Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit concert given in aid of free meals for poor students of the Prague Technical School

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Popular social musical and dance events

Date: 08/03/1863 12noon

Season: Lent

Benefactor: Maýr,Jan Nepomuk

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • Provisional Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • MAÝR, Jan Nepomuk: director of ensemble

Part 1:

GADE, Niels Wilhelm : Overture Michael Angelo, orch, op.39
ZVONAŘ, Josef Leopold : scene 1, act 1 from opera Záboj, v, orch
     • Švarc, Jakub : v
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Sonata for pianoforte, pf, nr.14, C-sharp minor, op.27/2
     • Weissová, Alfonsina, Baroness : pf
SPOHR, Louis : recitative and aria unspecified, from opera Faust, v, orch
     • Ehrenbergů, Eleonora z : v

Part 2:

MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Concerto for violin and orchestra, vl, orch, E minor, op.64
     • Pagošev, Mikhail : vl
MAÝR, Jan Nepomuk : aria unspecified, from opera Horymír, v, orch
     • Vecko, Čeněk : v
WEBER, Carl Maria von : Klavierstück Aufforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance), pf, J260
     • Weissová, Alfonsina, Baroness : pf
SKUHERSKÝ, František Zdeněk : scéna and duet unspecified, from opera Vladimír, bohův zvolenec (God's chosen one), v, orch
     • Ehrenbergů, Eleonora z : v Vecko, Čeněk : v


Prager Morgenpost 31/1/1863 published advance news of this concert, noting: ‘Benefit-Concert [Wohlthätigkeits-Konzert]. On 8th March this year at 12 noon in the Žofín Island Hall a concert for the benefit of free meals for poor students of the Technical School will be given. The arrangement of the concert has been undertaken by Kapellmeister Mayer [J.N. Maýr]. Baroness Alphonsine Weiß [Weissová], Misses Schulzendorf and Ehrenberg [z Ehrenbergů] will participate in this benefit academy.’ Prager Morgenpost 10/3/1863 published a review of this concert criticising what the correspondent considered to be the pro-Czech content of the programme. The event was felt to suffer from an emphasis on ‘political colour’, in this case with the programme having been compiled with a ‘Czechophile, whose power seems to have left the German technicians of the committee with their hands tied. The concert began with Gade’s pithy overture Angelo. The vocal component was almost exclusively represented by members of the Czech Theatre. Mr Schwarz sang a scene from the opera Zaboy [Záboj] by Zwonarc [Zvonař], an insubstantial piece reminiscent of compositions by Verdi or Donizetti during their less successful periods, without this composition touching on those strokes of genius of the Italian masters that have never been lost from sight. Mr Vecko performed an aria from the opera Horymir by Mayr, musically a follower of Mr Zwonarc [Zvonař]; Mr Vecko then sang a duet from the opera Odpadlik by Zdeněk Skuherský together with Miss von Ehrenberg; we missed the performance itself and thus shared the destiny of the Czech singers to the extent, when one considered it carefully, that they would have been better lending their voices to songs of musical worth. With an aria from Spohr’s Faust Miss von Ehrenburg tried to cleverly extricate herself from the affair. What effect the above-mentioned Czech numbers had on the remainder [of the concert] was this: with the weight of other compositions by Beethoven, Weber and Gade, Mr Zwonarc [Zvonař] and Mr Mayr lowered the tone... Mr Pagotscheff [Pagošev] performed a violin concerto by Mendelssohn. The participation of Baroness Weiss, the pianist who was [recently] given such an inhospitable reception in the Czech Theatre, may be described as truly dignified. The Baroness took her revenge [upon critics of the Czech Theatre concert] nobly and with artistry; she played the Sonata in C minor by Beethoven and the Aufforderung zum Tanz by Weber with the entire force of her artistic repository and technical accomplishment; the pieces were received with the greatest ovations of the matinée, with wreaths and bouquets. The gracious farewell by Schulzendorff temporarily from the concert-going public was given with the declamation of a poem by Dingelstedt, Männerherzen; the performance was playful, appropriate, pointed and sweet in a word, but that goes without saying.’

Národní listy 4/3/1863 reported in its section of daily news: ‘In the concert of Technicians, to benefit the fund for free meals for students of the Technical Institute, on 8th March will participate: Miss Baroness Weissová, Miss z Ehrenbergů, Miss z Schultzendorfů, Mr Pagošov [Pagošev] from Petrograd, Mr Šmberg, Mr Švarc and Mr Vecko. It is possible to obtain admission tickets in the shop of Messrs Christof and Kuhé in Malý Karlova street [v Malé Karlově ulici] and Mr Veit in the New Alej [v Nových Alejích].’ Národní listy 8/3/1863 then published full details of the event programme: ‘Concert of the Technical Students takes place today on Žofín at 12 noon. Programme is the following: 1st part. 1. Michel Angelo, Concert Overture by Niels V. Gade. 2. Scéna from opera „Závoj“ [Záboj] by Zvonař, sung by Mr Švarc. 3. Sonata by Beethoven in C-sharp minor, performed Baroness Weissová. 4. Declamation, performed Mr Šamberg. 5. Recit. and aria from opera
Faust“ by Spohr, sung Miss z Ehrebergů. Second part. 1. Concerto for violin by Mendelssohn, played by Mr Mikuláš z Pagošoffů [Pagošev] from Petrograd. 2. Declamation, performed Miss z Schulzendorfů [Schultzendorfová]. 3. Aria from opera Horymír“ by J.N. Mayr [Maýr], sung by Mr Vecko. 4. Vyzvání k tanci [Aufforderung zum Tanz], Rondo by Karl Maria z Weberů [Carl Maria von Weber], performed Baroness Weissová. 5. Scéna and duet from opera Opadlík“ by F. Zdeněk Skuherský, performed Miss z Ehrenbergů and Mr Vecko. – Nr. 4 contains the declamations: Česká muzika“ [Czech music] and Zakletý princ“ [Elf Prince] – prohibited by the police’ [slavnou c.k. policii jest zakázáno].

This programme was notable for containing extracts from two original new Czech operas, Záboj by J.L. Zvonař and J.N. Maýr’s Horymír, and a duet performed in Czech from Skuherský’s opera Der Apostat. Of these works the unsigned Dalibor 10/3/1863 review praised only the scene from Záboj, remarking that the music suitably expressed the drama of the scene from the opera. However, its impact upon the audience was deemed to have been limited because the listeners did not have a copy of the libretto to hand, and so were unable to ascertain the dramatic background. Moreover, the playing of the orchestra was ‘uncertain and chaotic’ with the conductor failing to grasp what ‘seems to us to be a significant and considered composition’. The performance of a duet, ‘very commendably’ sung by Vecko and Miss z Ehrenbergů, from Skuherský’s second opera, was also deemed noteworthy. Originally composed in German in 1860 as Der Apostat [Opadlík] the work was revised and translated into Czech a year later as Vladimír, bohův zvolenec [Vladimír, God’s Chosen One]. The Czech version became the first new native opera to be staged in the Provisional Theatre on 27/9/1863. The title of the extract given in this concert was related by the Národní listy 8/3/1863 and Dalibor 10/3/1863 sources as, respectively, Opadlík and Apostat, and not Vladimír, suggesting it was the Czech revision. The Dalibor review also stated specifically that the performance was in Czech. The public airing of an extract from a new work before its stage premiere was not unusual; a concert performance on 28/12/1864 of a section from Smetana’s Braniboři v Čechách similarly predated the opera’s appearance on the Provisional Theatre stage on 5/1/1866. This concert also premiéred an extract from Horymír, then yet to be performed complete too.

Concerning the extract from ‘Horymír’, Dalibor remarked that ‘we eagerly anticipated a novelty, namely an aria from the new opera
Horymirby J.N. Maýr, now kapelník of the Czech opera. If it is possible to judge the whole opera from this extract, we would have say that instead of a Czech Knight Horymír, Mr Maýr has produced a Signore Orimirio adorned in Bellini’s commonplace garments, that at the end changes to the music of Arlecchino.’ Of the solo instrumentalists appearing in the concert, the Dalibor review noted that the Russian violinist M. Pagošev played Mendelssohn’s Concerto ‘decently enough’, and encored his performance with Czech folksongs in which he utilized techniques of harmonics and double stopping. The works performed by the pianist Weissová were thought to have been too demanding for her. Gade’s Michel Angelo was given ‘with success’ by the theatre orchestra. The programme is reproduced in performance order according to the Národní listy 8/3/1863 report.

The complete Dalibor 10/3/1863 review remarked that the: ‘Concert Overture
Michal Angelo“ by Niels Gade began the concert to benefit Technical Students [Koncert ku prospěchu techníků] taking place on 8th March in Žofín Hall... played with success by the orchestra of the Estates Theatre [zemského divadla]; of the other numbers, of which there 10, it is fitting for us to praise only the extract from the opera Záboj“ by L. Zvonař. This was the first scene of Záboj, where he is standing on a cliff lost in thought. The composer interpreted and portrayed the state of mind of his hero with pertinent expression; however, the audience did not have a libretto to hand and were unfamiliar with the moment and so were unable to enter into the spirit of the work as it deserved. Even the director himself Mr Maýr did not it seem to us to grasp the significance and content of the composition, since the rendition of the various themes by the orchestra was very uncertain and chaotic. Baroness Weissová played at the piano two numbers, C-sharp minor Sonata by Beethoven and Weber’s Invitation to the Dance; however neither the first nor the second composition satisfied, her failing to satisfy their strict demands. Russian violinist Mr Pagošev performed on the violin the Concerto in E minor by Mendelssohn decently enough and on being called [i.e. encored] appealed to our nationalist feelings with the performance of some folksongs in which he utilized techniques of harmonics and double stopping. Mr Vecko and Miss Ehrenbergrová [z Ehrenbergů] sang with praiseworthy success a duet from the opera Apostat“ (translated into Czech) by Zd. Skuherský, [her] performing first in addition to this an aria from the opera Faust“ by Spohr. We were treated to a particular novelty, namely an aria from the new opera Horymir“ by J.N. Mayr, [Maýr] now kapelník [Kapellmeister] of the Czech opera. If we were to judge the whole opera from this extract, we would have to say that instead of a Czech Knight Horymír, Mr Maýr has produced a Signore Orimirio adorned in Bellini’s commonplace garments, that at the end changes to the music of Arlecchino. We do not want to affirm here that Mr Maýr could become Bellini, but so much is for sure, that he has borrowed many accoutrements of make-up from his wardobe. We regretted that the excellent singer Mr Vecko performed this aria, for despite his physical strength he was drowned out by the orchestra...’

Národní listy 19/3/1863 published a notice from the committee organising this concert offering its thanks to individuals participating in and organizing this concert. The source announced: ‘Public thanks! Committee
for the „Concert for technical [school] students“ to benefit the fund for free meals in the Royal Estates Polytechnic Institute publicly offer thanks to the following individuals: Mr Mayr for the circumspect direction of the concert; Miss z Ehrenbergů; Miss z Schultzendorfů; Baroness Weissová; Messrs Pagošev, Švarc; Vecko for their kind participation; the proprietor of the Žofín Hall for loaning the Hall; Messrs  Bellman, Schreyer, Renn and Seyfried, owners of the the Jeřábkovský book publishers for providing printed materials without charge; Mr Č. Mik for generously lending a piano; as well as all donors to the fund of this concert. In Prague 18th March 1863. Committee.’

Národní listy 25/3/1863 reported that the ‘Clear profit obtained from the concert for technical [school] students to benefit the fund for free meals in the Royal Estates Polytechnic Institute was 1217zl 28kr.’

Summary of sources:

Prager Morgenpost (31/01/1863)
Národní listy (04/03/1863)
Národní listy (08/03/1863)
Prager Morgenpost (10/03/1863)
Dalibor, časopis pro hudbu, divadlo a umění vůbec (10/03/1863)
Národní listy (19/03/1863)
Národní listy (25/03/1863)