Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit concert in aid of free meals for poor Prague law students

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 19/03/1857 4.30pm

Season: Lent

Beneficiary: Society for the Provision of free meals for Poor Law Students

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • TAUWITZ, Eduard: director of ensemble
  • MILDNER, Mořic: leader of orchestra, vl
BERLIOZ, Hector : Overture Le Carnaval romain, orch, op.9
unspecified Czech folksongs, vv
     • Reichel, Josef : v
KÜCKEN, Friedrich Wilhelm : song Der Himmel hat eine Thräne geweint, v, pf, cl obbligato, op.63
     • Reichel, Josef : v Pisařovic, Julius : cl
MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix : Concerto for violin and orchestra, vl, orch, E minor, op.64
     • Hoffmannová z Wendheimu, Gabriela : vl
WEBER, Carl Maria von : aria of Agatha Leise, leise, fromme Weise from act 2 of opera Der Freischütz, v, orch, J277
     • Brenner, Johanna : v
MEYERBEER, Giacomo : duet Le ranz-des-vaches d'Appenzell, 2vv, pf
     • Brenner, Johanna : v

Part 2:

KITTL, Jan Bedřich : Symphony, orch, nr.3, D major, op.24


Mercy’s Anzeiger 6/3/1857 reported that ‘As in several [previous] years, a concert for the benefiit of poor law students will be given this year. It will take place, as we are informed, on Thursday 16th March at 4.30pm.’ No further details were given by the source. The date of ‘Thursday 16th March’ was a mistake; the concert actually took place on Thursday 19th March. This date was confirmed by the newspaper on 17/3/1857 in a report that noted also the time, venue and beneficiary, as well as the participants and the programme in performance order. The soloists were noted to have been performing for free in aid of the good cause. Professor Mildner was said to be undertaking the ‘direction [Direction des Orchesters] of the orchestra’ and Kapellmeister Tauwitz ‘the direction of the entire concert [Leitung des ganzen Concertes]. Presumably this meant that Mildner (Professor of Violin at the Conservatory and principal violin of the Estates Theatre orchestra) led the orchestra and Tauwitz conducted the concert. Mercy’s Anzeiger 27/3/1857 reported that the concert given for the benefit of poor law students on 19th March had gross takings of 1530fl 10kr. The net profit amounted to 1194fl 21kr. Part of this (107fl 32kr) was to be given for subscriptions for poor students. The Professor of the Law School Eberhard Jonák had granted half of the funds raised to provide 23 poor law students with 95 free meals during the current summer semester.

The German-language Prague newspaper Tagesbote aus Böhmen 17/3/1857 reported that on ‘Thursday 19th March takes place a concert in the Hall of Žofín Island, the profit from which is allocated to the Fund for Free Meals for poor Law Students. The programme for the concert is as select as it is interesting, and we shall give further details in due course.’ The following day, on 18/3/1857, Tagesbote aus Böhmen provided those details in a report noting: ‘
Thursday 19th March takes place at 4.30pm a concert to benefit the Fund for Free Meals for poor Law Students, in the Hall of Žofín Island. Programme: 1st Part. 1. Le Carneval romain“ Overture by Hektor Berlioz. 2.a) Czech songs; b) Der Himmel har eine Thräne geweint“ by Fr. Kücken, sung by Mr Reichel, accompaniment on the clarinet by Prof. Pisařowitz. 3. Concert for the violin with accompaniment of orchestra by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, performed by Miss Gabriele Hoffmann von Wendheim. 4. Great aria from the opera Der Freischütz“ by C.M. von Weber sung by Miss Brenner. 2nd Part: Symphony in D major by F. Kittl. Out of respect to the benefitting cause, the Misses Brenner and Hoffmann von Wendheim, as well as Mr Reichel are performing the solo pieces, Prof. Pisařowitz is accompanying, Prof. Mildner is leading the orchestra and Kapellmeister Tauwitz is conducting the whole concert.’

Advance news of this concert was published by Lumír 19/3/1857. The source specified the date, time and venue of the event, the beneficiary and details of the programme and of the participating soloists. These included Miss Brennerová, who was to have performed an aria from Weber’s ‘Kouzelný střelec [Der Freischütz]. However, no mention of her appearance was made by the subsequent review of the event published in Lumír 26/3/1857; the singer seems not have participated in the concert. The orchestra was not specified by either of these Czech-language sources, but was undoubtedly that of the Estates Theatre, which customarily participated in the annual benefit concert given for the support of the law students.

The review, signed ‘-l-’, appearing in
Lumír 26/3/1857 reported that this concert ‘met with such universal favour, and rightly so, for excellent compositions were performed. Berlioz’s „Karneval římský as well as Kittl’s beautiful symphony were for the public an interesting example of the serene deep spirit of our own outstanding composer competing with the fantastic and outlandish spirit of the avowed Frenchman. Mr Reichl performed some Czech songs and testified to [possessing] an artistic temperament. His expressive performance and his sonorous charming voice deeply touched the audience, who rewarded him with copious applause. Finally we heard the young violinist Miss Hoffmannová z Wendheimu [von Wendheim], who performed Mendelssohn’s Concerto. This auspicious pupil of Mr Mildner has acquired great technical ability and bold handling of the strings, nevertheless is would have been better if she had chosed rather than this great composition something from the works of Beriot, Lafont or Vieuxtemps, for the interpretation of these works is easier than the classical work of Mendelssohn. The audience rewarded the talented Miss with much applause. The success of the whole piece was very fair.’

Mercy’s Anzeiger 21/3/1857 published a review, signed ‘Z.’, of this concert noting that: ‘
The concert for the benefit of free meals for needy law students that took place the day before yesterday in the hall of Žofín Island was very numerously attended. This time the greater part of the programme was given over to the orchestra of the [Estates] Theatre, which performed the overture Der Carneval zu Rom [Le Carnaval romain] by Berlioz then Kittl’s Symphony no.3 in D major (dedicated to the Duke of Lucca), in a dignified fashion under the direction of Kapellmeister Tauwitz. Moreover we heard three solo performances. Miss Brenner sang the great aria of Agathe from Freischütz [Der Freischütz] and had the best opportunity to let the range, balance and richness of her noble voice shine, especially in the exposed parts. In technique the performance left nothing to be desired and the choice [of this piece] undoubtedly demonstrated the range of operatic material available to her, which has not been explored though the present [Estates Theatre’s] repertoire, although to do so would not have harmed the Theatre in any way. Repeatedly curtain-called in rousing fashion she also sang the Appenzeller Kuhreigen by Meyerbeer. Mr Reichel gained a similarly complimentary success. He expressively performed first Czech songs and then a song by Kücken. The last piece was accompanied with his usual mastery by Professor Pisařowitz [Pisařovic] on the clarinet. Thereupon Miss Von Wendheim played Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto... with elegance, delicate fluency and creditable stamina. She too received general applause and evocation.’

A review, signed ‘-h.’, of this concert was published by Tagesbote aus Böhmen 21/3/1857. The correspondent remarked that ‘In the flood-tide of concerts that in this year’s season is rising higher than in any previous year, it is only possible to bring animation to the over-sated salon with a programme that offers something really important. The concert that took place on Thursday for the benefit of free meals for poor law students fulfilled this in the most honourable fashion. Straightaway a splendid performance of Berlioz’s distinctively-orchestrated, fierily storming tone poem Le Carneval romain galvanised the listeners, and the atmosphere was further heightened by Mr Reichel’s vocal performances, with two Czech songs bringing lively demands for a third, after which he joined Mr Professor Pisařowitz [Pisařovic] for a great song by Kücken, Der Himmel hat eine Thräne geweint, outstanding in both melody and impetus. The beautiful voice of the singer, so appealing in the high register, together with the equally lovely tone of the clarinet virtuoso were united in a highly expressive rendition of the song that traced its subtlest nuances with precision. Miss von Hoffmann [Hoffmannová], one of Professor Mildner’s most promising pupils, tackled in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E [minor] an exercise that tests the calm and strength even of a male performer in a manner that truly held the attention. Her sound was large enough both to fill out the broad cantilena and hold its own effectively against the orchestra, and her talent was evident in her ability to cope with the difficulties of the piece with bravura and stamina. The last number of the first half was Agatha’s big aria, sung by Miss Brenner, who, as is well known, like all rich people is not satisfied with what she really has, in her case a mastery of coloratura, and on occasion strives for the higher-hanging fruits of dramatic roles. It is thus not difficult to explain why her performance in the Freischutz aria excels over that in Oberon, since Agatha, who waits at the window for her beloved, can better do without the high pathos and power of musical expression than can Regia, exulting on the shore of the wide sea at the arrival of the rescuing ship. However, the fact cannot be disguised that in the first section of Agatha’s aria a deeper inwardness would not only be suitable but is essential, likewise in the second section a livelier impetus, than Miss Brenner’s mainly formal talent might allow her to give them. After animated curtain calls Miss Brenner encored with Meyerbeer’s Ranz des vaches with piano accompaniment. The second half of the concert consisted of the Symphony in D [major] by Kittel [Kittl] conducted by Mr Tauwitz, the so-called “Lucchesischen” with its wealth of beautiful motifs and those pretty effects of detail for which the composer has a particularly fine sense.

The epithet ‘Lucchesischen’ used by the Tagesbote aus Böhmen correspondent is notable. The Lucchesische Republik was a short-lived state founded by Napoleon in 1799 from the Italian principality of Lucca. The reviewer writing in Mercy’s Anzeiger related that the work was dedicated to the Duke of Lucca. However, the link to the composition may be more subtle. The theme of the Symphony’s slow movement variations has in its melodic cut and its subsequent treatment by Kittl a flavour of the slow movement of Mendelsson’s Italian Symphony. The title may have been spurious; the Luccesische Republik was a Napoleonic construction, Kittl’s Symphony was on the published title page to the parts dedicated by the composer to Louis-Philippe of France. Moreover in 1857 the principality had belonged for a decade to the Duke of Tuscany.

Tagesbote aus Böhmen
28/3/1857 reported that ‘The Concert for the benefit of free meals for poor law students had a net profit of 1194fl 21kr. There are now provided 95 place-settings weekly for 23 law students.’

Summary of sources:

Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (06/03/1857)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (17/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (17/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (18/03/1857)
Lumír (19/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (21/03/1857)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (21/03/1857)
Lumír (26/03/1857)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (27/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (28/03/1857)