Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit academy [Akademie] given in aid of poor students of the Prague Technical School

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 15/12/1850 12noon

Season: Advent

Beneficiary: Poor students of the Prague Technical School

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating institution
MARSCHNER, Heinrich : Overture to opera Adoph von Nassau, orch
TAUWITZ, Eduard : chorus Heimkehr der Fischer, male vv
     • Reichel, Josef : v Kunz, Eduard : v Strakatý, Karel : v Emminger, Josef : v
BÉRIOT, Charles Auguste de : Concerto for violin and orchestra, vl, orch, nr.6, A major, op.70
     • Köckert, Adolph : vl
MEYER, Wilhelm Benjamin : ballade Der Traumkönig und sein Lieb, [v], orch
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
ABENHEIM, Johann : Concertino for oboe and orchestra, ob, orch
     • Müller, Celestin : ob
KRÁL, Jan : Melancholie [Fantasie] on Irish folksong The last rose of summer, viola d'amore, str qnt
     • Král, Jan : viola d'amore
DREYSCHOCK, Alexander : Song without words [Chanson sans paroles] Les Arpèges (Souvenir d'Amitie), pf, op.8
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
DREYSCHOCK, Alexander : piano piece Le Chant du combat, pf, op.84
     • Bezečný, ? : pf
HELLER, Josef August : song Ulehčení (Solace), 4 male vv
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
HELLER, Josef August : song Oči modré (Blue eyes), v, [pf]
     • Botschon-Soukupová, Cecilie : v
TAUWITZ, Eduard : unspecified chorus Toast, male vv
     • Reichel, Josef : v Kunz, Eduard : v Emminger, Josef : v Strakatý, Karel : v
SCHNEIDER, F. : Overture with finale on German student song Gaudeamus igitur, orch


Advance information about this concert was published by Prager Zeitung 14/12/1850 in news dated 13th December. The report related that on Sunday 15th would be given in the Hall on Žofín Island a concert for poor students of the Technical school. The ‘very interesting pieces’ of which the programme comprised were then listed in detail in performance order and the soloists identified.

Brief details of this event were published in the Tagesanzeiger text of Bohemia 15/12/1850, listing its date, time, venue and the charitable cause.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of the occasion was published by Bohemia 17/12/1850. This began by noting the good cause of the concert [the event was both termed a ‘musical academy’ and ‘concert’ during the course of the text], the participation of popular and competent artists, and a mostly interesting programme had led to a very large audience gathering in the Hall on Žofín Island. The correspondent was not uncritical of the content of the occasion. The ten numbers of the programme, most of which were substantial, ‘would alone not have been able to hold the attention of the audience for over two hours had there not been such interest in the virtuosi.’ Comments were then made about the participating soloists. Köckert’s performance of the sixth concerto by Bériot was reported to have gained ‘the same magnificent and justified applause’ as did the ‘brilliant’ oboist Müller’s playing of a concertino by Luft [see below]. Král, who ‘had set himself a difficult but grateful task’ in becoming a proponent of the poetic viola d’amore, was similarly received in playing his own composition, a fantasie on the Irish folksong ‘Die letzte Rose’ [certainly The last rose of summer]. Reichel, Emminger, Kunz and Strakatý successfully performed two vocal quartets ‘of the excellent composer in this sphere, the well-known Kapellmeister of our [Estates] Theatre, Ed. Tauwitz.’ Mr Bezečný, appearing for the first time as ‘pupil of Dreyschock’, played two compositions by his master, the familiar and popular Souvenir d’amitie and a novelty with the title Schlachtgesang. This young pianist achieved a greater effect with the first number, since he seems more proficient in delicacy than in the burly and heroic element, although he showed himself in the octave passages [of the latter] to be an able virtuoso’.

Following these brief descriptions the review text then focussed on the fourth number of the programme, which was considered to be of especial interest, particularly on account of its composer having had a favourable debut during the previous year with his Overture. That he had been greatly inspired by ‘Geibel’s outlandish ballade „Der Traumkönig und sein Lieb“’ and had been determined to create a serious setting of the work was deemed to be proven by his emploment of a full orchestra. The score was noted to comprise ‘three-part divided violins and violoncellos, first and second violas, four horns, three timpani and obbligato harp’.  Such resources might seem ‘pretentious in view of the short length of the piece’, but could be excused partly on account of its poetic content and partly as a concession to the composer’s ‘real talent’. As an orchestrator, Meyer was identified as a member of the ‘modern romantic school ... surprising us with his happy mixture of colours, as would be the case with a master. The peculiar use of the wind, especially of the A-clarinet in its deepest register, of chromatic figures in sextuplets in the string while the romantic brass provide the harmony, fits surprisingly [effectively] with the words:

‘Glühwürmchen leuchten und flimmern,
es rauschen die Blätter, es klingt die Luft
von leisen melodischen Stimmen.’

Other such ‘ingenious and poetic effects’ were said to be ‘plentiful’. However, the composer was warned to beware of too much ‘bold experimentation’ in this area. A chromatic sequence of second inversion chords in the brass at the words ‘Traumkönig kommt gezogen’ could only be effective when performed by ‘such competent artists as our Pisařowitz, Müller and Bauer, yet such artists are not available in every orchestra.’ In summary, the critic felt that the poem was too problematic for an effective setting in the medium chosen by Meyer. The resultant strong emphasis on tone-painting was thought to detract from effective writing for the voice, the instruments needing to support the voice part yet simultaneously detracting from it. A compositional approach in this direction that adopts ‘Mendelssohn’s and Berlioz’s interpretation of fantasy and the fairy-like seems almost impossible ... in Traumkönig’. A choral setting would have been better suited to the text. Following this work Mrs Botschon-Soukup [Soukupová] gave a ‘very appealing song by Heller’ and as an encore the same composer’s Oči modré. She was rewarded with ‘agreeable applause.’ The concert opened with Marschner’s ingenious and delicately orchestrated overture from the opera Adolph von Nassau, and concluded with ‘a masterfully composed overture by Dr Friedrich Schneider in which the student song ‘Gaudeamus igitur’ provided an imposing finale.

The programme is reproduced here in details and the numbered order contained in the
Prager Zeitung 14/12/1850 report, which most likely represents the projected order of performance. This was the only source to fully identify all of the compositions performed as well as their composers. The Concertino for oboe and orchestra performed by Müller was identified somewhat vaguely by the Bohemia review as ‘ein Koncertino von Luft’. The Prager Zeitung text described the work more fully as ‘Concertino für die Oboe, von Joh. Abenheim’, and this is reproduced in the databse record. Several of the works included in the newspaper’s programme listing were given the attached note ‘neu’, indicating their first performance in Prague. Dreyschock’s Schlachtgesang was noted as being played from manuscript.

The orchestra, although not specifically identified by any of the sources, was certainly that of the Estates Theatre given the noted presence of its member wind players Pisařowitz, Müller and Bauer, and that the ensemble regularly participated in the substantial benefit concerts for technical school students. Conducting would have been either František Škroup or Tauwitz, then the Theatre’s second Kapellmeister and frequent director of its concert performances.

Summary of sources:

Prager Zeitung (14/12/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (15/12/1850)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (17/12/1850)