Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Annual practical examinations for pupils of the Prague Organ School

Venue: Platýz

Event type: Examinations and didactic events

Date: 27/07/1850 9am

Season: Summer

Programme including:

General participants:
  • Prague Organ School: pupil(s) of institute, org, vv
SCHOLTY, Wenzel : Fugue on a Slavonic melody [über ein slawisches Subjekt], org
     • Scholty, Wenzel :
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Sonata for organ, org, nr.4, B-flat major, op.65
     • Bartosch, Johann : org
BACH, Johann Sebastian : unspecified 'great' fugue, [organ], C major
BACH, Johann Sebastian : unspecified 'great' fugue, [organ], B minor, [BWV544 ?]
     • Wohlrath, Josef : org
BACH, Johann Sebastian : Passacaglia and Fugue, org, C minor, BWV582
     • Rummel, František : org
ŠKROUP, František Jan : unidentified [Credo] for double chorus Apostolisches Glaubensbekanntniß, 8vv
STRADELLA, Alessandro : motet Lux perpetua lucebit sanctis tuis Domine, 6vv
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Psalm 100 Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt, solo vv, chorus
HANDEL, George Frideric : motet Et incarnatus est, 4vv chorus


An advance report, signed ‘V.’, of this event was published by Bohemia 21/7/1850. This began by noting that following the end of their summer courses ‘in the numerous music education institutes of our city are to be found public [performance] examinations and productions’. Those of the Organ School, to be given on Saturday 27th July in the Platteyßsaale [Platýz] were considered to be of particular interest to all friends of music. Details of some of the works to be performed were then related, the correspondent noting that among the many fugues to be performed by graduating pupils would be one by ‘Wenzel Schottis [in the subsequent review this became H.W. Scholty]’ on a Slavonic theme. Other organ works were listed, and the occasion was reported to conclude with four specified vocal items. These works are reproduced in the database programme record of the event in the order they are listed by the Bohemia 21/7/1850 correspondent.

Prager Zeitung 27/7/1850 also published information about the Organ School examinations of pupils in both years to take place on 27th July in the Platteis-Saale [Platýz] between 9am and 1pm. The source gave full details of the content of the examinations. First year pupils were tested in:
a) intervals;
b) three-note chords and their inversions;
c) four-note chords, their derivation and working of harmony;
d) suspensions and passing notes;
e) rules of figured-bass playing.
Second year pupils were tested in:
a) counterpoint;
b) chorales, ‘in which by way of an example some very old Bohemian chorales with organ accompaniment were sung’;
c) imitation and the theory of fugue;
d) recital of pupil’s individual composition exercises in preludes and fugues.
The last of these was noted to include a fugue on a Slavic melody composed by the pupil ‘W. Scholty’. Also F.F. Rummel would perform J.S. Bach’s ‘great Passacaglia’, and J. Wohlrath would give Bach’s ‘great Fugue in B minor’. J. Bartosch [Bartoš] was to play the first part of Mendelssohn’s fourth sonata for organ. Finally, the report noted that the following works would be performed with organ thorough-bass accompaniments:
‘1. Das apostolische Glaubensbekenntniß [credo] (four voice double chours) by F Skraup [Škroup].
2. Six-voice motet by Alessandro Stradella (from the 17th century) -(Lux perpetua lucebit sanctis tuis Domine).
3. Four-voice motet by F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Jauchzt dem Herrn alle Welt).
4. Four-voice chorus by G.F. Händl (Et incarnatus est, and Et resurrexit).’

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this event was published by Bohemia 30/7/1850. This extended text, under the heading of ‘Musik’, opened with a long commentary not about the production itself but concerning
Johann Sebastian Bach. The hundredth anniversary of the death of ‘the greatest of this great [Bach] family’ was noted to have taken place on 28th July. Interestingly, the focus of the subsequent appraisal lay rather more in emphasizing the composer’s dedication to his art than in outlining any stylistic, expressive or original characteristics of his creative musical language. Noting that he was generally considered to be the ‘German’ Bach, the correspondent related that the composer worked ‘unbowed of all the laboriousness with which the lives of productive German artists of the time tended to be burdened’. This, the ‘greatest German “Musikant” of the eighteenth century, worked for the greatness of his art as a lesser inconspicuous kantor in Leipzig’. He was thought to have plied his genius without regard to the vagaries of the market place, ‘in naïve self-sufficiency’ and free from the influence of larger or smaller courts. His art was therefore unique, being likened to the greatness and beauty of an original tree in a virgin forest, one that could only be sought in vain in ‘aristocratic, cultivated parkland’ [of many of his contemporaries].

The ‘highly interesting closing concert’ of the Organ School examinations was noted in the Bohemia review to be the only event in which the anniversary of Bach’s death had been marked in Prague. It was done so through the inclusion of ‘at least two organ works by the great master, ... in a very worthy performance by, unless I am mistaken, the institute’s pupil J. Wohlrath. The critic then related that during the past year he had already expounded upon the benefit of the School for native art and education; there was no further need to highlight or demonstrate the importance of the institute for music and education in the state and in villages throughout the country. The School’s success was considered to be guaranteed through its being managed by an individual of ‘such artistic talent and so scholarly distinction in education’ as was [Josef] Pitsch. In the examinations this was manifest in the command of theory demonstrated by pupils [specifically citing double counterpoint and chorales], and in performances of their own specially composed preludes and fugues. Of these performances the only individual to be identified was H.W. Scholty [probably Wenzel Schottis from the earlier Bohemia report]. Of organ works by established composers, the only pupil to be named was ‘H. Bartosch [actually Johann Bartosch]’ who played an Organ Sonata by Mendelssohn. The examinations were reported to conclude with an ‘apostolisches Glaubensbekanntniß’ for choir and solo quartet by F. Škraup [Škroup], a motet for six voices by Stradella ‘Lux perpetua lucebit’, Mendelssohn’s ‘Jauchzt dem Herrn alle Welt’, and Händl’s ‘Et incarnatus’. The review concluded by commenting upon the venue, remarking upon the desirability of a better room being provided for this ‘rare production’ of church organ and vocal music. A modest fee for admission had been levied by the parent Society for the Advancement of Church Music in Bohemia, thus bringing the programme to within reach ‘of the most impecunious part of the public.’ The number of attentive visitors was considered indicative of the success of the event and suggested that the Organ School would continue to go from strength to strength in subsequent years.

The ‘Apostolisches Glaubenbekanntniß’ by Škroup was identified by the two specified Bohemia reports as for double chorus and for chorus with solo quartet. No dedicated single work by this title can be identified among the composer’s known output. The identification of an ‘Et incarnatus’ and
‘Et resurrexit’ in Handel’s output is problematic; either the composer was mistakenly identified by the sources and and possibly confused with Haydn, or the work may have been a Chandos anthem [no.8] given to a Latin and not the original English text. The Organ School pupil Schottis of the earlier Bohemia text and Scholty of the later source and of the Prager Zeitung text were undoubtedly identical. Neither is reported in the list of Organ School pupils contained in J. Branberger, Das Konservatorium für Musik in Prag (Prague, 1911).

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (21/07/1850)
Prager Zeitung (27/07/1850)
Bohemia (30/07/1850)