Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)
Event type: State or civil events
Keywords: Czech musicians abroad, Foreign monarchies, Amateur music making, Czech partisanship in, Folk culture, Misfortunes in programmes and curtailed events, Festival and celebratory events, Genres - Orchestral music, Genres - Popular light music, Genres - Secular choral music, Genres - Secular solo vocal music, Genres - Solo and concertante instrumental music, Genres - music theatre and entr'acte music, Czech / German partisanship, Government, Monarchy and Aristocracy, Politics
According to a brief report published in Národní listy 21/3/1861 this beseda was originally scheduled to take place on 6/4/1861. The first published notification that the date of the event had changed to 8/4/1861 appeared in Národní listy 4/4/1861. This later report noting that the alteration was made because a festival performance had already been scheduled to take place in the Theatre on 6/4/1861. According to Národní listy 2/4/1861 rehearsals for the chorus, the kernel of which comprised the private choir of J.L. Lukes, were to take place at 7pm on 3/4, 4/4 and 5/4/1861 at Žofín. This report also announced that singers who wished to participate in the beseda were to attend the rehearsals.
Prager Zeitung 4/4/1861 reported that ‘a great Beseda [eine große Beseda]’ had been arranged on 6th April in the Hall of Žofín Island on the day of the inauguration of the new National Assembly. Because on the same evening celebrating this occasion a festival performance of a Czech Prologue, a Fest-Ouverture, a one act comedy play Brute pusť Cesara and the first act of the opera Nachlager von Granada was to take place in the Estates Theatre, the Beseda would be given instead on Monday 8th April. Among the soloists was noted to be ‘our compatriot, the Royal Prussian Chamber-virtuoso Mr Ferdinand Laub.’
The beseda itself was clearly a success, the unsigned Dalibor 10/4/1861 review noting that it ‘was one of the most magnificent [besedas] that we have seen in Prague for many years.’ Attending were various Prague nobility, including Counts Forgách, Schlick and Nostic, as well as leading native Czech politicians and individuals, including Palacký and Rieger. The programme was divided into two parts. The first part comprised concert performances of the listed solo and choral works, and the second part included two overtures and various dances. According to this review, the performances of the first part were received enthusiastically, but the critic related that ‘the crown of the beseda was Mr F. Laub, who performed his own Romance and Polonaise, and a Fantasie by Ernst, with unheard of success. It would be futile to propagate words about his masterly playing, so we say only so much, that he played like - Laub. The audience received our famous virtuoso with boisterous applause which, after the performance of the [Ernst] Fantasie, did not want to stop. Laub stepped up after the third [curtain-] call and improvised on the violin [the folksong] Sil jsem proso na souvrati [I reaped corn] and performed excellently different variations on this theme.’ The unsigned Národní listy 10/4/1861 review also reserved its most ardent praise for the Czech violinist, noting how Laub ‘enchanted’ the whole company. He produced ‘sounds like those God created, as clear as crystal water, pure, that revived everyone who heard them, or rather, that trickled into their hearts.’ The Dalibor 10/4/1861 review noted that the committee responsible for organizing this beseda comprised Ferdinand Heller, J.L. Lukes, Emanuel Meliš, Eduard Nápravník and J.L. Procházka. The beseda finished at 3am. The Národní listy 10/4/1861 review stated that the audience dispersed after midnight to the singing of the patriotic songs Hej Slované! [Hey Slavs!], Kde domov můj? [Where is my homeland?] and Slovan jsem a Slovan buď [I am a Slav and will be a Slav].
The programme is reproduced in concert order according to the Národní listy 7/4/1861 report. Certain compositions performed during the second part of the beseda were listed by Národní listy 7/4/1861, but this half of the programme probably included other light works some of which may have been given at the earlier trial for this beseda on 15/1/1861. According to this report, Nápravník’s Overture Vlasta was receiving its first performance.