Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

First annual quartet entertainment [kvartettní zábava / Quartett-Soirée]

Venue: Konvikt

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 05/03/1863 4.30pm

Season: Lent

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • MILDNER, Mořic: soloist, vl
  • BRÜCKNER, Franz: soloist, vl
  • WEBER, Jan: soloist, va
  • WAGNER, Mořic: soloist, vc
HAYDN, Franz Joseph : unspecified String Quartet, 2 vl, va, vc, D major
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Piano Trio, pf, vl, vc, D minor, op.49
     • Mildnerová, Emilie : pf
CHERUBINI, Luigi : String Quartet, 2 vl, va, vc, nr.1, E-flat major

Commentary:

Národní listy 2/1/1863 published advance news of this entertainment, relating: ‘Musical entertainments [Hudební zábavy]. Messrs Prof. Mildner, Brückner, Weber and Wagner are arranging, as in previous years, quartet soirée entertainments in the Konvikt Hall. First of these entertainments will take place on Thursday 5th March at 4.30pm. Programme is as follows: Quartet in D major by Haydn. Trio for pianoforte, violin and ’cello by Mendelssohn, op.49 (Miss Mildnerová [piano]. Quartet in E-flat major by Cherubini.’

The Czech-language arts and literature periodical Lumír 5/3/1863 reported that: ‘Professor Mildner, Brückner, Weber and Wagner are arranging in the Konvikt Hall three quartet evening entertainments, of which the first is today at 4.30pm. The programme contains a Quartet by Heydn [Haydn]; Trio for piano, forte [pianoforte], violin and ’cello by Mendelssohn op.49. Miss Mildnerová: Quartet in E-flat major by Cherubini.’ As outlined by the other specified sources, Miss Mildner’s part in the concert was as pianist in Mendelssohn’s Trio.

Prager Morgenpost
5/3/1863 reported in its section of daily Prague news that: ‘For the first Quartet Soirée, which takes place on Thursday 5th March in the Konvikt Hall at 4.30pm, is the following programme assigned: Quartet in D major by Haydn. Trio for pianoforte, violin and ’cello by Mendelssohn, op.49, Miss Mildner [playing the piano part], Quartet in E-flat major by Cherubini.’ No further details were given by this source.

A detailed review, signed ‘M.’, was published by the German-language newspaper Politik 7/3/1863. The correspondent reported: ‘First quartet soiree of Messrs Prof. Mildner, Brückner, Weber and Wagner. These quartet soirees that have grown so beloved of our arts-loving public over their many years have become so important an element of Prague musical life that it is hard now to imagine a concert season without them. Older music lovers in particular will always very much welcome the return of this homely circle, in grateful memory of the founder of the soirees, Professor Pixis, Mr Mildner’s predecessor in artistic calling. Yesterday the first of the three soirees planned for this Lenten season took place in the Konvikt Hall; again, as in previous years, it offered us a further look at chamber music by featuring, alongside quartets by the best composers of the genre, a trio for piano, violin and cello by a renowned master on each occasion. To begin was, quite appropriately, a quartet by Father Haydn, the very creator of this art form as it is now recognised. It was one in D major, full of life and freshness, with jovial and piquant lines, so that one was forced, as one is by the majority of such works by the great master, once more to repeat the oft-quoted phrase that Haydn remains forever young. This was followed by the Trio in D op.49 by Mendelssohn, in whose piano part Miss Mildner displayed brilliant technical accomplishment and also an elegant, well-nuanced performance. Particularly successful was the exciting scherzo, which so pleased the audience that it had to be repeated. Finally we heard the interesting quartet in E-flat [major] by Cherubini (which had been played here a few years ago under Laub’s regime), the choice of which must be acclaimed, since the individual sections, especially the highly artistic variations and the scherzo, so original in every respect, offer a unique pleasure when well performed. That the latter was the case here, as with the other pieces, was amply demonstrated by the applause that followed each. On this occasion we heard the cellist, Mr Wagner, for the first time as a soloist in public; he proved himself a solid player, but there seemed to be a fault with his instrument. The soirée was well attended, and hopefully the next will be more so, since an entirely new quartet by Selmar Bagge (editor of the Leipziger Musikzeitung, newly established this year) and a trio by Brahms are planned; in the latter the fine pianist Mr Smetana will perform.’

The brief Národní listy 8/3/1863 review, signed ‘ilz.’, which noted that each of the works was received with approbation, was the only one of the three specified reviews to make any comment upon Cherubini’s quartet. In contrast with the critical review by Lumír of the playing throughout the concert as a whole, the Národní listy critic considered that the work by Cherubini ‘contained many difficulties, which happily were overcome.’ The entire source text noted that the: ‘First Quartet Entertainment [První kvartetní zábava] of Prof. Mildner and colleagues drew a fervent audience. All of the performed items were received with approbation. Of the three numbers of the interesting programme excelled most of all the quartet by Cherubini in its freshness and brilliant working. In ensemble this quartet presents many difficulties, which were happily overcome. The creator of the string quartet Josef Haydn interested in general delicacy and humour, as did Mendelssohn-Bartholdy with polish and infinite longing [nyjivostí - pining, longing, ardent]. A select audience listened to all the performances with evident pleasure and rewarded the powerful ensemble with merited applause.’

The unsigned Dalibor 10/3/1863 review of the concert, which was qualified in its praise of the performances, remarked of Miss E. Mildnerová that ‘her technique was inadequate to her chosen role.’ The complete review related: ‘Messrs Prof. Mildner, Brückner, Weber and Wagner arranged a first evening entertainment on Thursday 5th March in the Konvikt Hall, performing Haydn’s D major and Cherubini’s E-flat major Quartets. Besides that we heard fellow participant Miss Mildnerová in the D minor [Piano] Trio by Mendelssohn. All numbers were received with with applause from all parts of the numerous audience and all-in-all [v celku – as a whole] were well-performed. We must however note, that the unequal powers of the aforementioned individuals was not a little detrimental to the rounded and artistic performance of these interesting works. In particular we must draw the attention of Miss Mildnerová to this, that her although it is rather beautiful, her technique was however inadequate to her chosen rôle. The young lady should see to it in gaining further education in music her abilities are taken into account and eschews untimely display. Her technique still has great defects in itself, and if perhaps audience applause is to be taken as a yardstick of her being an artist, it should at the present time be for easy things.’

The unsigned review published by Lumír 12/3/1863 was strongly critical of this concert, remarking that the performances were not equal to the value of the compositions themselves, lacking nuance, surety of tempi and unity of ensemble. Of the ensemble as a whole, the Lumír critic considered that the weakest playing was by Mořic Wagner, at that time the Professor of ’cello at the Prague Conservatory. Wagner’s ‘uncertain bowing... inflexible tone and inappropriately strong accompaniment’ upset the impression made by the works, particularly in the performance of the quartet by Haydn. The reviewer expressed regret over the loss of the musicians Alfred Paulus, Julius Goltermann, Antonín Benevic from Prague, these artists in past years having given successful annual series of chamber music concerts. However, although the performances were regarded as poor, after describing the playing of Mendelssohn’s Trio the critic observed that the concert had been enjoyed by the audience. ‘Of the three pieces performed the middle work [by Mendelssohn] was most precise, and would have gained more if the piano part... [had been taken] by a stronger pianist... [The] composition, although it lost out in this performance, pleased with its tender melodies and delightful working, so that upon general demand the magnificent Scherzo had to be repeated. As a whole [the soirée] quite agreeably entertained the numerous audience.’


Summary of sources:

Národní listy (02/03/1863)
Lumír (05/03/1863)
Prager Morgenpost (05/03/1863)
Politik (07/03/1863)
Národní listy (08/03/1863)
Dalibor, časopis pro hudbu, divadlo a umění vůbec (10/03/1863)
Lumír (12/03/1863)