March 11, 1916
Page 1

“Symphony of a Thousand” Thrillingly Performed by Philadelphia Orchestra and Huge Assisting Choruses—Audience Demonstrative in Its Approval—The Music Melodious and Impressive, with Truly Majestic Climaxes
Bureau of Musical America, 34 South Seventeenth Street, Philadelphia, March 3, 1916

THE many months of hard work necessary to the preparation of the Eighth Symphony of Gustav Mahler (the “Symphony of a Thousand”) were crowned with glowing success at the Academy of Music last evening when the work was given its first performance in America by the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski with a double chorus of 400 voices each, a chorus of children numbering 150, eight soloists, and an augmented orchestra of 110 musicians. This was the first of four performances in this city, the second taking place this afternoon, the third to-morrow evening, and the fourth, which has been announced because hundreds of persons have been unable to secure seats for the first three, on Tuesday evening, April 4. These performances will be followed by one more, to be given at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, under the auspices of the Friends of Music, on Sunday evening, April 9.
A description of what took place at the Academy of Music last evening with a consideration of the brilliant audience its reception of the work, and the enthusiasm with which it was swayed in paying tributes of admiration and congratulation to conductor, chorus, soloists orchestra and all concerned in the performance, might lead to a succession of superlatives, as the occasion undoubtedly was one of the most notable in the musical history of Philadelphia, and perhaps in that of this country. At any rate, there was a tremendous demonstration at the conclusion of the first part which was exceeded in enthusiasm by that which occurred at the end of the performance. Mr. Stokowski, who not only had conducted the symphony with certainty and intuitive insight and deep appreciation, but entirely from memory, was presented by Alexander Van Rensselaer, president of the Orchestra Association, with a framed bronze wreath, in bas re1ief, the gift of the association, also receiving two laurel wreaths from individuals, while the audience rose to him with shouted “Bravos!” and fairly overwhelmed h1m with the ardor of its enthusiasm. To the presentation speech made by Mr. Van Rensselaer, Mr. Stokowski responded, expressing his gratitude to the Philadelphia public for its warm support, stating that it was a source of deep gratification to him that the audience should so appreciate so difficult a work in a single hearing.
It is not necessary here to enter into a discussion of Mahler’s place in the musical world, although many interesting things might be said bearing upon the eighth in his list of nine symphonies. (He left an uncompleted tenth which, it is said, will not be published.) The first performance of the Eighth Symphony accepted as the greatest of Mahler’s works, was given in Munich Sept. 12 1910, under the direction of the composer with memorable success, and was repeated the following evening. Mr. Stokowski, who was present at both of these performances, after having attended many of the rehearsals, was so deeply impressed that he has likened his sensations to those which he believes may have been experienced by the first white man when he looked for the first time upon Niagara. “Something of the same feeling of awe—the same flashing insight into infinity—I felt before this mighty work of Mahler,” says Mr. Stokowski. It was only natural, therefore, that, a few years later, when he became the conductor of so large and efficient an organization as the Philadelphia Orchestra Mr. Stokowski should be imbued with the desire to give the Mahler work its first presentation in this country.
Of the composition itself, as presented with the large number of singers and instrumentalists which Mahler indicated as being essential, there is some danger of speaking at first with unthinking enthusiasm. For this reason it is best to remember that quite naturally such an unusual combination of orchestra chorus and soloists would be likely to thrill, perhaps somewhat superficially, in any worthy work to which such a combination might be applied. There have, of course, been larger choruses, and probably as large or larger a combination of voices and instruments, presented in this country, and it is not difficult to imagine effects fully as impressive being produced by the music of some of the great oratorios, if the same number of persons in chorus and orchestra were employed. But this is not the question to be considered, since Mahler’s composition is neither oratorio nor cantata, nor does it partake of the operatic. It must be regarded as essentially symphonic in form and development.
The Two Divisions
The first part is built upon, or around the words of the old Latin hymn, “Veni’ Creator Spiritus,” while the second part is a setting of the final scene from Goethe’s “Faust,” that of the Anchorites, in which Faust’s soul, freed from the body which Mephistopheles retains, is borne by angels to celestial regions, transfigured and redeemed, to be welcomed by the sanctified Margaretto realms of light and joy. Although at first these two sections may seem to be unrelated, very clearly does Mahler unify them in his thought and its illumination, typifying the struggle of the human soul to rise above the oppression of things earthly, escaping the influence of evil, thus soaring to eternal salvation and joy. In bringing out this thought, Mahler has not altogether laid aside the old classical form, but has merged it, through the music, with his enlightenment of the poetry which forms the basis of the second part.
The symphonic form is discernible in the construction of the work, in the manner in which chorus, orchestra and solo voices are welded into a complete whole. The first part suggests the sonata form. After the statement of the themes, the culmination of the development of the music in this part is reached in an enormous double fugue, wonderfully impressive in effect. A free adaptation of the symphonic form is presented in the second part of the work, with the suggestions of the adagio, the scherzo and the finale. In a remarkable manner the voices used as an integral part of the orchestration, the solo voices, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, being treated as obbligato instruments, without much of the personal element, although they have the names of the persons in the scene from “Faust.”
The composition begins in the key of E fiat, and, after many modulations, ends in the same key. The unity between the two parts of the symphony is found, after all, to be complete, divergent as they at first appear to be. They meet and are welded into one, it might be said, as mysteriously as the two sections of a tunnel, bored through a mountain in the darkness, finally coming to complete union in the rays of their blended light. The work should not be regarded as religious, although this classification may appear to be implied by the use of the words of the Latin hymn and the scene depicting the redemption of Faust. Mahler does not attempt to make the music essentially religious in character, however. With all the spiritual uplift and the ethereal quality of the music, reaching its height in the final Chorus Mysticus, there is a suggestion of the earthly as well as of the heavenly in the composition, freeing it, as said before, from a purely ecclesiastical aspect or the atmosphere of oratorio. It is not that Mahler missed this, it might be said, but that he did not specifically aim for it.
Not Distinctly “Modernist”
In listening to the music, the ear accustomed to the frankly discordant strains of many of the so-called ·”modernists” receives the impression that Mahler is not distinctly one of these. He is, in fact, revealed as a disciple of the melodious, his themes having directness and simplicity, being founded in several instances upon South German folk tunes. Because of this very simplicity, some critics here pronounced them “banal.” Mahler; to be sure, produces some of the effects that have come to be accepted as indicative of the modern spirit, but in spite of these, and profuse as his orchestration is, and elaborate as the work is in its construction and in its vocal and instrumental demands, its lyrical smoothness and freedom from shrieking discord and annoying dissonance are in contrast to the great mass of modern music. When occasional suggestions of these effects appear they seem to have a purpose and not to come from any intent of sensationalism.
Without other introduction than a great chord, the composition begins with a bursting of the entire orchestral forces into the overwhelming cry, “Veni, creator spiritus!” while the second part has an orchestral prelude of much tonal beauty, vaguely mysterious in effect—quite Debussy-like in this respect—in which is described the mountain ravine, with its caves and clefts, its rocks and trees, its many shadows and dim, flickering lights, leading to the scene of the Anchorites in “Faust,”, and the succeeding burst of ethereal splendor and celestial joy. As heard last night, perhaps the grandest heights were reached in the delivery of the double fugue, and the thrilling presentation of the “Gloria,” with four trombones sounding majestically from the top proscenium box on one side of the stage and four trumpets from the same position on the other side at the end of both parts, and in the Chorus Mysticus at the climax of the final scene.
Of the performance at the Academy of Music last evening it is possible to speak with all truthfulness in terms of cordial praise. The chorus is a splendid aggregation of earnest, conscientious and capable singers carefully selected, who for many weeks have worked assiduously and whose efforts now have the reward of splendid success. The first chorus of 400 voices, organized by the Orchestra Association, was trained by Mr. Stokowski, while Henry Gordon Thunder assumed the responsibility for the second chorus, of the same number of voices. This second chorus was made up of members of the Choral Society of Philadelphia, the Mendelssohn Club and the Fortnightly Club, and to Mr. Thunder is due recognition for the very important part which he undertook and so successfully carried through. Assisting in the performance, Mr. Thunder was at the organ. Constantin von Sternberg at the piano, William Sylvano Thunder at the harmonium, and Hedda Van den Beemt at the organ.
Work of the Soloists
The eight soloists—on the program designated as “Assisting Forces”—were: Florence Hinkle, Inez Barbour and Adelaide Fischer, sopranos; Margaret Keyes and Susanna Dercum, contralto; Lambert Murphy, tenor; Reinald Werrenrath, baritone; Clarence Whitehill, basso. In the second part these artists represented as follows the characters in the “Faust” scene: Una Poenitentium, Miss Hinkle; Magna Piccatrix, Miss Barbour; Mater Gloriosa, Miss Fischer; Mulier Samaritana, Miss Keyes; Maria Aegyptiaca, Miss Dercum; Doctor Marianus, Mr. Murphy; Pater Ecstaticus, Mr. Werrenrath; Pater Profundus, Mr. Whitehill. These singers were heard with individual artistic effect and distinction in their respective parts, and while they merit separate mention in terms of praise, it is sufficiently to their credit to say that they filled in spirit and with sympathetic regard for all that they were required to do, their places in the work as a whole. They did not, as said before, appear in the usual capacity of solo performers, nor receive individual applause during the performance. At its conclusion, however, Mr. Stokowski summoned them all to the front of the platform, that they might receive the acknowledgments of the audience. Henry Gordon Thunder was given an individual share in the general ovation, Mr. Stokowski grasping his hand and presenting him personally.
Musical Notables There
Many notable persons from other cities were present at the performance, among them being Mrs. and Mrs. Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Bauer, Mr. and Mrs. Josef Hofmann, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Hutcheson. Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Kunwald, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Randolph, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Schelling, Mr. and Mrs. David Mannes, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Untermeyer, Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Strube, Judge and Mrs. J. Butler Woodward, Mr. and Mrs. J. Fred Wolle, Mrs. Werrenrath, Mrs. William M. Bannard, Kitty Cheatham, Dr. A. G. Rolfe, Oscar G. Sonneck, Albert Spalding, Kurt Schindler and Theodore Spiering. —ARTHUR L. TUBBS.
Comments of Philadelphia newspaper critics on the premiere of the Mahler Symphony:
In this magnificent Eighth Symphony Mahler spoke his heart out to Heaven, perhaps a little careless of whether men heard him or not, for the score shows him ever ready to reject the tame compliances and conventions whereby an easy fame and a cheap popularity can be won. —Public Ledger.
Mahler’s magnum opus is indeed a noble work, absolutely original in its conception, singularly skillful in its construction, projected upon a scale of unexampled magnitude which yet it fills, employing with a supreme efficiency the manifold instrumentalities which it engages, instrumentalities which are introduced not for their own sake, but because their co-operation is essential to the achievement of the composer’s purpose, and revealing at every point and in every manner the influence of a highly creative imagination working through a technical equipment of incomparable completeness. —The Inquirer.
And in the end what one carries away from the Academy of Music is the impression of an ambitious mass of tones and harmonies, fused here and there into moments of surpassing beauty, but on the whole not singularly impressive; not, at least, commensurate with the great expectations raised by the elaborate preparations made for it all. —The Press.
The two climaxes, that of the first part, the “Gloria,” and the closing, with the recurring strains of the “Veni, Creator” theme, mark a height that literally sweeps the audience from its feet. —The Record.
In rehearsal the Mahler Symphony was generally recognized as an extraordinary composition. Without a dissenting voice it was pronounced one of the most significant products of modern music. But in its actual performance last night it assumed epoch-making importance and surpassed in effectiveness the predictions of its most enthusiastic admirers. —The North American.
Success of Mahler Production Necessitates Additional Hearings
PHILADELPHIA, March 6. — After the third performance of the Mahler Eighth Symphony at the Academy of Music on Saturday evening, the members of the women’s committee of the Philadelphia Orchestra gave a reception to Leopold Stokowski, the conductor, and the soloists.
So successful has been the production of the symphony and so great the demand for seats, hundreds being unable to secure admission to any of the performances already given, that there will he three extra performances, in addition to that already scheduled for April 4, these to take place on the evenings of March 29 and April 3 and 5. In response to the requests of many of the schools of the city, school children will be admitted to the dress rehearsal on Monday evening,
March 27, for fifty cents each.
The success of the Mahler production has made it likely that the Philadelphia Orchestra will hereafter make something of a feature of works written for both orchestra and chorus, and that the .Orchestra Association will maintain a permanent chorus of large numbers, to work in collaboration with the orchestra.
The prospects now are that the free Sunday afternoon concerts by the Philadelphia Orchestra will be continued, with one more to take place this spring, and a series of at least ten next season. It seems assured that the city will appropriate $15,000 to pay for the concerts next season. As it is estimated that the concerts will cost $25,000, this will leave $1,000 for each occasion to be paid by the Orchestra Association, and it is understood that the association is willing to bear this part of the expense. —A. L. T.


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