Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit concert in aid of the Academic Readers Society

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 21/03/1857 12 noon

Season: Lent

Beneficiary: Reading Room for German Students / Academic Readers Society

Programme comprising, part 1:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • MILDNER, Mořic: leader of orchestra, vl
  • ŠKROUP, František Jan: director of ensemble, conductor
  • MICHL, ?: accompanist, pf
  • TOBIŠ, ?: accompanist, [pf?]
BENNETT, William Sterndale : Concert overture The Naiads, orch, op.15
ROSSINI, Gioachino Antonio : aria Elena! o tu, che chiamo from act 1 of opera La Donna del lago, v, orch
     • Güntherová, Adelina : v
MEYERBEER, Giacomo : song Komm! du schönes Fischermädchen, v, pf
     • Güntherová, Adelina : v
HUMMEL, Jan Nepomuk : movement 1 from Concerto for pianoforte and orchestra, pf, orch, nr.5, A-flat major, op.113
     • Gottlieb, Moritz : pf
ISOUARD, Nicolò : aria Nein, ich singe nicht, mein Herr! Non, je ne veux pas chanter from opera Das Lotterie-loos (Le billet de loterie), v, orch
     • Brenner, Johanna : v unspecified, ? : pf
ADELBURGŮ, August, rytíře z : Variations for violin and orchestra Cikánská variace (Gypsy variations), vl, orch
     • Adelburgů, August, rytíře z : v

Part 2:

ADELBURGŮ, August, rytíře z : Symphony for large orchestra Rozmary (Frohsinns-Symphonie), orch, C major


Mercy’s Anzeiger 4/3/1857 reported that the concert for the benefit of the Academic Readers Society [Akademische Leseverein] was to take place on 21st March and ‘promised to be very interesting. As we hear Misses Günther and Brenner have promised to participate, as well as Mr Lukes who will perform several Czech songs, the violin virtuoso B. von Adelburg, and lastly a pupil of Mr Risch who excells in piano playing. The director of the Cecilia Society, Mr Apt, has undertaken to conduct a great male-voice chorus.’ This newspaper next published news of this concert in its issue of 20/3/1857, reporting the date, time, venue and beneficiary, as well as listing in projected performance order the works to be given and the participating soloists. Mercy’s Anzeiger 29/3/1857 reported that this benefit event gained a gross profit of 951fl and for the Society’s funds a net profit of 640fl.

The Prague sister newspaper to
Mercy’s Anzeiger, Tagesbote aus Böhmen 4/3/1857, also published news of this forthcoming Readers Society concert. The source reported: ‘For the Concert, which gives the Academic Readers Society, have already willingly pledged their participation Miss Brenner and Miss Günther, Mr Lukes and Mr Škraup [Škroup]. In this concert will also appear a pianist pupil of Mr Risch, and the violinist Count von Adelburg.’ Full details of the concert appeared in Tagesbote aus Böhmen 19/3/18587, in a report noting: ‘Saturday 21st March 1857 at 12 noon takes place a concert for the benefit of the Academic Readers Society in the Hall of the Žofín Island. Programme: 1st Part: 1. „die Najaden“ Overture by Sterndale Bennet. 2. Aria (Elena! oh tu ch’io chiamo) from the opera „La Donna de Lago“ by Rossine [Rossini], sung by Miss Günther [Günterová]. First Concert-movement [‘Erster Concert-Satz’] for the pianoforte by Hummel, performed by Moritz Amadé Gottlieb, pupil of Mr Kisch. 4. Aria (Nein, ich sage nicht mein Herr!) from the opera „das Lotterie-Loos“ by Isouard, sung by Miss Brenner [Brennerová]. 5, Gypsy Variations [‘Zigeuner-Variationen’] for the violin, composed and performed by Mr August Count von Adelburg. 2nd Part: „Frohsinn’s Symphonie“ for large orchestra by August Count von Adelburg. From particular respect for the benefitting good cause have pledged their names Miss Brenner and Günther, as well as Mr August Count von Adelburg and M.A. Gottlieb to the performances of solo pieces, Messrs Michel and Tobisch the accompaniment at the piano, Professor Mildner the leadership of the orchestra and Kapellmeister Fr. Skraup [Škroup] the direction of the entire concert. Mr Lukes, who had promised to perform Czech songs, is unable to participate. Admission tickets to the Hall 1fl and on the Gallery 30kr are to be obtained from the music shop of the widow of Joh. Hoffmann in Karlsgasse, and on the day of the concert from the box office.’ The identification of piano accompanists suggests that the arias, and possibly the Variations were performed with piano and not orchestra.  

Advance information about this concert to benefit the Academic Readers Society was published by Lumír 19/3/1857. The source specified the date, time and venue of the event and listed the programme in performance order. The participants were also noted and were too have included Lukes, who ‘had promised to perform Czech songs [but] had gone on a short excursion to the country and therefore could not participate.’ Admission tickets to the Hall cost 1zl silver and to the gallery 30kr silver. They could be obtained from the music shop of the widow of J. Hoffmann in Karlová ulice, and on the day of the concert at the box office.

A critical review of the concert, signed ‘-l-’, was published by Lumír 26/3/1857. The correspondent considered that ‘Although the participating artists tried everything possible, due to the inelegant programme
this concert could not as a whole make a worthy impression. We cannot and we will never approve of a choice [of programme] in which neither one classical composition nor one work by a native composer is to be found, and we are also of the opinion that an immature pupil should not appear in public playing a spirited concerto by Hummel... Young Moric [Moritz] Gottlieb, [who has gained] some technical ability, played this concerto and performed it such so that an expert could have hardly recognized the original from this weak and insulting transcription. Misses Güntherová and Brennerová demonstrated great coloratura and beautiful artistry in performing arias by Rossini. The pillar of the concert can be adjudged Count z Adelbergů, whose well-developed ability on the violin inspired the astonishment of the audience. His bravura in the Gypsy Variations, in which are gather all manner of quirky difficulties, seems to be a little demeaning [task] for a true artist. Also performed was an overture by Bennet [Bennett] and a symphony by Adelburg. The last composition has in itself many beauties and charming ideas, and testifies to the great ability and thorough knowledge in composition and orchestration of the composer. The orchestra of the Estates Theatre performed both of these works to the satisfaction of the numerous audience, who vigorously applauded.’

Tagesbote aus Böhmen 22/3/1857 also published a review of this concert, unsigned. The source reported that: ‘
Of particular interest in yesterday’s afternoon concert for the benefit of the Academic Readers Society was Mr von Adelburg’s appearance as composer and violin virtuoso. His Frohsinns-Symphonie resounded with two qualities that in our dull times have become more and more rare and precious: originality and fire. The intellectual resources of its author are evidently so considerable that although opinion is frequently divided concerning Mr von Adelburg’s works, his name never falls into obscurity. The unique, noble fashioning of his ideas, so far as these are stated in the main motifs of the symphony, will certainly never be mistaken, yet a certain turbulence, an unresolved urgency in the form will find a justified reprimand. We would say that Mr von Adelburg’s symphony is too hot-blooded. This fiery musician, just like that enthusiastic schoolboy Michelangelo, cannot yet appreciate that the same stroke of the chisel, applied with moderation, can give a work of art the highest consummation of form, [but] applied just a degree too boisterously would break it into pieces. What can be criticised in Mr von Adelburg’s symphony is one of those mistakes that can only be made by the rich, a matter of too much. What are mere accompaniment figures are mostly so overpowering as to subdue the melody itself; smaller ideas that as transitional elements would well enhance the development section seem too heavily laboured; the general character of orchestration ultimately falls down through the opulence that it sometimes exhibits in the empty pomp of its fanfare-like manner. The first of these points applies in particular to the first movement; the excessive labouring is most evident in the movement in C major, whose broad, noble motto loses much under a mass of overgrown detail. However, the composer handles his harmony and knowledge of tonality so surely and cleverly that the temptation is there for wide-reaching experiment. One moment that is completely unalloyed by any such tendency and allows us to relish sincerely the composer’s talent is the short scherzo-form introduction to the slow movement in C major, in which the very first theme on the strings has an extraordinarily fresh, gracious tone, and is then ingeniously joined to a second theme in the wind in such a way that, having previously been a self-standing melody, it now becomes the accompaniment to the new theme. This brief passing episode is incidentally the only one that tallies with the Frohsinn of the title, for the tone of the work as a whole is elegiac in the first movement and fierily overblown in the last. All these considerations notwithstanding, Mr von Adelburg’s work is heart-warming and exhilarating because it displays an independent and courageous talent - one that, though still far too tumultuously over-thunderous, still warrants our attention. In his virtuosic playing as in his composing Mr von Adelburg follows a path of his own yet without completely being able to avoid contact with what already exists; for his Gypsy Variations are executed in the style created by Tartini that raises technique to the highest most singular purpose and whose brilliant, eccentric exponent was Paganini. Mr von Adelburg is an eminent virtuoso of this genre through his daring, brilliant rendering of the most ambitious and difficult passages. The most striking features of his technique are the sureness and fullness of his flageolet, the security of his double-stopping, and an effect completely unique to him of bouncing the bow [spiccato]. Mr von Adelburg created a definite sensation; after three curtain calls he performed another Capriccio by Paganini with equally tireless bravura.

The [Estates] Theatre orchestra, that admirably executed the difficult symphony down to the smallest detail under the baton of Kapellmeister Skraup [Škroup], began the concert with Bennett’s delightful tone poem Die Najaden. Miss Günther [Güntherová] sang
with orchestral accompaniment an aria from Rossini’s Fräulein vom See [La Donna del lago] in which her alto voice and trained coloratura was very pleasing. Miss Brenner [Brennerová] sang with piano accompaniment Isouard’s well-known, brilliant aria Nein ich singe nicht mein Herr. (Certain evil gossipers are claiming that the theatre management have heard this favourite piece of Miss Brenner more than enough.) She received such rapturous applause that she gave an encore of Meyerbeer’s Komm. Even the young M. Gottlieb, a pupil of Mr Kisch, in the first movement of Hummel’s A flat Concerto came over so brilliantly, with an extraordinarily strong touch, proficiency and secure interaction with the orchestra for his nine years, that he gave another, easier piece to follow.’

A shorter review, signed ‘Z.’, appeared in Mercy’s Anzeiger 23/3/1857. ‘M
usical events, especially benefit concerts, are so numerous in the present season that we have neither the space nor the time to review them even only superficially... The concert that took place on the day before yesterday in the Hall of Žofín Island to benefit the Academic Reading Society had a very gratifying success in every respect. First we heard W. St. Bennet’s [William Sterndale Bennett] lovely and characteristic overture Die Najaden performed with accuracy by our [Estates] Theatre orchestra under the direction of Kapellmeister Skraup [Škroup]. In the second part of this concert the Frohsinns-Symphonie by Count von Adelberg was precisely presented up until the last movement. Concerning its form this composition is routinely worked; the orchestration shows special expertise in the incorporation of particular effects and in the texture in general. The complaisant, rhythmically very animated main themes are executed with great skill and combine as to a whole to justify the title. It portrays cheerfulness in a certain noble manner of enunciation - that is, proceeding from a cheerful mood and not from one of frivolous excitement in a frivolous manner. In a very laudable manner the ingenious composer eschewed [writing with] strained originality and grandiloquent eccentricity. Miss Brenner [Brennerová], who has in recent times participated with amiable willingness in a number of concerts, sang with all the charm of her brilliant voice Isouard’s piquant aria form the ‘Lotterielos’ and after repeated curtain-calls brought forth Meyerbeer’s Fischermädchen. The excellent piano teacher Mr Kisch again presented to us, as proof of his solid teaching method, a young pianist: the nine-year-old M. Gottlieb. This very talented boy played a concerto movement by Hummel with surprising fluency and exhibited in addition to a steady and elastic touch much sureness and stamina. Mr Kitsch, to whom a number of great pianists owe amongst other things their first musical training (among them Schulhoff and Rie), we can only congratulate for his success. With her familiar artistry Miss Günther [Güntherová] performed the bravura aria from ‘Donna a lago [Donna de Lago]’ by Rossini to great applause.’

Tagesbote aus Böhmen 31/3/1857 reported that ‘The concert of the Academic Readers Society had a gross profit of 950fl and, following deduction of costs, a net profil of 640fl. The Society numbers over 250 members and possesses a library of 3500 volumes. Over 40 journals of scientific, political and entertaining content are to be found in its locality.’

Summary of sources:

Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (04/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (04/03/1857)
Lumír (19/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (19/03/1857)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (20/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (22/03/1857)
Lumír (26/03/1857)
Mercy's Anzeiger für Böhmen (29/03/1857)
Tagesbote aus Böhmen (31/03/1857)