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Musical Items

Saint-Säens entered on his seventy-first year in October.

Cologne is to have a festival opera season next June, ten to twelve performances.

The Colonne series of concerts for this season in Paris is to include Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.”

Elgar’s “Apostles” will be the principal modern choral work at the Cincinnati Music Festival in 1906.

Mascagni invited librettists to submit opera “books” to him and received, in reply, nearly three hundred.

The regular season will begin at the Metropolitan Opera House and continue for fifteen weeks. “Aïda” will open the season.

A LITTLE more than one-half of the $1,000,000 stock in the proposed Academy of Music, Brooklyn, has been subscribed for.

Henry W. Savage, encouraged by the success of “Parsifal” in English, promises “Tristan” and the “Ring” for next season.

Maud Powell, the American violinist, was married in October to Mr. H. Godfrey Turner, of England, formerly manager of the Empire Theater, London.

The London Church Choir Association held its thirty-first Annual Festival in St. Paul’s Cathedral, November 7th. The festival choir numbered 1000 voices.

During the year 1903 the British Museum received only 7751 musical compositions from English publishers, a loss of 1052 in comparison with the previous year.

A giant mahogany log was recently received in New York City. It measured twenty-seven feet in length and seven feet six inches across the widest part of the butt.

Franz von Vecsey, the young violinist, will give his opening concert in New York City, January 10th. After his American tour has closed, the young prodigy will go to Australia.

At the Academy of Music, London, a bronze medal for piano playing was won by an eight-year-old boy, Max Darewski. There were forty contestants, a number of them adults.

New York City is to have some seventy or eighty orchestral concerts this season. Outside conductors who will assist are Colonne, Kogel, Safonoff, Weingartner, Panzner, and Theodore Thomas.

The house in which Haydn died at Vienna is not to be pulled down. It has been bought by the municipal authorities and the Haydn Museum installed in the three rooms once occupied by the composer.

The concert list for the week October 2d-8th in Berlin showed three chamber music concerts, seven orchestral concerts, sixteen vocal and instrumental recitals, and twenty-three opera performances.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the English composer, is to make another tour in Canada. He will produce his “Witch’s Daughter” and a new “Canadian Rhapsody” for orchestra, founded on Canadian airs.

Next year’s Wagner Festival at Munich will include three performances of the “Ring,” four of the “Mastersingers,” three of “Tristan,” and two of the “Flying Dutchman,” under the direction of Felix Mottl.

Women choir singers who are members of the Catholic church, having been dismissed from their places in their own church, have petitioned the authorities at Rome for the privilege of singing in non-Catholic churches.

At a sale of musical copyrights in London “In the Gloaming” and arrangements sold for $625; “Sailing” and arrangements, once so popular a sea song, brought $600. Both these songs are considered worn out in this country.

A new symphony by Gustav Mahler, played by Walter Damrosch’s Orchestra, November 6th, contains a soprano solo in the last movement, the text to which is taken from a medieval poem entitled “Der Himmel hängt voller Geigen” (Heaven is full of fiddles).

During the months of July to September nearly 3000 pieces of music by French composers were deposited in the library of the Conservatoire as required by law to secure the copyright and privilege. Songs, marches, and dances made up the larger number.

The rule established by Pope Pius X, excluding women from Catholic church choirs, has been accepted in New York City. In the Cathedral a choir of sixty male voices has been installed, which, added to the chancel choir of sixty boys, makes a force of one hundred and twenty singers.

Leoncavallo’s new opera, “Roland von Berlin,” is now in rehearsal. Those who are engaged have been forced to promise to allow nothing of the music to become known prior to the first performance, which it is hoped by those interested will be nothing short of sensational.

German cities find that the public want the great conductors for some of the regular season concerts. Thus in Wiesbaden, the orchestra, in addition to the concerts under the regular conductor, Lüstner, will be conducted in three concerts by Felix Mottl, Arthur Nikisch, and Richard Strauss.

The success of the Boston presentation of “Parsifal” led Philip Hale to say: “The public will yet be forced to admit that opera in English is not a foolish dream; that an excellent ensemble is preferable to a few stars of the first magnitude who shine the more brilliantly by reason of the surrounding darkness.”

A New York paper says that the use of women in the choirs of the Catholic churches of that city will be discontinued gradually, some of the singers having contracts extending to 1906. There are about 300 women singing in the Catholic churches of New York City, receiving an average salary of $40 per month.

The Lamoureux Orchestra of Paris, under the direction of Camille Chevillard, the best trained orchestra of France, made a trip of the leading German cities. The programs were made up largely from the works of leading French composers, although Weber, Schumann, Wagner, Beethoven, and Borodin were also represented.

A gold ring that once belonged to Mozart has recently come into the possession of the Mozarteum at Salzburg. This was the ring presented to Mozart when he was six years old by the Empress Maria Theresa, and the one that he wore when he was making his visit to Italy and played with such success that the Neapolitans thought him assisted by magic which they believed to reside in his ring.

Stavenhagen has left the Royal Academy of Music, Munich, and will teach privately. This is the sequel to friction in the school, which certain of the authorities claimed was established chiefly for the education of singers and orchestra players, whereas Stavenhagen encouraged the study of the piano and gave it the greatest attention. Von Bülow was once the director of this school.

Tolstoi’s latest pronouncement is against folk song, which he thinks is undeserving the attention recently turned toward it. “A folk song,” he says, “is exactly the same thing as a bottle of brandy or a pipe of tobacco, an empty pastime, a commonplace entertainment, which moreover incites men to evil deeds, to squabbles, etc.” As America has no folk song of its own, perhaps that may be the reason it is better off than Russia, which has so great a store.

Gustave Charpentier, the French composer, has turned his attention to musical philanthropy. He proposes to open free classes in singing, declamation, and instrumental music for girls who have no opportunity to know music other than that afforded by the café concert. His plan was warmly taken up by other musicians, and now professors from the Conservatoire, actors, and actresses from the leading theaters hold free classes in the evening or on Sundays.

Mr. Henry T. Finck, of the New York Evening Post has on different occasions advocated the playing such movements of sonatas or symphonies as are conceded to be the most attractive. His contention is that there is no principle of construction shown in these large works that makes it imperative to play all the movements of a symphony, especially when they are unequal in value. A writer in the London Truth has taken up the same line and calls upon Mr. Henry Wood to play single movements of symphonies. He says: “Give the average hearer a fine, slow movement from a symphony and he follows it with delight. The whole work played right off the reel, on the contrary, he finds an infliction.”

A Boston correspondent of one of the New York weeklies says that there are signs that a crisis is coming in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Musicians’ Union is at the bottom of the trouble. The story is that a majority of the players are members of the Union and threaten to quit unless the other players become identified with the Union. Mr. Higginson is strongly opposed to unionism and is said to be determined to withdraw his support if the orchestra becomes unionized. Another phase of the Musicians’ Union and its methods is presented in New York, where an effort is being made to force musical director Hertz, of the Metropolitan Opera to become a member of the local organization.

The New York Evening Post prints some interesting things about Japanese music: The Japanese have always held poetry in high honor. It is on record that in the year 438 a.d. a criminal who had been condemned to death wrote a poem which made so deep an impression on the Emperor that he pardoned him. Music, on the other hand, has always been regarded as an art to be exercised chiefly by geishas and blind men. The composers are not held in honor. Nevertheless, the practice of music extends to remote times; the koto—a sort of zither—was known in China, whence the Japanese derived it, 2000 years ago. The rules for playing it are more complicated than those which David explains to Walther in Wagner’s “Meistersinger”; but some of the players, particularly the blind men, know how to conceal this pedantic side of the music by means of dainty musical ornaments. The favorite instrument of the women is the banjolike samisen. The weakest side of Japanese music is the vocal—though, to be sure, they laugh at our vocal music. Their professional singers indulge in so many strange noises that we find it difficult to discover musical sounds and definite intervals in them. Richard Wallaschek thinks that the trouble with Japanese vocal music lies chiefly in this unnatural way of singing it. The compositions themselves, he avers, “are actually not badly invented. There is many a Japanese musical idea of which a European could make good use, but as long as the present style of singing lasts all hope of improvement must be abandoned.”

The interesting announcement is made that the Bach festivals, which in past years have drawn such attention to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are to be resumed on a larger and more comprehensive scheme. During the year there will be nine days of music, not consecutive, but divided into three festivals of as many days each. The idea is to give the works performed as nearly as possible on the days for which they were originally designed. Thus the first begins in Christmas week, the 28th of this month; the “Christmas Oratorio” and kindred compositions will be heard. The second will occur in Lent, in early spring, when the great “St. Matthew Passion” and probably the one according to St. John will be sung. The third will take place in late spring, commemorating Easter and Ascension, when on doubt the “Mass in B minor” will be sung. No one who heard this colossal work, which the Bach Choir of Bethlehem have made peculiarly their own, in May, 1903, when the old Moravian church was filled to overflowing with visitors from all parts of the country, can forget the power and majesty of the music; it must remain an ineffaceable memory for a lifetime. These festivals, which began in the spring of 1900 with the first complete performance of the mass in America, in view of their scope are justly considered the most important events in the musical history of the country. Bach’s great choral works were written for the church, and to produce their full effect should be heard in churchly surroundings and under churchly conditions. Both surroundings and conditions are realized in Bethlehem as can hardly be the case elsewhere. While listening to these works in the century-old church, the chorales sung as in Bach’s time by the assembled hearers, one is transported for the time being into the naïve, ingenuous atmosphere of the eighteenth century, with its childlike, implicit faith undisturbed by modern doubt. Added to this is a truly remarkable technical finish and certainty on the part of the choristers that is possible only where singers and leader are inspired by a like spirit of devotion to art in its highest and most austere manifestation.

 

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