Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Concert given by F. Smolař and T. Pixis

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Gardens)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 15/11/1850 4.30pm

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • ŠKROUP, František Jan: director of ensemble
MOZART, Wolfgang Amadeus : Overture to opera Die Zauberflöte, orch, K620
VIEUXTEMPS, Henri : unidentified Concerto for violin and orchestra, v, orch, A major
     • Pixis, Theodor : vl
THALBERG, Sigismond : Caprice on themes from Bellini's opera La sonnambula, pf, op.46
     • Smolař, František : pf
SCHUBERT, Franz Peter : song Die junge Nonne, v, pf, D828
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v Smolař, František : pf
PIXIS, Theodor : Variations on Cavatina of Elvira from Verdi's opera Ernani, vl, [? pf/orch]
     • Pixis, Theodor : vl

Part 2:

WEBER, Carl Maria von : Koncertstück for piano and orchestra, pf, orch, F-sharp minor, J282
     • Smolař, František : pf
PIXIS, Theodor : 2 Romances [Zwei Romanzen], vl, [? pf/orch]
     • Pixis, Theodor : vl Smolař, František : pf
SCHUMANN, Robert Alexander : song An den Sonnenschein no.4 of 6 songs, v, pf, op.36
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v Smolař, František : pf
SCHUMANN, Robert Alexander : song Frühlingsnacht no.12 of song collection Liederkreis, v, pf, op.39
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v Smolař, František : pf
VEIT, Wenzel Heinrich : song Ständchen no.2 from 6 songs [Sechs Gesänge], v, pf, op.21
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v Smolař, František : pf
VIEUXTEMPS, Henri : , KULLAK, Theodor : Duo concertante for violin and piano Ein Feldlager in Schlesien [Vielka], vl, pf
     • Pixis, Theodor : vl Smolař, František : pf


A report appeared in Bohemia 27/9/1850 that ‘the piano virtuoso Mr Smolař and the skilful violinist Mr Pixis, a pupil of Vieuxtemps, have just arrived in Prague’. Both were noted to be well-known to Prague audiences and would soon perform before the public. No further details were given by the text. Lumír 16/10/1851 had published news that the ‘Young and talented Czech pianist Mr Smolař, restored to health in Vienna after a difficult illness and will visit Prague in a few days, from where he will take himself off to London. In Prague he apparently intends to arrange a concert to benefit the national theatre.’ 

News that the two native virtuosi Smolař and Pixis were to give a concert on Friday [8th November] at 4.30pm was published in the Lokalzeitung section of Bohemia 5/11/1850. No venue was specified, but the text noted that a programme would be given in the following issue of the newspaper. Prager Zeitung 8/11/1850 also contained a report that on ‘Friday 8th November our talented native virtuosi Messrs Theodor Pixis and Franz Smolař organize a concert on Žofín Island, the programme of which promises to be of particular interest.’ The concert was not given on that day, but was postponed until 15th November. News of this postponement was published by Bohemia 14/11/1850, which listed in full detail the intended programme as well as noting the other participating artists. The Tagesanzeiger texts of this issue and also of Bohemia 15/11/1850 specified details of the date, venue and time of the event.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this concert was published by Bohemia 17/11/1850. This opened by remarking that the year [1846] of the graduation of the violin virtuosi Laub, Němec and Pixis from the Conservatory was ‘very glorious’ for that institute. The last of these three was then the subject of a substantial descriptive text, noting that Pixis had then immediately vanished from his native city and continued to educate himself before the public as a young virtuoso, partly in Paris and partly in other unspecified localities. He had developed into a virtuoso who was noted to concentrate on artistic content as much as on effect, on cultivating a great tone as much as the character of the instrument akin to that of a sympathetic ‘singer’, who resisted pure bravura, and for whom no technical difficulties lay in his way. He played in this concert the first movement of a ‘new Concerto in A major’ by Vieuxtemps. The critic then declined to comment on this composition without knowledge of the other movements, on the grounds that the ‘strangeness’ of the first movement’s form was such that without hearing the remainder of the work it could not be clearly appraised. However, Pixis’s performance was ‘magnificent’ and testified to the validity of the above description of his ability. Other works performed by him during the event were then listed, his ‘reception was very brilliant’ and the correspondent expressed pleasure at news that before departing for Cologne the violinist would appear again in public.

The remainder of the Bohemia review text named the works played by Smolař, which included the ‘well-known, highly poetic Concertstück by Weber with orchestra [in the earlier Bohemia text this had been listed simply as a ‘concerto’], the piano part in the ... Duo [with Pixis], and accompanied the other named pieces.’ About his playing the correspondent declined to comment in great detail, on the grounds that he had already done so in an article following Smolař’s appearance in a Theatre concert during the previous year. However, a definite ‘improvement’ was noted in that the pianist had not performed with a ‘common’ and exaggerated ‘Sturm und Drang’ virtuosity. He was many times [curtain-]called. Finally, the review concerned Mrs Cäcilie Botschon-Soukup[ová], who ‘delighted us with her wondrously beautiful soprano. ... Not only her magnificent singing but her choice of works deserved full recognition’, the artiste selecting pieces that were not the standard everyday fare of the ‘spiritless productions of Vienna’ or for their ‘day-celebrity [Tages-Celebritäten, meaning their transient fashionable popularity of the moment]’.

The Prager Zeitung 17/11/1850 review, signed ‘L-w.’, similarly praised the artists and most aspects of the occasion. Pixis exhibited an ‘exemplary accuracy in execution, a perfect technique, a superb beady staccato, a bell-like flageolet, a soft yet at the same time full tone, graceful bowing, and a noble poetic [interpretation of the works performed].’ His playing was noted to combine attributes of Molique in its ‘imposing calm and simple poise’ and of Vieuxtemps in its fervour. As a composer too Pixis ‘deserved the fullest attention’ Although his Fantasie on Ernani was recognized as primarily being an ostentatious display piece, the two Romances ‘have a true musical worth. The french grace and the profound ambience breathed by both these charming pieces guarantee them a true place in music literature.’ Smolař inspired the equal interest and approbation of both audience and the critic. Besides his ‘absolute technical perfection’ his playing exhibited ‘true artistic intent and youthful fire’. His trills were ‘superb’, his ‘surety and elasticity of touch’ was as evident in the most rapid left-hand octave passages as in the most simple song accompaniments. Only the tone colour of the piano was criticised, being deemed unsuitable in the Weber Koncertstück even though the performance itself was ‘excellent’. Both artists were delighted by the all-round warm applause, and the correspondent looked forward to their giving a further appearance. Mrs Botschon [Botschon-Soukupová] ‘delighted the public with her most pleasing performances of Lieder’. The [Estates] ‘Theatre orchestra willingly accompanied the concert-giver [koncertgeber - in the singular, so possibly on account of their accompanying Smolař in Weber’s work the pieces by Pixis may have been given with piano accompaniment],  and performed Mozart’s splendid Zauberflöte Overture with customary mastery.’ Finally, the review related that the Hall was ‘very full.’

The programme details of the database event record are given in performance order, according to the Bohemia 14/11/1850 text, with additional information gained from the subsequent Bohemia review.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (27/09/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (05/11/1850)
Prager Zeitung (08/11/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (14/11/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (14/11/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (15/11/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (17/11/1850)
Prager Zeitung (17/11/1850)
Lumír (16/10/1851)