• Geoffrey Dean

US Cello Performances, 1891-2 Season: An Annotated Timeline, part 1

Updated: May 28

The 1891-2 season, Alwin Schroeder's first in the US, saw an extraordinary convergence of musical talent in this country, and the development of rivalries between New York and Boston musicians and ensembles. The timeline below chronicles some of the concerts given by cellists in the US during October, November, and December, when Schroeder was taking his first steps in establishing himself as a leading cello soloist on this side of the Atlantic.


October 1891


9, 10 Music Hall, Boston First BSO concerts with Alwin Schroeder as first cello


Formerly first cellist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Theatre orchestras (1880-1891), Schroeder came to Boston in September 1891 at the invitation of Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Arthur Nikisch to join the Kneisel Quartet and lead the BSO cello section. His BSO predecessors as first cellist included Wulf Fries (1881), Wilhelm Mueller (1882-4), Fritz Giese (1884-9), and Anton Hekking (1889-1891).


14 City Hall, Portland ME Alwin Schroeder solos on Mme Nordica’s concert


Schroeder played “with marvelous skill that won him prolonged applause.” Portland Daily Press 10 15 1891 p 5


19 Union Hall, Boston Alwin Schroeder debuts in Kniesel Quartet


Led by BSO concertmaster Franz Kneisel, the Kneisel Quartet’s 7th season opened with the US premiere of Brahms’s String Quintet in G Major, Op. 111. “We mean no disparagement of the violoncellists whom Mr. Alwin Schroeder succeeds; but, if this first evening be the criterion, the ideal fourth part in the group is nearer to us than ever before. In tone and phrasing, and above all in the exact proportioning of his instrument to its intended place…this new artist is the best ’cellist whom Mr. Kneisel has had.” (The Beacon, 10 24 1891)


23 Madison Square, NY Heinrich Grunfeld makes his US debut


with his pianist brother Alfred; both Grunfelds were court musicians of German Emperor Wilhelm II. The first music concert ever given at Madison Square Garden, it opened with the Beethoven A Major cello sonata, “in which the pianist so dominated that it became rather a piano concerto with ’cello accompaniment.” (NY Herald, 10 24 1891)


23, 24 Music Hall, Boston Alwin Schroeder debuts as soloist with BSO


playing Volkmann Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 33. “He is a careful and conscientious player; a thoughtful musician without virtuoso blood in his veins. The audience was pleased with his scholarly performance, and he was twice recalled.” (Philip Hale in Boston Post, 10 26 1891) “He is a charming player, and will, without question, quickly take his place with the best ’cello soloists in America.” (Boston Sunday Herald, 10 25 1891)


29 Columbia Th., Chicago Bruno Steindel solos on Washburne benefit


Steindel also arrived in the US in 1891, to become first cellist of the newly-founded Chicago Symphony under Theodore Thomas. On this occasion he played a Mozart Larghetto and Popper's Elfentanz.


November


1 Carnegie Chamber Hall, NYC New York Symphony String Quartet series announced


NY Symphony Society conductor Walter Damrosch had engaged violinist Adolph Brodsky as his new concertmaster and quartet leader and lured Schroeder’s predecessor Anton Hekking from the BSO. Damrosch boasted, “I have gathered together a string quartette which will be without an equal in this or any other country.” (Chicago Tribune, 8 9 1891 p. 2)


6 Sherry’s Hall, NYC First concert of Kneisel Quartet’s NY series, season 1


“The Kneisel Quartet … [is] easily first among the chamber-music clubs now before the public. … It is significant that they come before us at the beginning of a season when local efforts of a most promising character will be made to atone for past delinquencies [in chamber music performance], but they are none the less welcome on that account. Last night’s performance sufficed to show that they will be able to hold their own, and their presence will stimulate the Beethoven Club and the new organizations just forming to put forward their best efforts. So our music-lovers will be gainers by the friendly rivalry between the men from Boston and the men of New-York. … All the music was played with a technical perfection, a sincerity of feeling, and a delicacy and loveliness of expression quite beyond cavil. It was an evening of unalloyed artistic delight.” (NY Tribune, 11 7 1 891 p 6)


December


6 Carnegie Chamber Hall, NYC First New York Symphony String Quartet concert


"As [Brodsky] is known to have been a member of one of the finest quartets in Europe, the concert excited general interest. It was a surprise to its hearers in many respects. Energy, vitality and determination are the characteristics of the leader, and when you add a meek ’cello and neutral middle parts, the effect is bad. …A ride on the locomotive or “flyer” might convey a faint idea of the indefatigable propelling power of Brodsky. But these are not the sensations one expects to gain from a string quartette.” (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 12 17 1891 p 7)


6 Carnegie Hall, NYC NY Symphony Society first cellist Anton Hekking

plays Servais Fantasy-Caprice, Op. 8 on a “Damrosch Sunday Concert.” “In a programme of such general excellence it was hard to specify any one performance as worthy of special mention. Both orchestra and soloists were at their best…” (NY Sun, 12 7 1891)


6 Report from London News of prodigy cellist Jean Gerardy


Queen Victoria had taken an interest in the young Belgian cellist Jean Gerardy, who would make his first US tour in 1894. “Her Majesty expressed the utmost delight at the [12-year-old] boy’s wonderful playing,” said to surpass all other cellists except Alfredo Piatti. (NY Times, 12 6 1891)


8 Chickering Hall, NYC Alwin Schroeder makes New York solo debut


in Volkmann Op. 33. “[Schroeder] fully justified and sustained the great reputation which preceded him by playing …in a most artistic and musicianly manner. Although commending the technic of his instrument to a degree of virtuosity, he never displays it as such, but, like the true artist he is, uses it as a means to an end.” (Musical Courier 1891, p. 709)


9 Washington, DC Alwin Schroeder in local solo debut on BSO concert


The ’cellist, Mr. Alwin Schroeder, appealed to the sympathetic side of the audience, both in his selections and in the exquisite tenderness of his execution.” (Evening Star, 12 10 1891)


9 New York Schmidt-Herbert Quartet debuts


“A truly musical evening… The entrance of a new organization upon a field already crowded with similar ones of a mature and sturdy growth is an interesting spectacle, containing much of that excitement always pertaining to a hazardous experiment. …such brilliant and intelligent playing … was something of a revelation. Mr. Herbert’s exquisite playing of the Boccherini sonata was the feature of the evening. This excellent player, who stands at the head of our resident ’cellists, is not heard often enough this season.” (NY Herald, 12 10 1891 p 8)


10 City Hall, Portland, ME Anton Hekking solos on NYSS concert


Hekking had been heard previously in Portland as a member of the BSO and the Mendelssohn Quintette Club.


11 Meriden, CT Georgia Pray solos on Beethoven Quartet concert


playing Servais fantasy, Op. 8. In 1889 Miss Pray had succeeded Wulf Fries in this quartet, led by C. N. Allen. “Ten years ago… It seemed strange that girls should wish to study and play so unwieldy an instrument as the “cello;” but the desire to be able to play string quartettes, the perfection of musical composition, urged them to study these large “fiddles.” Among the many competent lady “cellists,” Miss Georgia Pray of Boston stands first, playing with the far-famed Beethoven club, heretofore composed entirely of men.” (Blue Rapids (KS) Times, 8 16 1894 p 1)


14 Fitchburg, MA Alwin Schroeder solos on chamber music concert


"Mr. Schroeder, an entire stranger, at once won the hearty approval of the audience by his execution, his beautiful quality of tone and his masterly phrasing. [Popper’s] “Spinnlied” called forth most hearty and prolonged applause, until he was obliged to respond [with an encore].” (Fitchburg Sentinel, 12 15 1891 p 6)


18 Baltimore Grunfeld brothers concert


27 Carnegie Hall, NYC Anton Hekking solos with NYSS/Damrosch


Hekking “charmingly rendered three noble ‘cello selections from Godard, Massenet and Popper.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 12 28 1891 p 2) Below: Carnegie Hall in 1895





19 views0 comments