[Met Concert/Gala] CID:54693
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor {1}
Metropolitan Opera House: 04/13/1913.


Metropolitan Opera House
April 13, 1913


Wagner: Eine Faust Ouvertüre

Strauss: Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor {1}
Frieda Hempel, Soprano
Louise Homer, Mezzo Soprano
Carl Jörn, Tenor
Putnam Griswold, Bass

Conductor...............Arturo Toscanini

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times

The last of the season's Sunday night concerts at the Metropolitan Opera House took on a character that this popular series has but once before assumed-the character of a symphony concert of the highest type, conducted by Mr. Toscanini, who then made his first appearance in America as a symphonic conductor. When Felix Mottl first came as a conductor to the Metropolitan ten years ago, he conducted one symphony concert of this kind; but Mr. Conried saw, or thought he saw, signs that this was not the of thing his Sunday night audiences wanted, and the concerts promptly resumed the ephemeral and popular character they have retained ever since.

Last night, however, it was clear that this was the sort of thing this particular Sunday night audience wanted. The announcement that Mr. Toscanini would conduct Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," Wagner's "Faust Overture" and Strauss's "Till Eulenspiegel" had aroused the greatest interest among the educated and discriminating members of the New York musical public for whom a Sunday night concert scarcely exists and the house was filled to its utmost capacity in every part. It was an audience in which, besides habitués, there were many prominent musicians and many fastidious lovers of symphonic music. Mr. Toscanini has made so profound an impression as a dramatic conductor that there was the keenest interest to observe what he would accomplish in another field, a field in which his remarkable powers must necessarily achieve remarkable results.

The orchestra was the orchestra of the Opera House, somewhat augmented; the chorus that of the Opera, and the solo quartet comprised members of the company-Miss Frieda Hempel, soprano, Mme. Louise Homer, contralto, and Messrs. Carl Jörn, tenor, and Putnam Griswold, bass. The orchestra in the years that it has been under the control of Mr. Toscanini has gained greatly in suppleness and plasticity as well as in precision and perfection of ensemble, and in last evening's concert it accomplished some remarkable things. Its quality of tone is not of the highest beauty or richness, but in all the music played last evening it was a most responsive instrument under Mr. Toscanini's hands.

He revealed in the fullest measure the qualities of the great symphonic conductor. He showed that he had a profound understanding of the widely differing character of the three compositions that made up the program and that he brought his ideas to the fullest realization seemed evident. The "Faust" overture has seldom been made more impressive in its gloom and pessimistic spirit. The "Till Eulenspiegel" has seldom been played with a more dazzling brilliancy, verve and bravura, with a more perfect ensemble or a more complete mastery of all its bristling difficulties, especially those of its rhythms that make its ensemble difficult.

Interesting as these were and satisfying perhaps, even to those zealous enthusiasts who did not know "Till Eulenspiegel," or the movements of the symphony, well enough to refrain from applauding till their end,attention was naturally centered chiefly upon Mr. Toscanini's performance of Beethoven's "Ninth" symphony, which he, as well as most others of his guild, evidently looks upon as the supreme task of a symphonic conductor.

In this Mr. Toscanini met in an unusual degree Wagner's criterion of the "melos," of keeping unbroken the essentially melodic line that underlies it. The orchestra sang throughout and in all the nuances of his performance the melodic line was not interrupted; nor, in all the plastic shaping of phrase was the symmetry of the larger proportions of the organic unity of the whole lost sight of. It was rhythmically of extraordinary vitality. It was a conservative reading without exaggerations or excesses. There were subtle and significant modifications of tempo, but never of a disturbing sort. It was devoted to the exposition of Beethoven and not of Mr. Toscanini, and it rose to heights of eloquence without the intrusion of the conductor's personality. Some may have preferred the adagio a little slower and Mr. Toscanini would have done well to have joined this movement to the final one without making the break that he did.

The effect of the last movement was supremely stirring, and it marked in many ways the summit of Mr. Toscanini's achievement. It is not often that the movement is presented with so few evidences of labor and effort on the part of the singers. The chorus sang with thrilling vigor and apparent spontaneity and attacked the cruel high passages with spirit and elasticity. So, too, the solo quartet mastered the difficulties that confronted it with the appearance of ease that made for the finer elaboration of the musical effects. Mr. Griswold declaimed the bass recitative with dramatic power and cogency and Miss Hempel's command of the high tones of her part enabled her to move at ease among them. Mme. Homer and Mr. Jörn were their fitting companions in the quartet.

It was recognized as a remarkable performance and a profoundly impressive one. And one of its obvious results was to prompt the wish that a way might be found for Mr. Toscanini to conduct more symphonic concerts for the New York public.

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