Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Concert given by the Žofín Academy [on the occasion of the nameday of its patron Archduchess Sophie]

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Parent Event:
Musical entertainment given by Sodoma's Sextet

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 15/05/1850 5pm

Season: Summer

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Žofín Academy: participating institution, chorus
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra, orch
  • MAÝR, Jan Nepomuk: director of institute, conductor
MAYER, Wilhelm : unspecified Overture, orch
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : unspecified Lied ohne Worte, pf
     • Seeling, Jan : pf
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Andante and rondo capriccioso, pf, op.14
     • Seeling, Jan : pf
TOMÁŠEK, Václav Jan Křtitel : song Róže The Rose no.3 of song collection Starožitné písně Královédvorského rukopisu (Ancient songs from the Queen's Court manuscript), v, pf, op.82
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
TOMÁŠEK, Václav Jan Křtitel : song Modré oči Blue eyes no.6 of 6 Czech songs [Sechs böhmische Lieder], v, pf, op.71
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
HELLER, Josef August : chorus An die Hoffnung, chorus, orch

Part 2:

MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht, solo vv, chorus, orch, op.60
     • Bergauer, Louise : v Emminger, Josef : v Strakatý, Karel : v


Advance information about this event, given by the Žofín Academy to celebrate the nameday of its founder patron the Archduchess Sophie, was published by Bohemia 12/5/1850, and specified the concert date, venue, and listed the programme in order of projected performance including participating soloists.

A review of this concert, signed ‘V.’, appeared in Bohemia 17/5/1850. This text began by stating the complete approval of the correspondent for the ‘untiring endeavour’ of the Žofín Academy under its current directorship. In addition to giving its own events the Academy was noted to participate in ‘many festive occasions, in the oratorios of the Society of Musical Artists, [and] in church events, which cost no less trouble and effort’. In recent times it had performed such ‘great works as Spohr’s five-part Mass, Mendelssohn’s „Lauda Sion“ and the Stabat Mater by Dr Ambros, for the most part in very good performances.’ This May concert was considered to be similarly effective and successful. ‘The performance of Mendelssohn’s highly interesting, of extraordinary artistry, tonepoem
Die erste Walpurgisnacht was very brilliant, altogether matching the many [other] splendid performances [i.e. events] of the now ended Prague concert season. The participation of our [Estates] Theatre orchestra benefits the Žofín Academy’s concerts by no small amount, especially given that the choir was so numerous and it seemed well-practised, as was the case today. A particularly significant advantage of today’s production over the preceding performance of the work was that the solo parts were committed to experienced artists.’ Of the soloists, Mr Strakatý, who took the consistently high baritone part [the singer was himself a bass], was commended for the ‘enthusiasm and piety’ with which he performed the rôle according to the demands of the composer. Miss Bergauer and Mr Emminger were said to merit similar praise, even though their parts were ‘not so great and elaborate.’ Overall, the ‘beauties, or rather the beauty, of the splendid musical-interpretation of Goethe’s poem electrified the numerous audience, and Mr Mayr [Maýr] the conductor was at the conclusion [curtain-]called.’

Following the description of the performance of Mendelssohn’s cantata, the Bohemia critic described the remainder of the works in the programme. Mayer’s Overture comprised an Allegro preceded by an imposing Andante introduction. The former ‘contained much that was very interesting and with felicitous instrumental effects, and seems of its construction to be a self-contained work [i.e. a concert overture] in the modern sense of the word, just as the Allegro was marked with the form and countenance that belongs to a formal opera-introduction.’ No further judgement of the work would be ventured by the critic, on the basis that this was only a single hearing. However, this ‘first-born composition [evidently a very early piece by Mayer]’ was thought to be of importance, in no sense the product of ‘barren study’ but a work testifying to an ability that shows promise. Also perceived to be an early work, of which the correspondent ‘could only speak favourably’ was the setting of an extract from Tiedge’s Urania by Heller. This evinced ‘a great advance in the learning curve of the composer’, especially in the inherent instrumental colouring and rhythmic content. Attention was drawn to the way in which the affect of the introductory movement ‘with its sombre, all but eerie modulations’ depicting sceptical questioning of the existence of God, was dispelled by an active and direct E major melody and culminated in an ending of ‘imposing effect.’. The pianist Seeling ‘played two very grateful but also difficult piano compositions by Mendelssohn with genuine understanding of their content, and following the splendid Rondo capriccioso was [curtain-]called. Following a curious declamation of Uhland’s Ballade
Des Sängers Fluch by Mr H. Haase, Mrs Botschon-Soukup [Botschon-Soukupová] sang Tomaschek’s celebrated composition from the Queen’s Court Manuscript Bože [actually Róže - The rose] and then a second song Oči modré [Modré oči - Blue eyes]. Each strophe was greeted with exceptional applause’. The review concluded with the correspondent wishing the Žofín Academy continued success under its effective music director.

Although Seeling’s contribution to the event was titled in the Bohemia pre-concert listing as ‘Lied ohne Worte und Capriccioso’, the review makes clear that two separate pieces were given by him, the second of which was without doubt the Andante and Rondo capriccioso, op.14. The first work he performed was most likely, as suggested by the earlier Bohemia text, a Lied ohne Worte.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (12/05/1850)
Bohemia (17/05/1850)