Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Concert given by the Žofín Academy

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 19/03/1850

Season: Lent

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • Žofín Academy: participating institution
  • MAÝR, Jan Nepomuk: director of institute, conductor
REIßIGER, Karl : Overture to opera Die Felsenmühle zu Etalières, orch, op.71
FESCA, Friedrich Ernst : unspecified fugue, vv
LOEWE, Johann Carl Gottfried : song Szene aus Faust no.1 from book 9 of songs Gesammelte Lieder, Gesänge, Romanzen und Balladen, v, pf, op.9
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
AMBROS, August Wilhelm : Stabat Mater, solo vv, chorus, orch
     • Bergauer, Louise : v Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v Jarowin, ? : v Rupricius, ? : v


Bohemia 17/3/1850 published news that on Tuesday 19 March the Sophienakademie [Žofín Academy] would give a great concert in the Žofín Hall, and listed the works that were scheduled to be performed. These included Taubert’s Overture Blaubart, but this was evidently replaced by the listed Overture by Reißiger. The Tagesanzeiger text published in Bohemia 19/3/1850 recorded the date, time and venue of the event.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this concert was published by Bohemia 22/3/1850. This mainly focussed upon the Stabat mater by Ambros, the critic first remaking that this native composer merited considerable acclaim for venturing upon the composition of musica sacra, a genre more the preserve of an exclusive circle of friends of music than one that would lead to great recognition and brilliant acclaim. Works by Ambros, it was noted, had previously been performed in Prague under the pseudonym ‘Flamin’ and had ‘thrilled’; therefore the success of this latest piece came as no surprise. The Stabat mater itself was praised for its character as a ‘strong sacred work’ the expressive emphasis of which was stringency, remaining within the bounds of its aesthetic, and a deliberate avoidance of the ‘glaring colour’ deemed to be common in the works of modern church-music composers. The work comprised 10 movements that were noted to remain predominantly within D minor and related keys. Several numbers were briefly described and unanimously praised. Of these, the alto aria (no.2) ‘O quam tristis et afflicta’ was adjudged to be particularly distinguished, through both its effective fluctuation between lyrical melody and recitative, and the accompanying expressive oboe part imitating the vocal line. An interesting effect was the use of sustained thirds in the bassoon parts linking this aria to the following solo quartet. The tenor aria ‘Eja mater’ (no.5 in B-flat major) and the bass aria ‘Fac, ut portem’ (no.7 in E-flat major) were ‘of beautiful ardency’. The ensemble pieces were thought to exhibit a great diversity of style, ranging from the ‘abstract simplicity of old-Italian type of setting exclusive to Catholic composers, through to an elevated dramatic expression ... without encroaching upon the realm of sensual worldliness.’ Thus, the opening 12/8 number was singled out for its accomplished contrapuntal working and powerful choral writing. In the fourth number in F minor
‘Pro peccatis suis’ the critic drew attention to the  ‘exquisite effect of the pedal note in the trumpets on the dominant’, and orchestration combining trombones, violas and basses to which are later also added muted violins. However, the ‘most invigorating highlight of the whole [work]’ was ‘indisputably the Inflammatus et accensus (C minor).’ This utilizes a violin figure from the close of the bass aria, developing it with increasingly rich orchestration from the strings to its being sung by the whole choir. After a ‘hushed reminder’ of the motive of the first movement in the basses there followed a duet for soprano and alto in G minor and then a choral movement ‘Quando corpus morietur’, set in ‘old Italian style.’ The closing fugue ‘with very interesting but delicate [‘aber heiklen interruptionen’ - heikel lit. delicate, fussy, awkward] interruptions by the solo quartet, is a solid, flawless work.’ The solo vocalists in the performance were identified as Mrs Botschon-Soukup [Botschon-Soukupová], Miss Bergauer [Bergauerová] and ‘Messrs Jarowin and Rupricius.’

Following the review of the Stabat mater, the correspondent embarked upon a tract justifying his positive critical view of the work. After noting that the Overture to Reißiger’s Felsenmühle [evidently replacing the earlier programmed piece by Taubert] and an unspecified fugue for voices by Fesca had been performed, the substantial remainder of the text was mainly focussed upon the Scene from Faust that was sung by Miss Botschon-Soukup. This ‘superb composition by the ingenious poet C. Loewe’ was in no sense thought to be a work that simply sought the favour of the masses who sought only ‘superficial ear-entertainment’. As of all the compositions making up the set of ‘Ballades and Romances, Legends and Capriccios [the multifarious contents of Loewe’s multi-work, multi-volume opus 9]’, the work was ‘heartfelt, exotic in utterance, but always original and truly poetic.’ Performances were requested by Miss Botschon-Soukup of other pieces from this series. The text then challenged ‘our splendid concert and salon singer Mr Strakatý’ to include Loewe’s ‘Tone poems [Tondichtungen] within his own repertoire; then the public of musical Prague would not long remain unacquainted with such a composer’. His works would ‘once the listener is familiar, then beat a path to the family salon’, which was in some respects deemed to suffer from the ‘prevailing flavours of the commonplace’.

None of the listed sources specified a director for this concert by the Žofín Academy. During the early 1850s the Academy was led by J.N. Maýr, who would have directed its annual musical events as a matter of course. Maýr is therefore included in the event record.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (17/03/1850)
Bohemia (19/03/1850)
Bohemia (22/03/1850)