Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Concert of music by Anthony Philipp Heinrich

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 03/05/1857 12noon

Season: Summer

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • Estates Theatre chorus: participating institution, chorus
  • ensemble of Royal Infantry Regiment of Archduke Ernst: participating ensemble
  • ŠKROUP, František Jan: director of ensemble, conductor
HEINRICH, Anthony Philip : Symphony The Columbiad, or the Migration of the American Wild Passenger Pigeons (Grand Capriccio Volante), orch

Commentary:

The Tageskalendar almanac of daily Prague musical events published by Bohemia 3/5/1857 noted: ‘12 noon Monster Concert of Vaters Heinrich“ in the Žofín Island Hall.’

A detailed review, signed ‘-h.’, of this event was published by the Prague German-language newspaper Tagesbote aus Böhmen 4/5/1857. The correspondent reported: ‘These pages have already often contemplated our interesting compatriot Anthony Philipp Heinrich and his most ardent, most assured compositions flowing with creative enthusiasm [‘seiner dem glühendsten, überzeugsten Kunstenthusiasmus emflossenen Compositionen’]. The purpose, for which the old man in his late-seventies sought the way from the New World to his homeland, was for his compositions created in the lonely virgin forests to be heard just for once. The choral and orchestral personnel of the Estates Theatre, reinforced with several members of a military band and with numerous dilettantes, and conducted by Kapellmeister F. Skraup [Škroup], yesterday performed three great symphonic works by the composer. The numerously assembled audience received the remarkable old gentleman with the affectionate regard that is afforded by venerable age, and in our day and age too by a truly rare honesty of artistic enthusiasm. The manner in which the touched old man expressed his gratitude through lively gesturing, and in the first place through waving his hand, stamped to some extent the air of a hearty private party upon the entire performance. We believe it is for the best not to demean the tact of the empathetic audience, and to leave the joy of the old gentleman undimmed; it would only amount to a hero-piece [of criticism] à la Don Quixote to take a critical lance to such phenomena that stand alone quite harmlessly and are without influence on general taste in art. It must only be noted that the symphony movement „Sänger der Wildniss“, named as „Musikalische Selbstbiografie“, demonstrated to us the origins and launderings [‘Entstehen und Waschen’ – lit. ‘origin and washing’] of the musical ideas and the create urges of the composer. The second composition comprised a paean to Austria, strangely enough for the most part set in minor keys. Here – as with the English national anthem in the first movement of the
Sinfonia britannica“ – the Austrian national anthem is the principal idea, and is treated with the most peculiar, ingeniously speculative twists. We would like to give preference to the last of the three works heard yesterday, the „Wandertauben“; it is a symphonic characterpiece of decided originality, amiable ideas and felicitous expression. The biography of the remarkable Nestor-composer was distributed in the hall according to Amercan fashion (and also in transatlantic taste included the programme too), and this was welcome to many who wished to befriend this individual, naïve creative spirit [‘dieser eigenthümlichen, naiv begeisterten Künstlernatur’]. – The performance of the compositions, which offered quite substantial and sometimes really outrageous technical difficulties, was very good, led by the unshakably solid and clearly prudent hand of Kapellmeister Skraup which yesterday showed absolutely no evidence of his „pensionability“ i.e. „inability to direct“ [‘Pensionsfähigkeit“, d.h. Directionsunfähigkeit’ – this was a clear reference and side-swipe at the scandal currently taking place at the Estates Theatre of the Theatre’s Directorship wanting to pension Škroup off due to his disagreements with certain Theatre policies]; in particular the brave wind-players admirably straddled the hurdles, and the cornets of the military band appeared brilliant virtuosi. Participating in the little solo [vocal-]quartet of the paean to Austria, were the ladies Urban [Urbanová] and Panatowitsch [Panaotovičová] and the gentlemen Eminger and Strakaty.’

The sister paper of Tagesbote aus Böhmen, Bohemia 4/5/1857 also published a substantive review in the immediate aftermath of this event. The correspondent reported: ‘Yesterday the Žofín Island Hall was the show-place of an interesting musical production, extraordinary in many respects. The here-present American composer Mr Anthony Philip Heinrich („Father Heinrich“) experienced the satisfaction – both in respect of scale of activity and of pulling out the stops in [the number of] instruments involved – of having his own veritably gigantic compositions performed in the capital of his native homeland. The apparent success for our amiable author was brilliant, in that almost all of his compositions were received with great acclaim, and he himself after each number of the „Monster Concert“ [„Monsterconcerts“] was greeted with thunderous applause. Choir and orchestra were en masse, the performance did not even want for, in spite of the enormous difficulties involved, an organ, that essential instrument in all old and new English oratorios and symphonic productions (of course in smaller than the more usual large, full guise). Aside from the recognition that Kapellmeister Fr. Škraup [Škroup] deserves for his direction, the strength [‘Festigkeit’ lit. strength, stauchness] and prudence of the Director [Škroup] cannot be appreciated enough in his act of patriotic reverence for our remarkable compatriot. Without wishing to cause offence to anyone, it seems certain that no-one other than Mr Škraup could hardly have succeeded in all power and strength to bring these works to such a safe and secure performance after only two volatile rehearsals. The solo voices, the ladies Urban and Panatovič and Messrs Emminger and Strakaty captured with particular enthusiasm the patriotic anthem Heil Dir, ritterlicher Kaiser!“. Well-deserved acclaim for their concertante performance in the Adagio grandioso of the Ouverture chevaleresque was earnt by the solo players from the Ensemble of the worthy Royal Infantry Regiment of Archduke Ernst.’ The correspondent then remarked that he would reserve comment upon the works themselves of his ‘aged compatriot.’

As with the Tagesbote aus Böhmen review of this event, the Bohemia correspondent notably includes an aside about the excellent and irreplacable abilities of Škroup as director which evidently relates to his recently enforced resignation as Kapellmeister of the Estates Theatre. One of the reasons Škroup may have taken on this mammoth, high profile concert (aside from his friendly relation with Heinrich) was possibly in response to his treatment by the Theatre’s Directorship and the loss of his post. Undoubtedly the concert ranked as one of the most important occasions in the 1857 Prague musical calendar. Reporting by Bohemia of Heinrich and his concert was on scale as might have been expected and noted for the likes of a contemporary and controversial celebrity such as Wagner, Liszt or Berlioz.

A further, extended text by the same correspondent commenting in more detail upon Heinrich, the event and the works performed, followed in the following day’s issue of Bohemia, on 5/5/1857. This source, titled ‘Concert Vaters Heinrich’ related: ‘On entry to the hall of the production was to hand a small brochure with the name of the remarkable [‘merkwürdig’ – lit. remarkable, curious, strange, odd] composer and the title: „On the life story of our compatriot returning from the New World“ [‘Zur Lebensgeschichte unseres aus der neuen Welt heimkehrenden Landsmannes.’]. [From]... this we shall add some data of the fate of the „Veteran Author“ [‘Veteran Author’ as written in English] who was born in 1781 in Schönbüchl, Pfarre Schönlinde [Krásný Buk, in the parish of Krásná Lípa near Děčín]. Although he received the education as befitting a merchant, from an early age was already awoken in the boy a love of music and a penchant for an adventurous life. The necessity of constant travel for Heinrich, in possession of a great estate, and subsequently the head of a large trading company whose connections not only extended over almost the whole of Europe but also ranged across the ocean, fuelled his tendency [for adventure] still more. On a major business trip to Malta he made the acquaintance of a beautiful Cremonesa of the most beautiful character in the world; crucial to the life of our Bard this was a violin that was to accompany him everywhere on his journeys in both hemispheres, his passion for music fermenting so much that so many of his real [‘reelle’ – lit. real, realistic, solid, square] interests were forgotten to the pursuit of his Ideal. Of this violin and her enthusiastic lover the earlier biographers [‘erzählen uns frühere Biographen Heinrichs...’] of Heinrich recount the following curious anecdote. On one of his trips on a French brig over the Atlantic Ocean, a terrible storm arose. While the whole ships crew over two days made every effort in the world to evade their fate [‘Beute’ – lit. prey] and had given up all hope of salvation, our musician seemed on the contrary to be carefree and comfortable, and accompanied the peculiar music of the storm on his instrument. Marking that the violinist’s demonic look, his attitude, art and manner were entirely different from all other men, the sailor folk’s suspicions were aroused, and so they blamed him for the sea bearing a grudge against their ship. How dangerous it is for a Jonah to be aboard ship is well-known, and so already at a young age Father-Heinrich was in danger of being sacrificed at sea. He was busy writing out a composition when the sailors came to announce to him his irrevocable fate. The Enthusiast was in no respect put out, and he called for a break of 10 minutes in order to finish his Lied. This break saved his life because suddenly, at the very same time, the storm abated and the brig was no longer in danger. And so we relate, according to the narrative from his later life [i.e. the concert brochure], the young Heinrich travelled from Malta to Lisbon and on to his first trip to America. There he seems to have completely forgotten his original [mercantile] purpose, for he accepted a position at the Southwark Theatre in Philadelphia, specifically as a volunteer without pay. Then there came to the life of the free man as a bolt from the blue the news from Bohemia that his family and business [Haus und Commanditen – the latter meaning his limited partners in business] had stopped his payments. Now music and his violin meant more to him than ever before; although shaken by the ruin of the message, he did not despair. He set out on foot for Pittsbourg, crossed the Alleghany [river], and lived in the forests of Kentucky, his humble abode a dilapidated blockhouse open to the elements 12 months of the year, a veritable hermitage both in terms of physical needs and of the loneliness involved. It is from this period that most of his compositions date. Then awakened his love of life, and he returned to Europe, where he worked for several years as a violinist at the Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres. Once again he moved to his adopted homeland, but this time his stay was accompanied with misadventures of all kinds. So adventurous it would seem like a novel, his longing for his daughter, whom he left behind in Bohemia under guardianship, drove him back there. Sick, he arrived in Europe, and when after hardships of all kinds he finally succeeded in reaching the home of his daughter, there came the unexpected news that she had followed him to America. A character like that of the new „Child Harald“ is not put off by fate, and so we find him next in Paris from whence it seemed to him to be easier to reach the New World again. Unfortunately, he was hospitalized, and from there was freed by a respected American family who took him to New York, where he finally and happily found his daughter. Heinrich now lived in this Emporium of the New World until he embarked upon his present journey home. The musical magazine The New-York Musical World“ lists 75 great works of the „Musical Patriarch“, among which are scores of great magnitude and fabulous content. There are also a large number of song compositions and compositions for the piano. Among the latter there is a very extensive composition on the death of Jungmann, and it is remarkable that each subtitle is often written beneath in the Czech language, strongly indicative of the composer’s homeland. Of the success gained by the concert given here last Sunday, we have already mentioned. It was like a family celebration [Familienfeier]; interest in the tough, dignified and idiosyncratic artistic character of the amiable countryman and in his remarkable works was as great as it was multifarious. Shall we say more of the latter? From the fragmentary notes of his eventful life, and his being equal to all circumstances, it is self-evident what we may learn of his Muse. The impression of a human hand of great character yet non-strictured by conformity [von Menschenhand noch nicht gemassregelten Natur], the indiosyncratic life among a variety of racial cultures and their motley hybridization [‘das eigenthümliche Leben einer aus den verschiedensten Racen und ihnen Kreuzungen kunterbunt zusammengesetzten’], all classes and countries of people, the hard knocks of an adventurous destiny, [all these] awakened and guided in a particular direction the creative impulses of such a huge talent. Irascible temper comes with old age and passive accomplishment, but this is devoid in the musical creativity of the 76-year-old artist’s original naïvety, in the full flow of artistic life and [for whom accomplishments give rise to no practical consequences – ‘und der für die praktischen Consequenzen musikalischen Schaffens nothwendigen unmittelbaren Wechselwirkung entbehette’]. From these impulses come the peculiarities – sometimes even the oddities – of his works that often seem to us outrageous [‘ungeheuerlich’ – lit. outrageous, flagrant, egregious, monstrous], allowing us to explain effects of fullness, massiveness, a small and large drum, with tamtam and triangle, with all the brass instruments etc, with the tirelessly working orchestra and many other aural phenomena. Such interesting, but also strange things were contained in all three of the works performed. The fact that he sits on an isolated throne yet is not a stranger to the noisy distant bustle of the entertaining poets of the last decade already demonstrates the character of his compositions as programme music. So great, indeed almost inaccessible [‘unnahbar’ - inaccessible, unapproachable, aloof] are the intentions of his Fantasy: even the negative singularities of his music are evidence of an outstanding though not always freely released [‘entbundenem’ – released, loosed, dispensed; here perhaps ‘unbuttoned’] talent. Of highest standing from a musical standpoint was the Anthem“ with its idiosyncratic use of Haydn’s Hymn [i.e. of the Austrian national anthem]; the Variations of the Britannia Symphony contained contrapuntal work, and... the most dazzling effects occuring in the eccentric Grand capriccio volant already mentioned with its extraordinary programme. All those who contributed to make possible this production deserve the warmest thanks for making our acquaintance with this singular, though strange, yet individual productions of a remarkable artist’s life’s remarkable compositions. May the genial man often bring joy to his receptive listeners, as which this time was manifest in his countrymen.*’

Perhaps no other review written by the critic ‘V.’ of Bohemia contained so many uses of the word ‘eigentümlich’ – lt. strange, odd, curious, peculiar, or idiosyncratic. The ‘*’ at the end of the review referred the reader to a footnote to the text written and signed by ‘D.M.’. This related: ‘However, everywhere where they might come about to be performed, these pieces of music probably, as they were in Prague, be undertaken only as an interesting musical oddity. It was pleasing to us to watch the composer during the performance of his works. He sat listening, absolutely entranced, in the front row, understandably so given that – as we understand – he was listening for the first time to the performance of the first of the programmed pieces. As the applause broke out with with last note, Father Heinrich was still looking in a gaze of happy bliss up at the exhausted orchestra, from which Kapellmeister Škraup came down to him off the dias to shake hands and to point out to him that, yes, the applause was meant for him. Only now did the old gentleman turn to the audience and went about among the rows of listeners, here a lady and there a gentleman intimately pressing and shaking their hands. A gentleman with rich silver hair who sat in one of the first rows of chairs in the Circle, he [Heinrich] touched his venerable locks pointing with his other hand to his own bald head, around which played only a sparse wreath of silver white hair. Since the sustained approbation still would not cease, Father Heinrich raised both hands in the air, and beckoned the friendly waves of applause to rest.’  


Summary of sources:

Bohemia (03/05/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (04/05/1857)
Bohemia (04/05/1857)
Bohemia (05/05/1857)