vl
  • MIKOVÁ-BENNEWITZOVÁ, Emilie: soloist, v
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Sonata for violin and piano, vl, pf, G major, op.30/3
     • Fischer, Karl : pf
ERNST, Heinrich Wilhelm : Concert polonaise, vl, pf, D major, op.17
     • Slanský, ? : pf
RODE, Pierre : unspecified variations for violin and piano, vl, pf
     • Slanský, ? : pf
VIEUXTEMPS, Henri : Adagio and Rondo from Concerto for violin and orchestra, vl, orch, nr.1, E major, op.10
     • Slanský, Ludevít : pf
SCHUBERT, Franz Peter : song Aufenthalt no.5 from song collection Schwanengesang, v, pf, D957
GUMBERT, Ferdinand A. : song Liebeslocken, v, pf


Coverage of this concert in contemporary Prague newspapers and periodicals was relatively sparse; detailed pre-performance information about the programme of the event appeared only in Dalibor 20/4/1860. Prager Zeitung published no news or review of the event. No pre-event news was issued by Der Tagesbote. A possible clue to this seeming lack of information was provided by a report appearing in Bohemia 19/4/1860. This related that ‘capable and ambitious’ Bennewitz was to give a concert the following Sunday, and drew attention to the event because during this part of the season audience attendance of such concerts that were not benefit productions was ‘not uncommonly sparse’. The anonymous correspondent noted that it went without saying that the violinist deserved the encouragement of the public, but the report did not include any other details of the event. A record of the concert, its venue and time, appeared in the Tageskalender of Bohemia 22/4/1860, and a review followed in Bohemia 23/4/1860.

Prager Morgenpost 21/4/1860 published a report that ‘Mr Bennewitz, the esteemed violin virtuoso, gives a concert in the Konvikt Hall on Sunday 22nd April at noon, which is of particular interest to us music friends for the interesting programme and for the excellent well-known accomplishments of the concert-giver.’ Despite the reference to the interesting content of the event, the newspaper published no further news of the concert until its review on 24/4/1860. Advance information about the event, albeit relatively brief and incomplete, was published by Dalibor 20/4/1860 in a report noting that the ‘talented virtuoso Mr Ant. Benevic arranges a concert on 22nd April, in which he will perform Beethoven’s Sonata (G minor) for violin and piano (Mr Fischer), a concert polonaise by Ernst, variations by Rode and an Adagio and rondo by Vieuxtemps. Miss Mikova will perform two songs by Schubert and Gumbert.’ The reference to the sonata in G minor was an error; no violin sonata by Beethoven exists in that key. No further coverage of this event appeared in any subsequent issue of Dalibor.

The Bohemia 23/4/1860 review, signed ‘V.’, related that the concert ‘enjoyed a fairly [ziemlich] large attendance and the favourite violinist achieved a most splendid success.’ His performance was confirmation for the critic of the talent and potential Bennewitz had shown at the beginning of his career and had demonstrated in local [string] quartet productions [in which he had played second violin]. Having just returned from a ‘long trip abroad’ his playing ‘unmistakably shows great progress.’ In particular his performance was thought to have been characterized by a ‘resoluteness and aplomb’ deriving from a good technique and artisty, and ‘without the restraint that had before hindered the debutant’. His bowing of melody was softer and more sentimental in expression. The accuracy and elegance of his passagework, as was ‘associated with a fiddler of the Prague School’, had doubled in effect, and he was praised too for the energy of his performance and the fullness of his tone. Particularly in the last respect his performance created much interest, both in bravura sections and in lyrical passages. All four works he gave confirmed all these positive characteristics of his playing; the critic noted that each piece was very favourably received. Miss Mik [Miková] sang Schubert’s ‘wonderful [herrliche] composition on Rellstab’s poem “Aufenthalt” and a Gumbert song with splendid success.’ This Bohemia text was the only noted source to specify that the accompanist in three of the violin and piano pieces [not in Beethoven’s Sonata] was Slansky. Whether this was Julius or Ludevít Slanský [the second a violinist] cannot be ascertained.

The Prager Morgenpost 24/4/1860 review, signed ‘**’, began by noting that ‘notwithstanding the current spate of concerts’ and the weight of artistic expectation this therefore brought to bear on this event, the concert was deemed ‘most interesting’ and was well-attended. The concert-giver was complimented on ‘particular prudence’ of his choice of programme comprising four works from different times and of differing styles. This was thought to give the listener ‘a historic outline of the innovative, evolving periods of violin playing’, and gave Bennewitz the opportunity to prove his versatility. The pieces were then listed in order of performance, beginning with the Beethoven Op.30/3 Sonata in which the piano accompaniment was ‘with perfection’ given by Fischer. ‘All were virtuoso performances’, to which the critic noted they were always accustomed from the violinist. In the breaks between the pieces Miss Mik [Miková, later Bennewitzová-Miková] sang Schubert’s Aufenthalt and Gumbert’s Liebeslocken ‘very accurately.’ All the works found favour with the ‘refined’ public, which ‘filled the concert hall’. 

Der Tagesbote 23/4/1860 reported that ‘Bennewitz, for a year the marked favourite of the Prague musical public, yesterday at noon gave a very well attended concert to the most lively acclaim.’ The critic, signature ‘-h.’, concentrated upon describing the works and their performances. ‘The most beautiful number [of the programme] was Beethoven’s C-minor Sonata for Piano and Violin, inspired by the noblest influence of the old-Classical school [der altklassischen Schule inspirirte C-moll Sonate], its smiling charm and youthful spirit was given excellent expression in the exemplary, accurate and sympathetic performance of the concert-giver and in the equally appropriate rendition of the piano part by Mr Carl Fischer.’ In each of the other works for violin the correspondent praised a particular aspect of Bennewitz’s playing. In the work by Ernst he displayed ‘elegant, easily controlled technique.’ The Rode Variations upon ‘a very attractive theme in the style of Mozart’, a work considered equally suitable for use as a study as for appearance on the concert platform, found the soloist demonstrating he was a master of the ‘German fiddle school.’ Vieuxtemps’s Adagio and Rondo from the E-major concerto was said to have been recently performed and had perhaps been included by request. Of the two songs performed by Miková, the critic noted that performance of Aufenthalt had in Prague been uncommon, and certainly the work had not been heard with such a weighty voice and with such full expression. ‘An agreeable strophic song’,  Gumbert’s undemanding Liebeslocken was ‘charmingly executed.’

Zusammenfassung der Quellen:

Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (19/04/1860)
Dalibor, hudební časopis s měsíční notovou přílohou (20/04/1860)
Prager Morgenpost (21/04/1860)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (22/04/1860)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (23/04/1860)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (23/04/1860)
Prager Morgenpost (24/04/1860)