Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

First concert given by Julius Schulhoff

Venue: Platýz

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 25/04/1850 5pm

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • SCHULHOFF, Julius: soloist, pf
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Allegro first movement of Sonata for pianoforte, pf, A minor, op.1
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Barcarolle no.3 of 3 Impromptus, pf, op.8
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Chanson à boire no.2 of 3 Impromptus, pf, op.8
SCHULHOFF, Julius : no.6 of Études Le trille, pf, op.13
ŠKROUP, František Jan : song Des Südlands Sänger, v, pf, op.41
     • Fehringer, ? : v
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Caprice on English and Irish folksongs Souvenir de la grande Bretagne, pf
SCHUBERT, Franz Peter : song Der Doppelganger no.13 from song collection Schwanengesang, v, pf, D957
     • Fehringer, ? : v
MOLIQUE, Bernhard : song Ermunterung, v, pf
     • Fehringer, ? : pf
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Nocturne, pf, nr.2, op.19
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Étude Le Tournoi, pf, op.12
SCHULHOFF, Julius : Caprice sur des airs bohémiens, pf, op.10
SCHULHOFF, Julius : [Fantasie] Carnaval de Venise, pf, op.22

Commentary:

Advance news appeared in Bohemia 23/4/1850 that Schulhoff had arrived in Prague two days earlier [on 21/4/1850]. The report related that news had been gained from the press in Vienna and Pest that despite the advancing season the celebrated virtuoso looked to offer to his home city a sample of his eminent artistry, and therefore that in the next few days he would give a public concert. Evidently his performance was rapidly organized, for details of the event, its date [25/4/1860], time, venue and complete programme appeared in the newspaper’s Tagesanzeiger text rather than in the section of local news, on 25/4/1850. The information from this listing forms the basis of the database programme record.

An extended article, signed ‘V.’, about Schulhoff’s visit to Prague and his first public concert was published by Bohemia 28/4/1850. The arrival of the European-renowned Czech virtuoso in his native city unsurprisingly attracted great interest; a large part of the article’s text described aspects of Schulhoff’s career, his education in Prague, and outlined characteristics of his playing. The correspondent began with a reminiscence of how thirty years previously in a benefit concert the programme had contained an item for the piano ‘performed by a dilettante. The public looked down their noses as a little boy [Schulhoff] stepped forward ...’. His performance however was accurate and effective and ‘many of the listeners predicted that the little pianist would have a very favourable future. Tomaschek [Tomášek], who evidently was present, undertook to educate the youngster, and so he gradually acquired his musical and artistic education under the older Czech master. His recognition for Tomášek was noted to have been recorded in French, English and Spanish newspapers. When he completed his studies Schulhoff, ‘after a brilliant production [concert] left not only his home-town but also the German lands, turning then and there to Paris and beginning his Artistic career in the great world-capital on the Seine.’ On returning to Prague for several months during the summer the entreaties of friendly critics to remain there proved fruitless, and Schulhoff then travelled to Vienna, Pressburg [Bratislava] and Pest, where enthusiatic expectations of his playing were ‘fulfilled with brilliant success.’ The article then turned to his education with the late Tomášek, from whom he learnt composition alongside ‘Wärfel, Boklet, Dessauer and Kittl’, and Alexander Dreyschock.
In terms of their respective artistic characters Dreyschock and Schulhoff were compared. Although they both shared the same teacher, as individual artists they were noted to be ‘divergent’. Both possessed a ‘thorough, sublime technique’ and a ‘totally distinctive striving for the goal of real artistry, in which virtuosity is merely a basic condition and overall means to an end.’ While the art of the former was imbued with ‘the brilliant manifestation of enthusiasm’, Schulhoff was noted more for his ‘charming poetry’, expressive and never over-passionate. These ‘two of the greatest representatives of modern art’ were thus very different and did not conflict, ‘neither standing in the way of the other.’

Concerning the performed programme, the Bohemia critic commented in most detail about the first number, the first movement of Schulhoff’s A minor Sonata, ‘an altogether individual opus 1.’ This work was found to contain few of the superficial effects characteristic of the ‘more common concert-compositions’ of the usual virtuosi, it was ‘not of the stereotypical, astonishing full-toned allusions to the singing of a tenor or alto with an underlying thundering bass, nor of violent - or as it is called “dramatic” - harmonic progressions.’ With its ‘fair’ formal construction, ‘flowing in calm, but full of charm, harmonic progressions, free, but lovely contrapuntal sonata’, Schulhoff’s work was ‘perhaps the opposite of what expects from a European celebrity virtuoso.’ Of the three following pieces, the ‘Barcarole, Chanson de boire and Les trilles’ were of ‘huge’ technical difficulty yet were performed without any degree of ostentation. The ‘highest technical accomplishment’ and the ‘marvellously ethereal impact’ of the poetic performance of these compositions highlighted the ‘charm of these little genre pieces’. Only the Souvenir de la grande Bretagne, the finale of which contained ‘a brilliant, effective arrangement of “God Save the Queen”, was thought to fall into the category of ‘modern salon compositions’. Following the performance of the Second Nocturne and the Étude Le tournoi Schulhoff was many times curtain-called. He then played the Caprice on Czech national songs, which was noted to include effective workings of ‘astonishing effect’ of the folksongs
Sil jsem proso’ and Utíkey Káčo [Utíkej, Káčo, utíkej]’. Again he was curtain-called and gave the familar ‘Karneval de Venedig.’ The overall success of the concert was ‘absolute’, and the correspondent expressed a wish that the next concert would include a work with orchestra [i.e. a concertante work].

Finally, the Bohemia review related Mrs Fehringer’s rôle in the concert, identifying the works she gave and commenting upon her performance. She ‘trod not with the usual jolly salon-nonchalance before the public. She accompanied her singing without accentuated gestures, and yet her deeply moving and spirited performance was gripping’. Superficial display, specifically ‘minute-long trills, runs and ornamentation’ were all missing. Schubert’s ‘deeply poetic’ setting of Heine was noted to lack all the trappings of a superficial, popular concert piece, and drew the attention of the reviewer for its ‘mysterious harmony, mostly of three-note chords in the accompaniment, either without a firm, determining 3rd, or in inversion.’ The effect was of a faltering, eerie character, in which the ‘excellent’ composer relayed the deepest intentions of the poet. Such a work was thought to be a risky choice to present to a concert-going public, and to be effectively performed ‘as was today the case’ could only be possible with a ‘consummate singer. Mrs Fehringer was stormily applauded.’

Bohemia 2/5/1850 published a note adding to its review of this first Schulhoff concert that his first teacher was Mr Risch.

The programme record is constructed from information obtained from the Bohemia 23/4/1850 report and from the subsequent Bohemia review. The latter confirms the order of performance suggested by the earlier text, as well as casting light on the identity of the songs given and of two of Schulhoff’s compositions previously insubstantially identified. Schulhoff composed two works entitled ‘Barcarolle’, the piece given in this concert was most likely the third of his 3 Impromptus, opus 8, and not the Barcarolle d’apres Rossini; he performed another of these Impromptus in the same concert. The arrangement of an Overture by Weber has not been identified. The last two listed works were given as encores, as noted by the Bohemia review.

This concert by Schulhoff was reported in Prager Zeitung 27/4/1850. The source article, itself dated 26th April, related that ‘Mr Schulhoff, who earned so great applause at his concert given yesterday, gives a second concert
next Monday in which he will offer us many excellent pieces.’ Further details of the event, it was noted, would be announced by placard.


Summary of sources:

Bohemia (23/04/1850)
Bohemia (25/04/1850)
Prager Zeitung (27/04/1850)
Bohemia (28/04/1850)
Bohemia (02/05/1850)