Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

First annual quartet entertainment [kvartettní zábava / Quartettsoirée]

Venue: Konvikt

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 11/11/1854 4.30pm

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • KÖNIGSLÖW, Otto von: soloist, vl I
  • WEBER, Jan: soloist, vl II
  • PAULUS, Alfred: soloist, va
  • GOLTERMANN, Julius: soloist, vc
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : String Quartet, 2vl, va, vc, nr.4, E minor, op.44/2
SCHUMANN, Robert Alexander : String Quartet, 2vl, va, vc, nr.1, A minor, op.41/1
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : String Quartet, 2vl, va, vc, nr.2, G major, op.18/2

Commentary:

Lumír 2/11/1854 reported that quartet entertainments were soon to be given in which would be participating the ‘young virtuoso from north Germany Mr Otto von Königslöw’ with Messrs Goltermann, Weber and Paulus. The report also noted that the first of these entertainments would perhaps take place during the next week.

Mercy’s Anzeiger
29/10/1854 first published news of the forthcoming annual series of chamber music performances, remarking that the November series founded by the memorable Professor and orchestra director Pixis would this year be particularly interesting through the participation of the renowned violin virtuoso Mr Otto von Königslöw from Copenhagen who it was noted was passing through Prague. On 9/11/1854 the newspaper announced ‘We hereby bring to the attention of Friends of Art that the first of the Quartet Soirées arranged by Messrs O. von Könislöw, A. Paulus, J. Weber and Prof. J Goltermann, is scheduled for Saturday (11th November at 4.30pm in the Konvikt Hall). The programme contains the following extraordinarily interesting numbers: 1. Quartet by F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Op.44 Nr.2 in E minor). 2. Quartet by Rob. Schumann (Op.41 Nr.1 A minor), 3. Quartet by L. van Beethoven (Op.18 Nr.2 G major). We do not doubt that a refined and numerous audience will attend this evening.’

Der Tagesbote
9/11/1854 published an unsigned report remarking that ‘Friends of classical Concert Music’ who had been dismayed at the recent departure of Mr Laub, would be pleased to hear that during this concert season the violin virtuoso Otto von Königslöw in company with Messrs Paulus, Weber and Professor Goltermann were to arrange some ‘Quartet Soirées [Quartett-Soiréen].’ The first takes place the day after tomorrow, at 4.30pm in the Konvikt Hall. The programme was listed.

Mercy’s Anzeiger 12/11/1854 published a review, signed ‘Z.’, of this concert. The correspondent related ‘Yesterday took place in the Konvikt Hall the first Quartet-Soirée by Messrs v. Königslöw, Weber, Paulus and Goltermann. The evening began in worthy fashion with Mendelssohn’s lovely [lieblich] E minor Quartet. op.44. Following was a composition by R. Schumann op.41 never before heard here [in Prague]. This work shows in all its parts the formidable inspiration of the ingenious tone poet, the first movement with the deeply imaginative introduction, then an Allegro with spirited development of the main motif; the original fantastic Scherzo with the thunderous triplet figurations and the airy Trio, the Adagio full of poetry and tenderness, ending with the magnificent, spirited closing movement with the interesting coda animating to a high level the enraptured listener. Following the prolonged applause the Finale on general demand was repeated. Beethoven’s Quartet in G major op.18 Nr.2 closed the production, a composition in which the great master clings to a timeless model yet at the same time in many magnificent moments foreshadows the swing of his collosal spirit. The artistry, with which our worthy guest of this society [i.e. Königslöw] with his other gentlemen colleagues [Weber, Paulus etc.] brought to this composition, was splendid. His calmness, collection, the great tone, the brilliant playing, the reasoned performance of an Artist; a harmonisation of sterling leadership with the other partners, and the result was brilliant. We look forward to the next evening with heightened interest. The attendance was select and numerous.’    

An unsigned review of this first Soirée appeared in Der Tagesbote 13/11/1854. The source reported that the event ‘was for these artists very dignified [ehrenvoller]’, but that owing to the limited space available in a monday newspaper a review would be published on the following day. The ensuing review, signed ‘J.H.’, was more critical of the programme than of the actual performances, remarking that the ‘The technical execution, as well as the interaction between the artists deserved almost without restraint the greatest praise. But the critic must confess that only the third quartet offered [as a composition] complete, unalloyed genius.’ Mendelssohn’s Quartet was not thought to be ‘equal to the best chamber works of the master, although still rich in beauty’. The first and last movements and the Andante were judged to have been taken too quickly; the latter was begun at too fast a pace, although this was corrected after a few bars. Mendelssohn’s contrapuntal passages particularly tested the performers, drawing in particular from the first violin a certain ‘snatching and scraping’. Of Schumann’s Quartet the second, third and fourth movements were successful in terms of their reception, with the artists repeatedly applauded and the Finale ‘even having to be encored. The critic hopes and believes in the interests of good taste that the lion’s share of this applause applied to the excellence of the performance and not to the composition.’ The work was criticized for the ‘incomprehensibility ... of the countless syncopations and unequal rythmns of the quite indigestible tone poetry of Schumann. To be sure, the Andante has a certain nobility, the last movement an imposing theme, and the close in A major is grateful. Yet the drought of the first movement is so tormenting, the strangeness of the Andante is pronounced, and the impression that the composer through outrageous and unexpected changes of direction (more rightly said: Salti mortale) in the last movement are so exaggerated that the commendable passages ... [are obscured]. It is good that the Beethoven [quartet] was proffered as a medicinal balsam for this wound. The audience was not small, and was for the greater part refined.’

Lumír 14/11/1854 also published a review of this event. The correspondent, signed ‘-š.’, reported that the ‘Quartets, that were last year directed by our splendid [countryman Ferdinand] Laub, began on Saturday 11th November, but with the difference that the first desk was taken by the Weimar soloist Mr Otto z Königslövu [von Königslöw]. In him too we became acquainted with a true artist and worthy replacement for Mr Laub. His well-considered and poetic execution, elegance and accuracy in playing establishes him in the circle the circle of renowned violinists. The programme of this entertainment was the Quartet by Mendelssohn in E minor, Beethoven in G major and of Schumann in A minor. Of the compositions by the first two masters Praguers are already familiar, so we mention only the last quartet which certainly shows the genius of Byron in the sphere of music. This composition excells in its high inspiration of its ideas, its sincerity, ingeniously worked themes and powerful fantasy. The playing of all four artists was excellent and considered, the outcome magnificent. Despite the poor weather the audience was numerous and select.’    


Summary of sources:

Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (29/10/1854)
Lumír (02/11/1854)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (09/11/1854)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (09/11/1854)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (12/11/1854)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (13/11/1854)
Lumír (14/11/1854)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (14/11/1854)