Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881


First 'Concert spirituel' given by the orchestra of the Estates Theatre

Aufführungsort: Platýz

Programmsorte: Art music culture

Datum: 21/02/1850

Spielzeit: Lent

Programme comprising:

  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating ensemble
  • ŠKROUP, František Jan: director of ensemble
TAUBERT, Wilhelm : Overture to play Blaubart, orch
HAYDN, Franz Joseph : Symphony Mit dem Paukenschlag (Surprise), orch, nr.94, G major, Hob.I:94
MOLIQUE, Bernhard : unspecified Concerto for violin and orchestra, vl, orch, A minor
     • Dreyschock, Raimund : vl
MOZART, Wolfgang Amadeus : aria Non più andrai from act 1 of opera Le nozze di Figaro, v, orch, K492
     • Kunz, Eduard : v


Bohemia 14/3/1850 published a long article, signed ‘V.’, entitled ‘Musik. Die Koncerte des Mitglieder des Prager königlich ständ. Theaterorchesters’, which described the imminent establishment in Prague of a series of orchestral concerts given by the Estates Theatre orchestra. The text began by lamenting general standards of musical taste and the perceived paucity of the city’s concert life. Berlin, on the contrary, was noted to possess ‘great art-institutes’ through which an ‘appreciation of noble [high] art has been retained.’ The ‘altogether Italianate and Straussian Vienna can proudly point to the Philharmonic Concerts founded by the energetic Otto Nikolai, and little Leipzig, the so-called home of “Deutschphiliströfer Handelsaristokratie” has its Gewandhaus concerts, which under Mendelssohn have acquired a European-wide reputation.’ Prague, renowned for its connection with Mozart, ‘the seat of a mighty aristocracy and so many enthusiastic connoisseurs and friends of Music, in this respect stands as an orphan and must be satisfied with three Conservatory concerts each year.’ In order to address the dearth of such concert life the ‘members of the splendid Theatre orchestra have come together, and will perform in this year’s concert season under the artistic direction of Kapellmeister F. Škraup [Škroup] some Concerts spirituels, the title well-chosen from the names adorning the programmes.’ The critic noted that this year only three concerts were to be given, and that not only the reputation of the city but the staging of any future productions by the institute would depend on the support of the public. The works to be performed in the first concert in the Platteyss [Platýz] Hall on 21 February were then listed, and the participating soloists announced. Dates for the second two concerts were also specified, as well as works provisionally to be performed. The remainder of the report was devoted to an outline of the life and ouput of ‘Carrissimi [Carissimi]’, an aria from his opera Alessandro Stradella being performed in the first of these concerts.

Bohemia 24/3/1850 published a substantial report, signed ‘V.’, in the wake of this event. Titled ‘Musik. Erstes Koncert spirituel am 21. Februar’, almost the whole first half of this text was given to a discussion of the concert overture as a specific form and its distinction from overtures or preludes conceived for the theatre. The report thus provides an interesting contemporary perspective on this developing genre. An opera composer, it was noted, only had to prepare his listeners for the imminent dramatic plot ‘with a single expressive stroke’ or in a steady expressive progression leading into the drama. The ‘distinction of this from the self-contained Tone-piece [von dem selbstständigen Tonstücke] that we now know as a Concert Overture is clear.’ The text then went on to link the independent concert overture more appropriately with the symphony, noting that ‘this modern kind of composition is the legitimate daughter of the symphony [Diese moderne Kompositionsgattung ist die legitime Tochter der Symphonie].’ Parallels were drawn between the two types in their ‘great instrumental medium’ and in their related form and content. Both were seen as self-contained in their inner expression and often possessed of both the epic and the dramatic. Taubert’s
Blaubart was considered by the critic to belong wholly to the category of concert overture; deemed worthy of the ‘highest praise’ it was hoped that the work would be frequently heard. The performance was ‘impeccably splendid’ and executed with the most sensitive nuance.

Of the programming of a symphony by Haydn, the Bohemia critic considered this choice of work to have been ‘daring’. Among the ‘old masters’ the huge contrast was noted between Haydn as a composer of over 100 symphonies and the works of Beethoven and his successors. This was implied to be a result of a difference in aesthetic between the present time and the eighteenth century when there existed a ‘light, happy outlook on the past and the future’ and music, as evident in the ‘so lovable interpreter [liebenswürdigen Dollmetsch]’ Haydn, was of a form and cut of ‘perhaps sensual beauty and warmth but never impaired by inner soul-searching.’ The veracity of this view was apparently confirmed in the success of the ‘G-major Symphony with the world-famous Paukenschlage after the piano and pianissimo of the C major theme in the Andante.’ Brief descriptions were offered of the basic character of the movements. For example, after the ‘lively rhythm that poured through the Vivace assai of the first movement the cheerful, uninhibited tone-poet brought us that strangely reflective, simple Andante with the harmless joke interruption causing involuntary laughter and followed with quite a surprisingly hypochondriacal yet transient seriousness in the minor [key].’ The performance was noted to have been given ‘with a care and love that the members of the orchestra and their director Mr Škraup [Škroup] preserve as a special treat for art concerts.’

Of the remainder of the event the Bohemia review text reported that ‘just as interesting as the ensemble pieces were the solo numbers. Owing to the hoarseness of Mrs Fehringer, Mr Kunz sang the aria ‘Non piu andrai’ and we were astonished once more at the strength and range of his euphonious baritone. Mr Raimund Dreyschock, not heard for a long time, caused a great sensation with his performance of the A minor Concerto by Molique. Especially successful was the calm, confidence and virtuosity of the artist [in] the Andante and the immediately following piquant Rondo. He also victoriously and immaculately overcame the difficulties presented by the first movement and was rewarded with stormy applause. The Hall was full.’

The listing of the concert programme by Bohemia 14/3/1850 had specified that the aria by Mozart
to be sung by Fehringer was the F major aria of Susanna from act 2. No F major aria was written by Mozart for this character in act 2 of Figaro, so the work seems most likely to have been ‘Deh vieni non tardar’ from act 4. However, as noted above Fehringer failed to participate in the concert and in her place appeared Kunz. The order of performance of the programme cannot be determined from the specified sources. The works are given in the event record in the order in which they are described by the Bohemia 14/2/1850 text but with the substitution of the Mozart aria.

Zusammenfassung der Quellen:

Bohemia (14/02/1850)
Bohemia (24/02/1850)