Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881


First annual Cecilia Society concert

Aufführungsort: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Programmsorte: Art music culture

Datum: 29/11/1851 5pm

Programme comprising, part 1:

  • Cecilia Society: participating institution, chorus, orch
  • APT, Antonín: director of institute, conductor
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Overture Liederspiel Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde (The Homcoming from Abroad, or Son and Stranger), orch, op.89
RIETZ, Julius : chorus Dithyrambe, solo male vv, male vv chorus, op.20
     • Peták, ? : v Novák, ? : v Nedvěd, Antonín : v Černý, ? : v Peters, ? : v
HILLER, Ferdinand : chorus Die Lerchen, S., male vv
     • Gmachová, Pauline : v
FISCHER, Karl : chorus Meerestille und glückliche Fahrt, male vv, orch

Part 2:

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Symphony, orch, nr.1, C major, op.21


A report appeared in the Lokalzeitung section of Bohemia 16/11/1851 giving details of the activities of the Cecilia Society during the 1851-52 concert season. Although the dates of its concerts were not specified the text did note some of the works that were to be performed throughout the year. Thus, for the first concert to take place ‘at the end of November’ the text specified the programme, albeit not in eventual performance order, and related too that a Mangold’s Hermannsschlacht had had to be postponed from this concert to the society’s third concert.

Precise details of the event were published by
Bohemia 25/11/1851 in a report that noted the date, time and venue and the programme in performance order. The date, time and venue of the event was published in the Tagesanzeiger text of Bohemia 28/11/1851.

A detailed review, signed ‘V.’, of this event was published by Bohemia 4/12/1851. The correspondent noted the increasing vigour and effectiveness of the Cecilia Society, comprising both a large orchestra (particularly it was noted of string players) and choir that both included a significant number of practising musicians. The Society exemplified what passion and love for the art, combined with conscientious and adequate rehearsals, can achieve; in this respect it was considered to represent a model for Prague musical life. The first concert was considered to have been a great success with all of the works performed to a high standard.

Each number of the programme was described in brief detail. Mendelssohn’s Overture to Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde ‘was particularly excellent in the vehemently demanded encore, with the brass playing with restraint in order to balance the string players.’ The work was praised for the ‘freshness of youth and charming amiability with which Mendelssohn presents his melodic beautiful ideas
, the blossoming opulence in which he clothes his orchestration and the fine and clear transparency of the whole [score]’. Of Rietz’s setting for chorus and orchestra of Schiller’s Dithyrambe, the correspondent remarked that ‘The success of this modern, very interesting composition was more favourable than at its first performance in the [Estates] Theatre a year ago partly as a result of the more favourable acoustic of the Hall, partly owing to the precision with which it was executed by the instrumental and vocal resources. Particular parts of the composition were described for their stylistic content. The five soloists, who were noted to be members of the Cecilia Society, gave a good performance despite ‘the awkward range of the parts and the difficulty of the composition.’ Hiller’s Lerchen was reported to have been performed so well by the ‘promising young singer Miss Pauline Gmach [Gmachová] that the work had to be encored. Miss Gmach was twice curtain-called. Of the chorus Meerestille und glückliche Fahrt, the critic admitted to hearing a work by this composer for the first time. Fischer was commended for being bold enough to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Beethoven’s setting of the text, and although his work was thought to contain nothing new and no new ideas, it was considered to be distinguished by its efficiency and form.

Of the second part of the concert, the Bohemia correspondent portrayed Beethoven’s C major Symphony as a remarkable composition which lay between two periods of art history. ‘The performance was characterized by precision and verve, the 7 or 8 double basses acquitted themselves magnificently; the remainder of the large string quartet gave such a favourable performance that all of the movements were stormily applauded and the Scherzo had to be repeated.’ Finally the society was again applauded for its choice of programme containing new and interesting works.

Zusammenfassung der Quellen:

Bohemia (16/11/1851)
Bohemia (25/11/1851)
Bohemia (28/11/1851)
Bohemia (04/12/1851)