Composers Datebook®

A Monster Concert for Peace

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 -1864) –Coronation March, from Le Prophète (New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond.) Sony 46709 Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) –Anvil Chorus, from Il Trovatore (Chicago Symphony and Chorus; Sir Georg Solti, cond.) London 466 075


Composer's Datebook - 20220619

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June 19, 2022

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1869, a visitor to Boston’s Back Bay could have marveled at a huge, specially-erected wooden structure sporting American flags and surrounded by a mini-village of peanut vendors and lemonade stands.

Inside, an orchestra of 1000 sat surrounded by a chorus of 10,000. Over the stage hung giant portraits of Handel and Beethoven, and higher yet depictions of two angels gazing heavenwards by a banner reading “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

This June 19th concert marked the end of a 5-day Jubilee Festival of Music and Reconciliation, as America tried to mend the wounds caused by its recent Civil War. Former Union General and current President Ulysses S. Grant was on hand, and the New York Times opined that the Festival offered proof that, “our people can think of something beyond … the almighty dollar.”

During the Festival, the massive orchestra and chorus performed selections ranging from “classical” works by Bach and Mozart to more recent works by Meyerbeer and Verdi.

A review by John S. Dwight, Boston’s leading music critic of that day, found the immense chorus “glorious and inspiring” and the huge orchestra “splendid.” However, he dismissed a performance of Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus,” accompanied by 100 real anvils, as a “childish, trivial thing for such a grand occasion.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791 -1864) –Coronation March, from Le Prophète (New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond.) Sony 46709

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Anvil Chorus, from Il Trovatore (Chicago Symphony and Chorus; Sir Georg Solti, cond.) London 466 075

On This Day

Births

  • 1717 - Baptismal date of Bohemian violinist and composer Johann Wenzel Anton Stamitz, in Nemecký Brod (Deutsch-Brod, now Havlíckuv Brod);

  • 1842 - Austrian operetta composer Carl Zeller, in St. Peter in der Au;

  • 1854 - Italian opera composer Alfredo Catalani, in Lucca;

Deaths

  • 1915 - Russian composer Sergei Taneyev, age 58, in Dyud'kovo, near Zvenigorod (Julian date: June 6);

Premieres

  • 1899 - Elgar: "Enigma Variations," in London, Queen's Hall, Hallé Orchestra conducted by Hans Richter;

  • 1915 - Saint-Saëns: choral work, "Hail California," in San Francisco, composer conducting;

  • 1926 - Antheil: "Ballet Mécanique," in Paris;

  • 1984 - Bernstein: opera "A Quiet Place" (revised version), by La Scala Opera, John Mauceri conducting; The first version of this opera premiered at Houston Grand Opera on June 17, 1983, conducted by John DeMain.

Others

  • 1869 - final concert of a five-day "Great National Peace Jubilee" involving an orchestra of 1000 and a chorus of 10,000 organized by bandmaster Patrick Gilmore performing in a specially-constructed hall in Boston’s Back Bay;