Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

First annual Conservatory concert

Venue: Konvikt

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 12/03/1854 12noon

Season: Lent

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Prague Conservatory: participating institution
LUDWIG, Johann : Concert Overture, orch, D minor
SMITA, Václav Bedřich : Divertissement for trombone and orchestra, trbn, orch
     • Hrabánek, Josef : tbn
ROSSINI, Gioachino Antonio : duet In van tu fingi ingrata from opera Ricciardo e Zoraide, v, orch
     • Ehrenbergů, Eleonora z : v Lindnerová, Mathilda : v
KUMMER, Friedrich August : unspecified Concerto for violoncello and orchestra, vc, orch
     • Schulz, Eduard : vc

Part 2:

ABERT, Jan Josef : Symphony, orch, nr.2, C minor


Der Tagesbote 28/2/1854 reported that the Prague Conservatory would give three concerts during the Lent season, on 12th and 26th March in the Konvikt Hall and on 9th April in the Estates Theatre. On 8th March the newspaper published further information about the event, specifying its date, time and venue and listing the programme in projected performance order.

On 11/3/1854 Bohemia published a public notice announcing this concert. The source noted: ‘Sunday 12th March 12 noon takes place in the Konvikt Hall the first [annual] Concert of the Conservatorium. The programme is as follows: First part. 1. Concert-Ouverture (in D minor) of J. Ludwig, member of the Royal Court Ensemble in Munich, graduated from the Conservatory on August 1854 (new). 2. Divertissement for the trombone by Smita, performed by Joseph Hrabanek (admitted [to the Conservatory] in 1849). 3. Duet from the opera Zoraide (In van tu fingi ingrata) by Rossini, sung by the Opera School pupils Eleonore Countess von Ehrenberg (admitted in 1852) and Mathilde Lindner (admitted in 1851). 4. Concertino for the violoncello by Kummer, performed by Ed. Schulz (admitted in 1849). Second part. Symphonie (nr. 2 in C minor) by J.J. Abert, member of the Royal Court Ensemble in Stuttgart, graduated from the Conservatory in August 1852 (new).’

The Czech-language Lumír 9/3/1854 reported that ‘On Sunday 12th March will be at about 12noon in the Konvikt the first concert of the local Conservatory of Music personally conducted by the celebrated Director Mr J. Bedřich Kittl. The programme promises us in the first part: Concert Overture in D minor by J. Ludvig, member of the Royal Court Orchestra in Munich; Divertissement for trombone [‘pazoun’] (performing will be pupil Josef Hrabánek, accepted into the Conservatory in 1849); Duet: „In van tu fingi ingrata“ by Rossini (singing will be pupils Eleonora Baroness z Ehrenberga and Mathilda Linderová), the Concertino for violoncello by Kummer (performing will be Eduard Schulz, accepted into the institute as a pupil in 1849). The second part will be the interesting great Symphonie in C minor by J.J. Abert, member of the Court Orchestra in Stuttgart. Composers Ludvig and Abert are former pupils of our Conservatory, from which they graduated only in 1852.’ Lumír 16/3/1854 published a brief review of the event, reporting the ‘First concert of the Conservatory gathered and satisfied a great number of listeners. The Concert Overture by Ludvig is a solid and meretricious composition [solidní a umělá - umělá can be translated not only as meretricious but also as artificial, imitative, synthetic, possibly a subtle indication by the critic of the real character of the work], rich in effects although not always original in melody. The performance was delicate throughout. The pieces with soloists: Smit’s Divertissement for trombone, was performed smoothly and accurately by Mr Hrabánek, the same goes for Kummer’s Concerto performed by Mr Schulz but with a power that was reminiscent of more excellent violoncellists and hardly like a student examination. The singers Miss Lindnerová and Baroness Ehrenbergová demonstrated their good schooling with the fluency of their performance of a duet from Rossini’s opera „Zoraide“, although with respect to the the education of good singers the excellency of
their voices did not surpass that of the instrumentalists. The closing number, the (second) symphony by the former Conservatory pupil Abert, testified to the indisputable strides which the young composer has made from his first, by all acounts well-respected symphony.’

A review, signed ‘J.H.’ was published by Der Tagesbote 14/3/1854. The correspondent began by describing the two purely orchestral works that ‘both demonstrated competent development and handling of their material, yet only Abert has a completely sure and exceptional vocation for composition. However, the work by Ludwig was not lacking in effect owing to its fiery performance, yet we [noted] certain dangerous reminiscences in the opening bars and thereafter in the rhythmic character of the second theme which ... lacks the desired calming effect and expansiveness.’ Of the piece by ‘the highly talented Abert ... However interesting, even excellent, as this second symphony might be called, we nevertheless cannot place it at the same level as the preceding one, neither in its individual movements nor as a whole. Yet it deserves to become known in the highest circles. In our view the introduction and the first movement (Allegro, C minor) were most pleasing, so that we followed the very successful performance of this number with the highest interest. If we are permitted to make one remark, it would be only that the development section (prior to flowing into the... [recapitulation]), could be shortened a little, through which the whole movement would be more concise and rounded and through which some insignificant sequences could be eliminated.’ The critic was least impressed with the B-flat major Scherzo, ‘although one cannot deny its piquant originality and instrumental effects. Its Trio (E-flat major) was felt not to be in keeping with the character of the rest of the symphony. ‘The third movement (Adagio in A-flat major) distinguishes itself among other things through its noble melody and the masterful handling of the musical figure that flows through almost the whole of the movement.The last movement (Presto, C minor), did not provide the elevated conclusion we expected following the preceding first and third movements. Yet it is so full of fire and of lfe, so rich in counterpoint and instrumental effects that it cannot fail to create an impact with ease and to obtain applause [when given] in such an excellent performance. Undoubtedly the second theme (which is executed in the major key towards the uproarious ending), would have benefited from greater originality with respect to its melody. All the movements of the symphony were rewarded with great applause, especially the first and the last.

The remainder of the review text covered the solo works given in the concert programme. Of the three pieces, the Divertissement for trombone, a duet from Zoraide and a Concertino by Kummer [the earlier report by the periodical described this as a concerto], the critic remarked that
‘we are truly quite embarassed to comment upon these numbers as we have nothing to praise, but at the same time [we do not have] the right to reproach the pupils who for sure are diligent and perhaps also not without talent.’ After noting that they were appearing in the context of an examination production constituting an introduction to Prague concert life, the correspondent briefly commented upon their individual performances and their apparent abilities, concluding that even the accomplished virtuosi would have struggled to present such works of ‘triviality and tediousness’ as were given on this occasion. The hall was noted to have been full.

Summary of sources:

Tagesbote aus Böhmen (28/02/1854)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (08/03/1854)
Lumír (09/03/1854)
Bohemia (11/03/1854)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (14/03/1854)
Lumír (16/03/1854)