Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit concert in aid of poor students of the three Prague Gymnasia

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 11/04/1850 5pm

Beneficiary: Poor students of Prague Gymnasia

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • TAUWITZ, Eduard: director of ensemble, conductor
BENNETT, William Sterndale : Concert overture The Naiads, orch, op.15
VERDI, Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco : aria Ernani! Ernani involami from act 1 of opera Ernani, v, orch
     • Byri, ? : v
KÖHLER, ? : chorus Sláva Čechům (Glory to the Czechs), [male vv]
VIEUXTEMPS, Henri : Adagio and rondo from unspecified Concerto, vl, orch
     • Köckert, Adolph : vl
DONIZETTI, Gaetano : aria unspecified, from opera L'elisir d'amore, v, orch
     • Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf, ? : v

Part 2:

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Overture from incidental music to Goethe's play Egmont, orch, op.84
KITTL, Jan Bedřich : Impromptu Le zephir no.6 of 6 Impromptus, pf, op.18
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
KULLAK, Theodor : Pièce de salon La danse de Sylphides (Elfenreigen), pf, E-flat major, op.5
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
WILLMERS, Rudolf : La pompa di festa no.1 of Études de concert, pf, op.28
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
SCHULHOFF, Julius : [Fantasie] Carnaval de Venise, pf, op.22
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
VOGL, František Arnold : song Mein Herz und deine Stimme, v, pf
     • Vogl, František Arnold : v
MARSCHNER, Heinrich : song Er liebt und reitet fort no.2 of 3 songs [Drei Gesänge], v, pf, op.116
     • Vogl, František Arnold : v
SKUHERSKÝ, František Zdeněk : chorus Kytky vlastenkám (Patriotic posies), vv
UNSPECIFIED, ? : unspecified song, v, [pf?]
     • Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf, ? : v


Advance news about this charitable event was published by Bohemia 29/3/1850. The newspaper’s report noted that ‘On 11th April takes place the concert for the benefit of poor students of the two higher classes in the three Prague Gymnasia.’ The text related that since these concerts in aid of students had been established they had always enjoyed large audiences. However, the concerts had not taken place during the previous two years, due to a change [unspecified] in the student curriculum. The forthcoming event was therefore anticipated to be very successful, not only on account of the good cause but also due to the participation of Mrs Küchenmeister[-Rudersdorf] who would, noted the report, be appearing in public in Prague for the last time. This last assertion proved to be inaccurate, Küchenmeister did not immediately leave Prague, continuing to appear regularly in the Estates Theatre.

Information about this concert, including the date, time, venue, and information about the programme and participating soloists, was published by Bohemia 9/4/1850. However, this programme listing was incomplete in certain details, specifically failing to identify the solo songs or the piano works played by Bezečný. The date, time and venue of the event were listed in the Tagesanzeiger texts of Bohemia 9/4/1850 and 11/4/1850.

A detailed and focussed review, signed ‘V.’,
which unusually for the newspaper’s correspondent eschewed any secondary commentary on aesthetics or parallel issues, was published by Bohemia 14/4/1750. The text immediately opened with the first item of the concert: ‘Sterndale-Bennett’s Overture „Die Najaden“, as poetically conceived as it is cleverly orchestrated, made up the first of ten numbers of the assembled programme. This fairly long yet interesting composition, although already known from previous years, certainly made a welcome appearance for all music-friends. It is peculiar that never have our many pianists chosen [to play] the beautiful concert- and salon-works of Sterndale Bennett for the piano, works that after all stand far above the painful [mühsamen - lit. arduous, painful, laborious] Fantasies, Studies and Transcriptions by Döhler and Willmers. Only Mr Deutsch for several years played the splendid F-minor Concerto with particular success. For a second overture we were given Beethoven’s from Egmont. Both orchestral works were precisely performed, only the [poor] acoustic caused a lessening of effect, due to the presence of stage apperatus for Monday’s great benefit performance [on 15/4/1850]. The conductor was Mr Tauwitz.

Of solo-instrumental pieces, Mr Köckert performed the Introduction and Rondo from the great Vieuxtemps Concerto with accompaniment of orchestra, and through his virtuoso playing received loud applause and curtain-calls. Mr Bezečný, who has already won the favour of the concert-going public through repeated performances, played on a piano particularly resonant in the high register Kittl’s „Zephyr“, Kulak’s [Kullak] „Elfenreigen“ and Willmers’s „Pompa di festa“. The first two of these compositions particularly confirmed the tender touch and handsome technique of the young pianist. At the end he added Schulhoff’s „Karneval von Venedig“ [Carnaval di Venise].

Song [compositions] were also richly represented in the concert. Miss Byri sang with orchestral accompaniment the aria of Elvira from Verdi’s „Hernani“ [Ernani], already heard many times before, and Mrs Küchmeister-Rudersdorf the aria from „Elisir d’amore“ ... [associated with the Italian singer] Tadolini and made widely popular through Bériot’s Waltz [arrangement] „Ah quel contento“. That the singer excelled in her technical mastery in this composition speaks for itself. Two choruses [partsongs] were also given, „Sláwa Čechům“ by Köhler and „Kytky vlastenkám“ by Skuherský. Both pleased, the last [i.e. Skuherský’s] seemed not suited to performance as a solo quartet, for a large number of voices would certainly achieve a much better effect. Mr Vogl sang with piano accompaniment a composition of his own „Mein Herz und deine Stimme“ and Marschner’s „Er liebt und reitet fort“. He was also [curtain-]called.’

The critic concluded by noting that he could not comment upon the final item in the programme, a song performance by Mrs Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf. This was due to the unusual duration of the concert causing the event to ‘collide with the Theatre time, and today Škraup’s [Škroup] new Czech opera [Libušin sňatek] is being given.’ The Žofín Hall was noted to have been full.

The programme is reproduced in the database record in performance order, as specified by the earlier Bohemia 9/4/1850 listing, with further information collated from the newspaper’s 14/4/1850 review. Although the review referred to the programme containing 10 numbers, this evidently related to the whole performances of the specific individuals or ensembles. Thus Bezečný, originally identified to be performing three piano pieces and actually giving four (the last of which being an éncore), counted as one element in the whole programme. Of the vocal-ensemble pieces performed, these were evidently partsongs and not choruses, as indicated by the detail of the review text. Unfortunately, no mention is made by any source of the individual singers in these quartets. Finally, none of the sources named the participating orchestra. This was almost certainly that of the Estates Theatre, given that the conductor was Tauwitz, second Kapellmeister of the Theatre. Except for the Overture Egmont, which began the second half, all of the works with orchestra, and identified as such by the Bohemia review, were performed during the first half of the concert. This would have given time for orchestra members to leave the Žofín venue and make their way to the Theatre for the performance of Škroup’s opera.

In connection with this concert Prager Zeitung 19/4/1850 published only a notice posted by the Committee for the Support of Poor Students of the two higher classes of the Gymnasia. This publicly thanked the benefactors and sponsors of the concert for their generosity and for participating in the evening. Singled out for particular thanks were Tauwitz for directing the concert; Mrs Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf and Miss Byri, and Messrs Vogl, Köckert and Bezečny ‘for their good-hearted participation’; Mr W. Nowotný [V. Novotný] for arranging the Hall and Mr Fischer for the pianoforte; Messers Hennig, J. Spurný and Vítek for delivering the printed music; Mr W. Rost for other material. The notice was undersigned by Dr Wilhelm Volkmann, followed by the names of other members of the committee. A further notice from the committee was published by Prager Zeitung 11/5/1850 stating that the concert made a profit of 1138fl 1kr, and that 50fl had been donated by the Empress Maria Anna.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (29/03/1850)
Bohemia (09/04/1850)
Bohemia (09/04/1850)
Bohemia (11/04/1850)
Bohemia (14/04/1850)
Prager Zeitung (19/04/1850)
Prager Zeitung (11/05/1850)