Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit Academy [Akademie] given in aid of students of the two higher Gymnasium classes

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 26/03/1851 5pm

Season: Lent

Beneficiary: Poor students of Prague Gymnasia

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • Estates Theatre chorus: participating ensemble, chorus
SPONTINI, Gasparo : Overture to opera Fernand Cortez, orch
SPEIER, Wilhelm : song [Lied] Der Trompeter, v, pf, op.31
     • Kunz, Eduard : v
VIEUXTEMPS, Henri : Fantasie caprice, vl, orch / pf, op.11
     • Hoffmannová z Wendheimu, Gabriela : vl
MAYER, Wilhelm : chorus Schlachtgesang, male vv, orch

Part 2:

MEYERBEER, Giacomo : Overture to incidental music Struensee, orch
BRADSKÝ, Theodor Václav : song Žalost (Despair), v, pf
     • Wagner, Franziska : v
Czech folksong To je můj hošíček (That is my little boy), v
CHOPIN, Fryderyck Franciszek : Andante Marche funèbre 3rd movement of Sonata for pianoforte, pf, B minor, op.35
     • Citerak, A. : pf
DREYSCHOCK, Alexander : Romance L'Absence, pf, D major, op.17
     • Citerak, A. : pf
UNSPECIFIED, ? : unspecified chorus Na vlast, male vv
     • Žofín Academy: male vv


Details of this benefit academy [Akademie] in aid of the poor students of the higher Gymnasium classes were published in the Lokalzeitung section of Bohemia 25/3/1851. This reported the date and venue of the event, the works to be performed and the participants. The date, time and venue was also noted by the Tagesanzeiger text of Bohemia 25/3/1851.

Lumír 20/3/1851 noted that a ‘concert to benefit poor gymnasium students [k prospěchu chudých gymnasistů]’ would take place on 26th March on Žofín Island. A review, signed ‘L.R.’ and describing the event as an ‘Academy to benefit needy students of the higher Gymnasia classes’ was published in the issue dated 3/4/1851. The programme was described in performance order, with each composition accorded a brief description or critical summary. Opening the event, the energetic Overture by Spontini ... in terms of its heroic fire has hardly any other rival.’ After complaining about premature applause by the audience at the end of the piece, the critic remarked that he could not recall hearing the work performed ‘as Spontini actually wrote ... with natural trumpets, or properly bugles, and not with today’s mechanical trumpets [s dnešními mašinovými troubami] which of course are more suited to varied passages but clearly do not possess the clear military character [of the former].’ The second number of the programme was to have been a four-voice partsong, but owing to the illness of Mr Reichel, Mr Kunz instead sang ‘a German song about some trumpeter, who apparently “als gings mit Vater Blücher nach Paris hinein’, and it appealed. The following number was very interesting: Fantaisie-caprice for violin with orchestral accompaniment performed by Miss Hoffmannová, pupil of Professor Němec.’ The ‘ingenuity of the composition, the delicacy and tenderness of the excellent playing’ was noted, although it was to be wished that the violinist had possessed a ‘little greater tone’. ‘After that came the male-voice chorus Zpěv do bitvy [
Schlachtgesang - given a Czech title in Lumír although there is no indication by the reviewer that the work was given in Czech] with accompanying orchestra, poem by E. Geibl, music by V.B. Mayer, and given by members of the Žofín Academy. A little wild composition, it achieves sufficient effect through the noisy use of enough instrumental resources. It seems that we can expect much from this Prague composer.’ The correspondent related with eager anticipation that Mayer was apparently engaged in setting Mácha’s poem Maj.

Continuing with a description of works performed in the second half of the event, the Lumír critic noted this opened with the ‘masterly Overture by Mayerbeer [Meyerbeer] Struensee, a very poetic, expressive and highly dramatic work. The orchestra played ... accurately. There followed “Žalost”, a Czech song by V. Hálek set to music by V. Bradský and very praiseworthily sung by Miss Vagnerová, this was appreciated so much for both the successful composition and for the performance, that the singer following stormy applause added a second [song] To je můj hošíček, and then had to repeat this after three curtain-calls. The closing pieces, the Marche funebre by Chopin and L’absence by Alexander Dreyschock that were played on the fortepiano by Mr A.E. Citerák, pupil of Dreyschock, and then the male-voice chorus Na vlast sung by members of the Žofín Academy were also commendably received. As a whole this concert was certainly very interesting.’ Finally, the critic entreated the organizers of similar entertainments that when they included spoken declamations into their programmes, that they look to works in the Czech language, ‘which in recent times have seldom been cultivated’.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this event was published by Bohemia 28/3/1851. The correspondent remarked that the programme of 2 overtures. 2 concerti [actually concertante works], 2 songs and 2 choruses given for this numerously attended academy [Akademie] was in keeping with the ‘noble and humane purpose’ of the occasion. The two overtures were ‘a very happy choice’; their performance barring two small [and unspecified] oversights, was ‘very good. The second in particular gained a very warm reception. Instead of the advertised vocal quartet, Mr Kunz sang the “Trompeter” by Speier with his usual happy success. Miss Wagner, currently singing two
Czech rôles and one German one in the [Estates] Theatre, was [curtain-]called after her performance of a Lied by Bradský, and then repeated her encore of a Czech folksong.’ Of Miss Hoffmann’s playing of the Fantasie-caprice by Vieuxtemps the correspondent remarked that even the most severe critic could only applaud her performance, ‘excellent’ for her ‘tender age’ The only aspect of the concert that a received negative appraisal by the Bohemia reviewer was the performance by Citerák. The second movement of Chopin’s B minor Sonata was rendered ‘with well-calculated nuance ... but unless I am deluded, was too slow.’ Moreover, his playing was ‘to some extent compromised by exaggerated display, although he was [curtain-]called.’

The review remarked that Mayer’s setting of Geibel’s Schlachtgesang was ‘a very effective composition ... and in the use of substantial instrumental and vocal resources achieved a magnificent effect.’ Although Mayer was warned of the influence of Mendelssohn’s ‘fairy and dream ... tone painting’ in the section ‘Meerkönigs’ the work impressed through its dramatic colour and ‘was greatly applauded.’ Finally, the text noted that the occasion concluded with members of the Žofín Academy singing the male-voice chorus Na vlast.

Changes were made to the original programme reported by Bohemia 25/3/1851. Details of these changes were outlined in the review text as noted above. These have been incorporated into the database event record, with the order of the works that were performed maintained from the earlier Bohemia text. Thus the work given in second place was not an unspecified quartet for male voices but the song by Speier. The appearance of members of the Žofín Academy and the performance of the unidentified chorus Na vlast were not mentioned by Bohemia 25/3/1851.

Summary of sources:

Lumír (20/03/1851)
Bohemia (25/03/1851)
Bohemia (25/03/1851)
Bohemia (28/03/1851)
Lumír (03/04/1851)