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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, April 8

Bach and Mozart in New York

Synopsis

It's usually NEW music that gets terrible reviews in the press, but scanning old newspapers, you'll find that occasionally OLD music gets panned with equal venom.

On today's date in 1865, a concert by the Theodore Thomas Orchestra at Irving Hall opened with an orchestral arrangement of a Bach Passacaglia, followed by Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola.

The New York Times reviewer was not exactly thrilled with either selection:

"The Bach," wrote the Times, "is a fair representation of the treadmill. A culprit may travel on it for a day without advancing a step. It simply goes 'round and 'round in the most obvious style, and takes up threads with painful precision, and is generally DULL–like a superannuated church warden… The symphony for violin and viola by Mozart is a work generally avoided in Europe. The wearisome scale passages on the little fiddle repeated ad nauseam on the bigger one are simply maddening. On the whole, one would prefer death to a repetition of this production."

Thus spake the Times in April of 1865.

We should note in its defense that Americans had other matters on their minds that week. The Times headline for April 8th, the day of the concert, read: "Progress of the Rout of Lee's Army," and two days later, when the review appeared, the headline was: "Union Victory! Peace! Lee Surrenders His Whole Army!"

Music Played in Today's Program

J.S .Bach (arr. Respighi) Passacaglia in c BBC Philharmonic; Leonard Slatkin, cond. Chandos 9835

Wolfgang Mozart (1756 – 1791) Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364/320d Midori, violin; Nobuko Imai, viola; NDR Symphony; Christoph Eschenbach, cond Sony 89488

Additional Information

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