Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Society of Musical Artists [Jednota hudebních umělců / Tonkünstler-Gesellschaft] benefit concert in aid of the Prague Institute for the Widows and Orphans of Musical Artists

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 04/04/1850 6pm

Beneficiary: Society of Musical Artists

Programme comprising:

SPOHR, Louis : oratorio Des Heilands letzte Stunden, solo vv, chorus, orch, WoO62
     • Bergauer, Louise : Marie Emminger, Josef : Jesus Emminger, Josef : Joseph of Arimathea Versing, Wilhelm : Petrus Strakatý, Karel : Philo Strakatý, Karel : Judas Knopp, ? : Johannes Brava, František : Nikodem Illner, Ignác : Kaiphas Böhm, ? : Zeugen [Witness] Strakatý, Karel : vocal quartet Böhm, ? : vocal quartet Byri, ? : vocal quartet Müllerová, ? : vocal quartet Claudius, ? : hrp


Bohemia 22/3/1850 published news of this forthcoming event, reporting that ‘On 26th March in the Žofín Island Hall there promises to be a very interesting and felicitous performance of Spohr’s great oratorio: “Des Heilands letzte Stunde”.’ The participating soloists and the parts they were to perform were then listed. The Tagesanzeiger text of Bohemia 24/3/1850 listed details of the projected date, venue and time of this event on 26/3/1850. However, this performance scheduled for 26th March was subsequently postponed. Prager Zeitung 26/3/1850 contained news that owing to an unfortunate incident the production of the oratorio would not take place, and that the new date for the event would be announced later. On 1/4/1850 the newspaper reported that the performance would be on Thursday 4th April. Two days later on 3/4/1850 a further paragraph in Prager Zeitung commented that the delay had ‘at least the good outcome that once again here we will hear the magnificent singer Mr Emminger.’

Information about the rescheduled event, listing its date, time, venue, and the work to be performed, appeared in the Tagesanzeiger texts of Bohemia 2/4/1850 and 4/4/1850.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this concert was published by Bohemia 7/4/1850. This text began by noting that despite the delay to the concert, the occasion was still a success. In the Žofín Hall there assembled ‘a very numerous audience, despite the hour of the performance and, from the April sky, a mighty downpour of rain.’ There followed an enthustiastically positive description of the oratorio, which the critic opined had a similar relationship to the sphere of sacred music as Spohr’s opera Jessonda did to secular dramatic composition. Spohr was judged to have created a work profound in its harmonic and musical content, cast by the
‘Master of Counterpoint’ in the clearest light, and of sufficient poetic and dramatic element. His ‘ingratiating lyricism ... elegiac wistfulness and moving and affecting passion’ effectively banished monotony, and the ‘interest and attention of the listeners seem never to be worn down.’ Attention was drawn to the successful characterisation of different rôles in certain numbers, and the successful contrast between various parts of the work such as the ‘particularly sombre Overture’ and the ‘wonderfully beautiful’ first chorus, or the A minor aria of Judas with its eerie bass line set against the Larghetto aria of Marie.

Concerning the performance itself, the correspondent reported that of the soloists ‘we must highlight in particular Miss Bergauer [Bergauerová], who with a particularly spirited, heartfelt interpretation of Marie proved to be a true artist. The performance also obtained a particular brilliance through Mr Emminger who, having hardly returned from a long holiday, sang the smaller yet wonderfully beautiful part of Jesus ... [and] that of Joseph of Arimathea. This magnificent [opera] tenor today proved himself also to be a Classical singer. The same also applied to Mr Versing (Petras). Mr Strakatý sang the part of Philo and, instead of the ill Mr Kunz, also of Judas with a piety and love that in him we always find.’ Of the other rôles the ‘not very grateful’ and ‘in musical terms very difficult’ part of Joseph was honourably taken by the tenor Knopp. The minor parts of Nikodem (Mr Brava) and Kaiphas (Illner) ‘served the demands of the composer and of the public.’ The orchestra and choir were directed by ‘Messrs Fr. Škraup and Mayr, as director of the Žofín Academy’ which evidently provided a large contigent of performers. Overall, the ‘precision of the performance and the power of expression left little to be desired.’ Finally, the text commented that the effect of the performance in the Žofín Hall itself was ‘extremely favourable’, and that no-one was heard to express the opinion that the work should have been given in the Estates Theatre. This may have been an indirect reference to what the critic had previously asserted was the poor acoustic of the latter, or perhaps to its audience capacity.

Certain solo parts in the performance were given by different singers from those specified in the original Bohemia 22/3/1850 report. Thus, the part of Jesus was to have been sung by Reichel, Judas by Kunz, Joseph by Jarosch [Jaroš]. Strakatý was to have given only the part of Philo. No mention was made by the review of the artists Böhm, Byri [Byri-ová] and Müller [Müllerová] who were noted to be singing minor parts by the earlier source, or of the harpist Miss Claudius. These four have therefore been included in the programme list of participants.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (22/03/1850)
Bohemia (24/03/1850)
Prager Zeitung (26/03/1850)
Prager Zeitung (01/04/1850)
Bohemia (02/04/1850)
Prager Zeitung (03/04/1850)
Bohemia (04/04/1850)
Bohemia (07/04/1850)