Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Third annual Conservatory concert

Venue: Estates Theatre

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 13/04/1851 7pm

Season: Lent

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Prague Conservatory: participating institution, orch
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Overture to opera Fidelio, orch, op.72
NEUKIRCHNER, Václav : Fantasie on themes from Spohr's opera Jessonda, bn, orch
     • Richter, Karl : bsn
BRICCIALDI, Giulio : Concertino for flute and orchestra, fl, orch
     • Tragy, František : fl
DESSAUER, Josef : duet unspecified, from opera Paquita, 2vv, orch
     • Durasová, Johanna : v Molingrová, Anna : v
LUDWIG, Johann : Adagio and rondo for oboe and orchestra, ob, orch
     • Ludwig, Johann : ob
MOLIQUE, Bernhard : Fantasie for violin on themes from Auber's opera La muette de Portici, vl, orch
     • Bruckmann, Sigmund : vl

Part 2:

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Symphony, orch, nr.4, B-flat major, op.60


Advance information about this concert was published by Bohemia 11/4/1851. The text reported the date, time and venue of the event, listed the works to be performed and the participating soloists. The date, time and venue of the event was also specified in the Tagesanzeiger texts of Bohemia 11/4/1851 and 13/4/1851.

A review, signed ‘V.’, of this concert was published in the section Prager Theater of Bohemia 15/4/1851. This article is notable for its account of developing attitudes to Beethoven and his music in the city. The correspondent considered that the performance of this symphony, especially in the wake of an earlier recital when ‘one of his most difficult chamber compositions was played [op.59 no.2]’, demonstrated that local understanding of the composer was ‘no longer restricted to a small circle of musical experts.’ All such performances of his works should be played with a similar perfection and understanding, so that the listeners would then ‘be united in absolute admiration for the composer.’ Each of the movements was then briefly described, the ‘young orchestra and its magnificent conductor’ were praised, and a request was made for future repetitions of the work.

Concerning the solo works given in this concert, the Bohemia reviewer regretted that the acoustics of the Theatre were not suited to the occasion, particularly with respect to the bassoon, oboe and flute. However, the soloists showed themselves as virtuosi to be ‘worthy representatives of the institute’. A general observation was made about the bassoon, that orchestral parts for the instrument were sometimes substituted by viola players or trombonists, although its importance as a solo instrument was well demonstrated in solo works by composers such as Neukirchner and Braun, and in orchestral compositions by Meyerbeer and Berlioz. The performance by Richter of the Fantasie on themes from Jessonda left little to be desired with respect to the bassoonist’s technique and tone production, although the piece was noted to contain many difficulties. The flautist Tragy demonstrated great virtuosity and unusual stamina, but initially had to overcome problems with the tuning of the instrument. Johann Ludwig was said to have addressed the problem of concert- and salon- literature for the oboe being better represented in quantity than quality by performing and Adagio and Rondo of his own composition.
The work ‘reveals a productive talent and knowledge of this awkward instrument’, and the critic described specific passages challenging of technique. This concert was said to have marked Ludwig’s debut in this dual rôle.

The inclusion of a duet for soprano and alto from Dessauer’s opera Paquita, hitherto unperformed in Prague, evidently presented the correspondent with an opportunity to criticise contemporary policies and practice in the local Estates Theatre. This ‘interesting novelty’ praised for its ‘ingenious orchestration and piquant colouring in the new French style’ was admitted to be ‘difficult to perform outside of its operatic context’ because its content developed the characters of the two rôles. ‘Unfortunately, considering the present state of the Prague opera, a performance there soon of this opera is not to be recommended; not only in the interest of the composer himself, but also from the possibility of a good cast being able to be chosen ... in recent times it seems that an opera is only worthy of the repertoire here when is has become an antiquity of the third or fourth rank in all other theatres.’ The performance on this occasion was successful and the two singers were twice curtain-called. Finally, the Bohemia review described the ‘magnificent’ Fantasie by Molique as highly interesting as a composition and for its ingenious orchestration. The work was deemed to be a model for such potpourris, particularly in its coherence and naturally developing form and content. Brukmann’s [Bruckmann] performance was successful. ‘The concert opened with Beethoven’s E major Overture to Fidelio [the unambiguous title Fidelio and the noted key of the work shows that this was not one of the Leonore Overtures], and was very well attended.’

Summary of sources:

Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (11/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (11/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (13/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (15/04/1851)