Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Concert given by pianist Vilemína Čermáková

Venue: Konvikt

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 18/12/1858 5pm

Season: Advent

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • ČERMÁKOVÁ, Vilemína: soloist, pf
WEBER, Carl Maria von : Overture to opera Euryanthe, J291
     • Estates Theatre orchestra: Nesvadba, Josef : conductor
WEBER, Carl Maria von : Konzertstück, pf, orch, J282
     • Estates Theatre orchestra: Nesvadba, Josef : conductor
GUMBERT, Ferdinand A. : song Zerdrück' die Träne nicht, v, pf
     • Fektér, Franz : v
REIßIGER, Karl : song Liebe überall, v, pf
     • Fektér, Franz : v
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Prelude and fugue, B minor, op.35/3
DREYSCHOCK, Alexander : Scherzo, pf, op.107
CHOPIN, Fryderyck Franciszek : Nocturne, D-flat major, op.27/2
HÉROLD, Ferdinand : aria Jours de mon enfance from act 1 of opera Le pré aux clercs, v, vl obbl., orch
     • Tipková, Louisa : v
     • Estates Theatre orchestra: Nesvadba, Josef : conductor Mildner, Mořic : vl
THALBERG, Sigismond : Fantasie [Echoe Fantasie] on Meyerbeer's opera Les Huguenots, pf, op.20


This concert was first reported by Prager Morgenpost 11/12/1858 which noted that ‘The young pianist Miss Wilhelmine Čermák [Vilemína Čermáková] of Prague, a talented pupil of Alexander Dreyschock, will on Saturday 18 December with the participation of Miss Tipka [Tipková] and Mr Fektér in the Konvikt Hall give a concert.’ The event was announced three days later by Bohemia 15/12/1858 reporting that ‘Miss Wilhelmine Czermak, a pupil of Dreyschock, who has already during the summer revealed her artistry in the Czech Spa [towns], will give a concert on Saturday at 5pm in the Konvikt Hall.’ Also participating were to be Miss Tipka [Tipková] and Fektér. The same issue of Bohemia also published news that Tipka was shortly to leave Prague for Frankurt am Main where she was to take up an appointment to sing in the local opera.

The complete programme of Čermáková’s concert, the venue and its time was published by Bohemia 17/12/1858, although the identity of the participating orchestra was not noted.  Advance news also appeared in Prager Morgnpost 18/12/1858, specifying the venue and similar programme details as appeared in the Bohemia report of the previous day but also not identifying the participating orchestra. However, the text did note that taking part would be ‘Herr Direktor Mildner und Herr Kapellmeister Nesvadba’, respectively the leader and the conductor of the German Estates Theatre orchestra. This suggests the participation of that ensemble. The event was also announced in the Tageskalender of Bohemia 18/12/58.

An article about this concert, signed ‘V.’, was published in Bohemia 19/12/1858. This text in the main comprised verbose musing about the characteristic abilitities that might be expected of a pupil of the piano virtuoso Alexander Dreyschock, of the importance of virtuosity in the development of a young piano-artist, and of the manifestation of such training in the performance of the ‘young novice concertist’ Miss Čermáková [given as Cžermak in this text whereas the earlier Bohemia text gave Czermak]. The Bohemia critic asserted that without a powerful technique no singer or intrumentalist could exceed the bounds of mediocre dilettantism. This could only be achieved through either ‘systematic schooling’ or ‘as is commonly referred to, steely discipline.’ Evidently this was provided by the method of Dreyschock’s ‘extraordinary, stern school ... [which] manifested itself in Miss Cžermak, who with striking persuasiveness gave her concert at the piano. The technical training of the Fraulein is already so vastly advanced ... that no particular mechanical difficulties lie in the way of her virtuosity. Under such conditions hangs the attainment of true artistry....’ However, the review then pointed out that Cžermak had yet to develop other aspects of her art. ‘A young novice-artist would gain from the education of their first debut the miraculous ability to make the piano speak, to exploit touch and tone’, thus implying that this area of the soloist’s performance and training remained deficient.

Of other details of this event the Bohemia reviewer continued in an alternately positive and diplomatic vein. It was noted that the recital programme some considered to be ‘a little objectionable’ on account of its ‘barely attainable’ challenge; the choice of demanding works might well have been made by the master - Dreyschock - himself. Of the performance of Weber’s Concertstück Miss Cžermak ‘for a woman’ displayed a ‘rare energy and stamina’. In the Prelude and fugue by Mendelssohn the accomplishment of such ‘refined independence’ of the two hands was ‘manifest’. Her artistic understanding was shown best in her teacher’s Scherzo and in the Chopin Nocturne, and her virtuosity most evident in the work by Thalberg [identified by opus number]. Following each number Miss Cžermak was repeatedly curtain-called. Of the remainder of the programme the review noted only the performers, the works given and that all the other solosts were received with stormy approbation. The participating orchestra in this event was not identified. Concerning audience attendance, the hall was described as ‘overfull’. The aria by Herold, identified by the earlier specified sources as being from the opera ‘Der Schreiberwiese’ [L’auteur mort et vivant], was described by the Bohemia review with French title as the opera Prè aux clercs, and with the observation that the aria was performed accompanied on the violin by Mildner. This description certainly indicates that the aria was that with obbligato violin ‘Jours de mon enfance [Was in Kinderjahren]’ from act 1 of the then still extremely popular opéra-comique Prè aux clercs [German title Der Zweikampf].

The review, signed ‘R.’ that was published by Dalibor 23/12/1858 remarked that Vilemína Čermáková’s performance was faultless in terms of her technique, but scathingly criticized the apparent lack of expression contained in her playing: ‘The fruits of Miss Čermáková are without heart, and if we are deceived [in this], [then they] are solely of a heart of stone.’ The ‘sounds she creates’ are likened to statues, perfectly crafted in detail ‘regular, symmetrical and tasteful, imposing... even the most delicate details are satisfactorily marked out, yet these statues are dry, missing the fire of Prometheus, that fire which the master Dreyschock [Čermáková’s teacher] cannot of course impart to his pupil, for only from heaven comes such a divine blaze.’ Of the compositions given in the concert the Dalibor critic singled out Gumbert’s song, noting simply that the work was ‘suchopárnou’ (tedious).

The unsigned Lumír 23/12/58 review, which incorrectly noted the date of the concert as 19th December, was considerably more positive of Čermáková’s performance, contrasting her favourably with a the vastly more experienced pianist Mrs Teinzmannová who had appeared in the Estates Theatre earlier that same week. Lumír noted that ‘Miss Čermáková, pupil of the celebrated Alexander Dreyschock, stands already as to technique at a higher level [than Teinzmannová], and if she constantly perseveres and warms to her task [she is assured] of a very magnificent future.’ The review also related that the Konvikt Hall was full and that the audience eagerly applauded and cheered their ‘talented young countrywoman.’

Summary of sources:

Prager Morgenpost (11/12/1858)
Bohemia (15/12/1858)
Dalibor, hudební časopis s měsíční notovou přílohou (16/12/1858)
Prager Morgenpost (18/12/1858)
Bohemia (18/12/1858)
Bohemia (19/12/1858)
Dalibor, hudební časopis s měsíční notovou přílohou (23/12/1858)
Lumír (23/12/1858)