January 13, 1917
Page 3

Festival Week of Concerts as Feature of Jubilee Celebration of New York Philharmonic Society, Which Has Completed Three-Quarters of a Century of Solid Achievement—Only Concert Postponed Was Upon the Occasion of Lincoln’s Assassination—Ultra-Formal Accoutrement of Early Ushers Abandoned Because of Ridicule from Younger Members of Audience—Statistics of “Then and Now”

SEVENTY-FIVE years ago coming revolutionary storms had just begun to gather ominously in Europe when the first American orchestral society was inaugurated. On Jan. 17, 1917, that society begins the celebration of its founding, while another hurricane devastates European nations. In the interim between that birthday and its present vigorous old age, the Philharmonic Society of New York, born in the shadow of a tempest and attaining old age in the midst of a tornado, has lived a life of varied interest and solid achievement in the realm of American music.
The celebration of the seventy-fifth year of the Philharmonic will take the form of a series of concerts which will be held during what has been called “Festival Week.” The introductory concert on Wednesday evening, Jan. 17, will be an invitation affair for members of the society and their friends. At this concert the president of the society, Oswald Garrison Villard, will address the audience. Then there will be four concerts, which have been so arranged that each one of them will represent one of the subscription series of the Philharmonic Society, that is to say, Thursday evenings, Friday afternoons, Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
The Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Pa., will assist at these concerts. The Bach Choir, under its own conductor, Dr. J. Fred Wolle, will co-operate with the Philharmonic at the Saturday evening concert.
To Hold Banquet
The entire festival will be concluded by a banquet at the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria, to which will be invited the members of the Philharmonic Society and distinguished guests of musical, civic and national fame.
The story of the foundation of the Philharmonic Society is told in the tenth report of the society, which states:
“For several years previous to the spring of 1842 it was a subject of general remark among the leading musicians of New York that there was then no association of professional musicians, nor any complete orchestral band in the city, capable of performing the grand instrumental compositions of the great masters. During this period U. C. Hill, who had formerly spent some time in Europe, was active in urging such musicians as C. E. Horn, William Penson, Mr. P. Maroncelli and others to unite in a movement for the establishment of a society for the general interest of the art and for the proper performance of great orchestral pieces.
The First Meeting
“At last, wearied with the delays caused by the doubts and fears expressed when any immediate action was suggested, Mr. Hill, with the assistance of Messrs. A. and H. B. Dodworth and others, assumed the responsibility of calling, and performed the task of notifying the musicians of the city of a meeting at the Apollo Rooms, on Saturday, April 2, 1842. The meeting was called to order by Mr. Hill. A. P. Heinrich was appointed chairman and F. W. Rosier, secretary.
“Meetings for rehearsals were immediately commenced and continued almost weekly until the first concert, which was given Dec. 7 of the same year. The principal pieces performed were Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, conducted by U. C. Hill; Weber’s Overture, ‘Oberon,’ conducted by D. G. Etienne, and the Overture in D, by Kalliwoda, conducted by H. C. Timm.
“At the September election, previous to this concert, the original officers were re-elected for a year. During the first season only three concerts were given, but before the commencement of the second the constitution was amended in order to give four concerts and to admit associate members. Soon after this time provision was also made for a sinking fund, but since then there has been no material change in the regulations of the society.”
A Connecticut Yankee
Ureli Corelli Hill, the man to whose efforts the Philharmonic probably owes its existence, was a typical Connecticut Yankee, full of energy, shrewd, persevering, enthusiastic and self-reliant. He was also an excellent musician. He studied the violin under Spohr in 1835 and later became the most popular violin teacher in New York. He had the spirit of an explorer—the curiosity to discover new fields and the energy to cultivate them when he found them. His associations with the Philharmonic, in addition to the fact that he, more than any other individual was its founder, were extremely intimate. During the first six years of its existence, he was president of the society, vice-president for seven years and member of the board of directors for six years. In the first five Philharmonic seasons he conducted eight concerts.
The first concerts of the society were held in the Apollo Rooms, the same fashionable hall in which the society was founded. At these concerts chairs were unknown. The audience sat on benches. Members of the orchestra received the subscribers at the door of the concert hall and escorted them to their seats. These ushers were selected by the society because of their appearance and demeanor, and wore white gloves, which were paid for by the society. They carried long, thin batons of wood painted white. These were the symbols of their office. Their perhaps too formal appearance caused considerable amusement among the younger members of the audience so that the custom was finally discontinued. As a result, the fourth annual report of the society declares that $4.75 was saved owing to the fact that ushers’ gloves were no longer paid for by the society.
Edwin Booth as Aide
The society rapidly became a leader not only in musical circles, but as an attraction for New York society. Early in its life a class of associate members who were privileged to attend rehearsals was established. In the sixth season of its existence the Philharmonic saw the admission of women to its associate membership. In the twenty-fifth year of the society, when Dr. Doremus was its president, the orchestra was increased to ninety members, then to one hundred, and every endeavor was made to make the programs more attractive. Society and the world of fashion were enlisted into the service of the Philharmonic. Edwin Booth, the famous actor, was persuaded to read Byron’s “Manfred” to the accompaniment of Schumann’s music. These new progressive methods resulted in a tremendous financial success.
In connection with the business arrangements of the society, it may be noted that only one concert was ever postponed. On April 22, 1865, the last concert of the twenty-third season was scheduled to be given. On the evening of the 14th of April President Lincoln was assassinated. The concert was postponed to the 29th and it was resolved to replace the choral portion of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the Funeral March from the “Eroica.” The following announcement appeared on the program at that time:
The entire community of this city shares with the Nation the deep grief into which our land has been plunged by the sudden and awful death of our late Chief Magistrate, the President of the United States.
While thus sorrowing, it has been thought a fitting tribute to our departed Head, to prefix to the program of the concert the Funeral March from Beethoven’s Third Symphony, which was expressly composed for the occasion of the death of a great hero. From the same motive the closing portion of the Ninth Symphony—”The Hymn to Joy”—will be omitted.
Felix F. Leifels, the present manager and for many years the secretary of the society, gives a comparison of the society’s progress from the date of its inception to the present time in the following facts:
Some Figures
The first season there were three concerts. The seventy-fourth season there were 146. ‘The original orchestra was made up of fifty-eight musicians. Ninety is the present number, which is frequently augmented to over one hundred.
The largest attendance at any single concert in the first season was 300 persons. In Madison Square Garden recently 12,684 persons were present at a Philharmonic concert.
There were approximately 900 persons who made up the entire attendance for the first season of the society’s existence, as compared with the present figure of 292,000 persons in one season.
The New York Philharmonic is the third oldest organization of its kind in the world, only the London Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic having been organized previously. It is noted also for having perhaps the longest list of famous conductors of any orchestra. On its record pages are names that stand out in the musical development of Europe and America—names that read like a roll of fame in musical history.
Roster of Conductors
Its first conductor of international fame was Carl Bergmann, whose pioneer work in introducing the music of Wagner to symphony audiences in this country was described in an article by A. W. Lilienthal in MUSICAL AMERICA of Nov. 11. Theodore Thomas, whom Americans revere for what he did to spread the love of good music in this land, was conductor of the Philharmonic for many years. After Theodore Thomas came Anton Seidl, for four years Wagner’s private secretary. At the time of Seidl’s death he had been conductor of the Philharmonic for eight years. Among other famous conductors who have wielded the baton over this famous institution are Colonne, the French conductor; Wassily Safonoff, the noted Russian; Richard Strauss, Sir Henry Wood, the famous English conductor; Felix Weingartner of the Vienna Philharmonic and Royal Opera; Gustav Mahler and now, of course, Josef Stransky.
The Philharmonic in its seventy-four years has gradually extended its activities until now the members of its orchestra devote practically all their time to the work of the organization. Rehearsals are held daily during the season and about fifty concerts are given by the society in New York and Brooklyn, in addition to which, tours, including more than thirty cities, are made each·season.


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