Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit concert in aid of the Society of Catholic Apprentices and the Society for the Welfare of Servants

Venue: New Town Theatre [Novoměstské divadlo]

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 08/05/1862 12 noon

Beneficiary: Society of Catholic Apprentices
Beneficiary: Society for the Welfare of Prague Servants

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • Estates Theatre orchestra: participating orchestra
  • JAHN, Vilém: director of ensemble, conductor

Part 1:

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : Symphony, orch, nr.7, A major, op.92

Part 2:

WINTER, Peter : aria unspecified, from opera Das unterbrochene Opferfest, v, orch
     • Eilers, Albert : v
DONIZETTI, Gaetano : aria of Antonina from act 1 of opera Belisario, v, orch
     • Bělská, Louisa : v
PIVODA, František : unspecified Slavonic song [Slovanská píseň], v, pf
     • Bělská, Louisa : v Pivoda, František : pf
POPPER, David : unspecified Concertstück [Concert piece], vc, orch
     • Popper, David : vc
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig van : movement 1 from Concerto for piano and orchestra, pf, orch, C minor, op.37
     • Pišová, Johanna : pf


The date of this concert was noted by the Nárdoní listy 8/5/1862 report as being 8th May. Prager Morgenpost 7/5/1862 also reported that ‘For the benefit of the Society for Catholic Apprentices and for the Society for Welfare of Servants in Prague, a great concert will take place next Thursday 8th May in the New Town Theatre.’ Although the subsequent Dalibor 1/5/1862 review referred to the concert as taking place ‘yesterday’, i.e. on 9th May, this most probably reflected the Dalibor article being published a day after the review was written and not being corrected by the periodical’s editor. This brief review, signed ‘-s-’, related that the concert was successful. The symphony was performed ‘well’, the singers Bělská and Eilers ‘received approbation’, and the eleven year old pianist Miss Johanna Pišová displayed ‘talent and great technical ability, yet the piece was out of proportion [i.e. too substantial and difficult] for her strength.’ The most effective soloist was adjudged to be David Popper, who performed ‘with distinction and with remarkable skill.’

Bohemia 4/5/1862 published news that ‘(Their Majesties Emperor Ferdinand and Empress Maria Anna) have donated the sum of 160fl for the concert for the benefit of the local Catholic Apprentices Society and of the Society for the Welfare of Servants. The concert, arranged under the patronage of His Highness the Prince Johann Lobkowitz will take place on 8th May at 12 noon in the New Town Theatre.’ A review followed in Bohemia 10/5/1862. The article, signed ‘V.’, comprised: ‘Concert for the benefit of the Societies for Catholic Apprentices and for the Welfare of Servants. This concert took place yesterday in the New Town Theatre at 12 noon. Although the programme contained Beethoven’s A[ major] Symphony, either because the public expected little of the performance or from some other reason, the spacious venue was not full. Nevertheless the attendance could not be said to be sparse. The public present was in very amenable voice and not meagre with grateful applause. Each movement of the “Seventh” - or the so-called “Dactylic” - ended with this [applause].’ The performance was noted to have been most successful in the first movement and in the Allegretto, but with room for improvement in the Scherzo and Finale; the critic considered that under its current conductor greater precision was usually to be expected from the [Estates] Theatre orchestra. However, the ensemble was thought to have been somewhat comprised by unfavourable acoustic of the venue. The string sound was ‘wirey’, particularly in the higher and middle range, and the brass was ‘at times glaring’. Of the other numbers of the programme, the critic reported that the ‘young débutante’ Miss Pisch [Pišová] showed herself to be a vituoso of extraordinary potential possessing a technique well-suited to Beethoven’s concerto. Only a ‘lack of power and energy’ was evident and thought to be entirely excusable given her young age. Her future as a pianist was said to be extremely promising. Her performance was received with several curtain calls and with flowers. The playing of Popper and the work performed by him was not described, the review only noting that it was follwed by Mr Eilers singing an aria from Winter’s Das unterbrochene Opferfest and Mrs L. Bělský [Bělská] singing the first aria of Antonina from Donizetti’s Belisario, both with orchestral accompaniment. All of these solo items were received with enthusiastic approbation, including the song performed by Mrs Bělská with Pivoda performing the accompaniment. 

A review, signed ‘-ý’ was published by Prager Morgenpost 9/5/1862. The correspondent reported: ‘Concert, 8th May. Today at 12 noon the concert for the benefit of the Apprentices’ and Servants’ Societies was arranged in the New Town Theatre. It commenced this time with Beethoven’s magnificent A major Symphony, the ‘Seventh’ among the ‘Nine’. The performance of this extraordinarily difficult work, which the grand master, as in each of his symphonies, stamped with its own musical individuality and in which his genius and deeply poetic expression pulses more and more strongly, was excellent. Kapellmeister Jahn conducted. The symphony, which constituted the whole of the first half of the concert, was followed by an aria from Winter’s opera “Das unterbrochene Opferfest!” sung by Mr Eilers. This is the work of an admittedly small yet charming talent; it lacks the powerful and spirit-penetrating characteristic of electricity. Mrs Louise Bělský [Bělská], always welcomed as a concert-singer by the musically educated public, sang the revenge aria of Antonia from the opera “Belisar” by Donizetti. Regardless of a slight indisposition affecting her very pure, flexible and expressive organ, the overal effect was of such quality that compensated for any vocal artificialities and sensationalism. The great recitative was executed so excellently in style, as the aria itself was, which Mrs Bělský [Bělská] performed throughout with great elegance and clean intonation. To follow she sang a Slavic song by Piwoda [Pivoda], with a clear understanding of the spirit of the composition. After this number, as well as after the aria, she was rapturously [curtain-]called. Mr Popper played a concert piece for the cello. The applause the artist gained was well-deserved: as Mr Popper demonstrated in this very difficult composition (which is not known to me), a virtuosity that guarantees him an eminent future. His bold and confident leaps from sonorous depth up to the dizziest height, the artful union of all three types of staccato executed on the violin, as well as the difficult drawing out of the principal and accompanying voices [i.e. of theme and accompaniment] inspired general admiration. The eleven-year-old Johanna Pitsch [Pišová] concluded this interesting concert with the first movement of Beethoven’s C Minor Concerto for piano with orchestral accompaniment. The well-balanced playing and combination of bravura and elegance (how particularly this came to the fore in the Cadenza by Dreyschock), that is very rare for such an age, will provide the best commendation for this young pianist. The audience received the promising young pianist most approvingly, marked from time to time by applause during her performance and afterwards by the giving of bouquets. Miss Sebhardt took on the declamatory part of the academy. She gave Müller’s poem “Die Wunderblume”, and for this choice she deserves absolute recognition. The concert was well-attended.’

Prager Zeitung 11/5/1862 published a review signed ‘!!’ of this concert. The critic noted that ‘The concert that took place on Thursday, this time in the space of the New Town Theatre... for benefit of the Society for Catholic Apprentices and for the Society for the Welfare of Servants, was not so interesting for the choice of the second half [of the programme] as for the participants. In the first place we name Mrs Bělsky [Bělská], whose incisive, sonorous, in all registers absolutely balanced soprano voice we regret that we have not heard in recent times in none of the myriad of concerts. She performed the G minor part of the Revenge Aria from Donizetti’s Belisario with indescribable delicacy but the G minor section in an idiosyncratic, modern Italianate manner where in the phrases individual notes were markedly sharp putting particular emphasis like brilliant points of light... [to heighten the effect and expression]. Miss Gebhardt pithily declaimed Müller’s “Wunderblume”. The eleven-year-old Johanna Pisch [Pišová], with whom we made our acquaintance in today’s concert, displayed for her age in the first movement of the C minor Concerto by L. van Beethoven an amazing fluency, and in the colossal cadenza by Dreyschock great sureness, a quality which combined with the up to now sterling guidance of the young pianist augurs well for the future. Following this Mr Popper played quite magnificently a Concertstück hitherto not known to us, and Mr Eilers sang with powerfully sonorous voice the reflective aria from the “unterbrochenen Opferfest” by Winter... The first part [of the concert] comprised the wonderfully direct Symphony in A (nr. 7) of Beethoven, which was performed with precision by the [Estates] Theatre orchestra under the direction of Kapellmeister Jahn, yet without such rich orchestral colour as with felicitous nuance. The audience, as numerous as it was refined, applauded the individual numbers [of the programme].’

The Národní listy 8/5/1862 report noted that the participants in this concert were to include Miss Gerhardtová and the violinist and composer Ludwig Slánský. However, no subsequentvreviews mentioned these artists, indicating that they did not appear. The programme was conducted in part by the Estates Theatre director Vilém Jahn and in part by the violinist and Conservatory Professor Mořic Mildner. The programme is reproduced in performance order according to the various reviews.

Summary of sources:

Bohemia (04/05/1862)
Prager Morgenpost (07/05/1862)
Národní listy (08/05/1862)
Dalibor, časopis pro hudbu, divadlo a umění vůbec (10/05/1862)
Bohemia (10/05/1862)
Prager Zeitung (11/05/1862)
Lumír (15/05/1862)