The Beethoven Society, part 2
UPDATED, December 27, 2020: I managed to mix together my notes on the two works by Haydn—adapted by William Gardiner as “his” pasticcio oratorio “Judah”—that appeared on this first concert of the Milwaukie Beethoven Society. I have updated this post to correct the information and links about piece no. 2, from “Part First” of the performance, “Now elevate the sign of Judah.” The information about the chorus “Lo he cometh”—the 8th item on “Part Second”—has been moved to its correct place in our upcoming post about the second part of the concert, scheduled for Monday, December 28, 2020. Sorry for the confusion. —R.P.
In Friday’s post we introduced what is commonly believed to be Milwaukee’s first concert society, the Milwaukie Beethoven Society. If you missed it, please take a moment to read that post for background on the group and its place in early Milwaukee’s cultural life. They gave their first performance on Thursday, March 23rd, 1843, at the Milwaukee Court House. The advertised program was:
Milwaukee Weekly Sentinel March 15 1843, page 2. Click to open larger image in new window.
The program for the evening was typical for the era, featuring solo songs (“song,” “air,” “ballad”), vocal duets, trios and quartets, and choruses for the full ensemble. (It’s also possible that the duets, trios and quartets may have been sung one-on-a-part, or with the full chorus divided into two, three or four parts to cover the “solo” lines.) On this initial performance, the Beethoven Society did not play any strictly orchestral works. This suggests that the the newly-formed ensemble may have understood itself to be more of an “oratorio society”—focused on vocal and choral repertoire with instrumental accompaniment—rather than a “symphony orchestra” with an affiliated chorus.
Even as early as 1843, it’s not surprising that the citizens of Milwaukee could form a performing ensemble of some 35 singers and instrumentalists. Oratorio societies were very popular throughout 19th- and early-20th century America for aesthetic and practical reasons. From a practical point of view—and my own more recent experience—it was probably much easier to assemble a reasonably capable group of men and women to form a decent mixed-voice, SATB, chorus. As we discussed last week, many 19th-century Americans were taught the rudiments of music and singing in school, in church, and at home. In the 19th-century, singing in harmony was a common part of worship, education, and home life. And you don’t need to invest in expensive instruments and years of regular lessons to become a contributing member of a good amateur chorus. Then as now, the talent pool for a good community chorus is usually deeper than for a full amateur orchestra.
Artistically, choral repertoire fulfilled a need for individual and community music-making and aesthetic and spiritual uplift. In today’s post you’ll see that many of the works on the concert—whether originally sacred or secular—were adapted from their original texts and purposes and fitted out with new, English language, Bible-based or liturgical texts. And if not sacred, the texts of the other pieces—with one or two exceptions—tended to be either somewhat sentimental or deeply maudlin. (It was the Victorian era, after all.)
On the other hand, finding enough properly-trained instrumentalists to cover the necessary wind, brass, percussion and string parts for a Haydn symphony or a Beethoven overture was probably close to impossible in pioneer Milwaukee. We only know two of the performer’s names. Miss E. Hinton presided at the pianoforte (and was probably a very busy woman at the rehearsals and performances), and Mr. L. T. Zander was the “leader.” Whether Zander sang, played an instrument—or alternated between both—is not known.
We also know that there were enough amateur (and possibly a few professional) musicians in early Milwaukee to help keep Hale’s Book and Music Store in business. How many of Hale’s customers were proficient players of orchestral instruments is unknown. I assume that major part of Hale’s sales were of books, as well as sheet music, pianos, and the occasional banjo, fiddle, flute or bugle. So my guess—also based on experience with ad hoc amateur ensembles—is that the Beethoven Society’s orchestra was not a “full orchestra.” Even if the six members of Mequon’s Bonniwell Band participated—and it seems unlikely that they would travel to Milwaukee for weekly winter rehearsals—there may only have been a flute and a clarinet (or two), and perhaps a serpent for the low wind parts. Plus a trumpet or two and maybe a horn and a trombone. Someone in town probably owned and played the snare drum, but were there any timpani in Wisconsin in 1843? I’d be surprised if there were. The orchestra may have been filled-out with a few violins or fiddles1 and maybe a cello. Any “missing” orchestral parts (oboes? bassoons? violas? contrabasses?) would have to be covered by the agile Miss Hinton at the piano.
On with the show!
As promised here is my attempt to give you a taste of the music heard on March 23, 1843 at the Milwaukee Court House. I’ll introduce each piece “as advertised,” then give you some background on the composer and the original text or format of the work (if that differed from the composer’s original). For more information on each piece and composer, be sure to click on the links.
Then—when possible—I have added links to YouTube recordings of each piece. But as you might imagine, many of these works are, shall we say, no longer as popular as they once were, and there are no recordings to be found. So when I couldn’t find a recording or video, I located the original sheet music and linked to it, so you can “sing-it-yourself.”
- Introduction — A popular French Air.2
No composer or title is given for the first selection. Based on other mid-1800s concert programs that I’ve seen, I think this opening selection would have been a solo for a soprano (or maybe a tenor, such as “leader” L. T. Zander?) and piano. One song that remains popular to this day is “Plasir d’amour” by the French composer Jean Paul Égide Martini (1741-1816, not to be confused with Padre Giovanni Battista Martini, who appears, below, as the composer of the fifth item on our program).
Performance: There are many, many versions to choose from. Here’s one featuring soprano Claire Lefilliâtre accompanied by an early fortepiano. If you prefer a more modern version, Joan Baez made a recording in French and English during the 1960s folksong revival, and Elvis sang this immortal Martini-inspired adaptation in 1961 in his film Blue Hawaii.
- Chorus—Now elevate the sign of Judah……Haydn.
During the last 30 years or so of his life, composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was considered by many musicians and listeners to be the greatest living European composer. His many string quartets and symphonies helped define those genres. He also wrote many piano sonatas, operas, masses, and vast amounts of other vocal works and chamber music. He was especially renowned for his late oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, both of which were originally composed to English texts.
This chorus, however, is not (I’m pretty sure) from either of those immortal works, and Haydn never wrote a piece with a text “Now elevate the sign of Judah.” The music of this piece is probably by Haydn, but the text is not Haydn’s. This chorus is part of a larger work, from a popular genre of the era, the “pasticcio oratorio.” These were works assembled from the music of several (usually-) famous composers and fitted out with new words to make the works useful for contemporary audiences, congregations, or singing societies in England or America. This pasticcio chorus is part of “Judah: a sacred oratorio in score / written, composed and adapted to the works of Haydn, Mozart [etc., …]” by English composer William Gardnier (1770-1853).
This chorus, “Now elevate the sign of Judah,” was adapted by Gardinier from work of Haydn’s that I don’t recognize, perhaps an early, obscure church work such as the one that inspired the other Hayden-Gardiner chorus, “Lo he cometh,” that closes the second half of this concert.
How did this English pasticcio arrangement get to Milwaukee in 1843? Well, it’s complicated; if you want to know more, musicologist Warren Kimball has an excellent essay on how another musical society—in New Orleans—performed music from Gardiner’s “Judah” in that city in 1842; I suspect the Milwaukee performance story is similar. For all the details, read his blog post, here, and see my comments for part two of this concert in our December 28, 2020, blog post.
Performance: Since I don’t know which original Haydn piece this Gardiner arrangement is based on,3 I won’t be able to locate a recording on line. So this is another do-it-yourself performance. Click here for the pdf of the piano-vocal arrangement of the piece as published in The Boston Academy’s Collection of Choruses, 2nd (?) edition, Boston, 1845. This is probably the arrangement sung by the Beethoven Society in 1843.
- Ballad—The Veteran……J. P. Knight
A morose lament from an old (ghostly?) veteran visiting the churchyard where he may (or soon will) be buried. A song by the popular English composer Joseph Philip Knight (1812-1887). Knight visited America in 1839, and composed his most famous song “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep” while he was in the U.S.
Performance: This is a do-it-yourself song, all you need is a piano to accompany you. Here’s a link to the text and a pdf of the sheet music, from the good folks at Connecticut College. Download your own copy and start lamenting.
- Duet—Is it not sweet to think, hereafter……Bellini
Contrary to some internet sources, “Is it not sweet to think hereafter” is not a sacred poem by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535). The text is by the popular and much-loved Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852). You can read the original in volume 2 of Moore’s complete works (via GoogleBooks). The Beethoven Society sang Moore’s words to music by the celebrated Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). The likely arrangement used at our 1842 concert may be found in the second volume of George Kingsly’s popular anthology The Social Choir, vol. 2, published in Boston in 1836, and many subsequent editions.
Performance: I’ve heard a few Bellini operas, but I’m not a bel canto maven. Try as I may, I can’t find the original—and probably very secular and operatic—source for this arrangement. So here is a link to a pdf of the printed music from the 1847 seventh edition of Kingsley’s anthology for your own DIY duet.4
- Trio—Fallen is thy throne O! Israel……Martini
Here’s another use of older music set to new, English words. Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784) was an eminent 18th-century composer, teacher, and collector of musical manuscripts, based in Bologna, Italy. Most of Martini’s works are unpublished and survive only in manuscript. The text, “Fallen is thy throne,”—like the preceding Bellini duet—is by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), and is also found in volume 2 of his complete works (via GoogleBooks).
Performance: Another do-it-yourself performance. This item was published—like the Bellini “Is it not sweet”—in The Social Choir, vol. 2. Here’s a pdf of the G. B. Martini trio as found in the 1847 seventh edition of Kingsley’s collection.5
- Quartette—Wild Chase of Lutzow……Von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) was a pivotal figure in the development of German Romantic Opera. His 1821 singspiel Der Freischütz remains an important part of the German opera repertoire, and its overture is still a concert favorite. The “Wild Chase of Lutzow” is another piece arranged and published by George Kingsley in The Social Choir, vol. 1. It is based on a famous German poem, “Lützows wilde verwegene Jagd” by Theodor Körner that describes the military exploits of Lutzow’s Free Corps in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.
Performance: Here’s a recording of what I believe to be von Weber’s original version for German men’s chorus (though I don’t know how much this choir “interprets” von Weber’s original music). If you’d like to sing the version likely performed in Milwaukee in 1842, here a pdf of the quartet as found in The Social Choir, vol. 1 (12th edition, 1849). The English adaptation differs from the recording in some rhythms and pitches, and in general the English text and musical style lack the martial swagger of the German original.
- Song—Pilgrim Fathers……Miss Browne
The sheet music for this popular song bears the longer title of “The Landing Of The Pilgrim Fathers. The Words by Mrs. Hemens, the Music by her Sister.” Who was this composer, known as “her Sister?” I’m glad the internet exists, or I would never have discovered the full details of the noted poet Mrs. Felicia Dorothea (neé Browne) Hemans (1793-1835) and her sister, the composer Harriett Mary Browne (1798-1858, later Mrs. Hughes, still later Mrs. Owen), who was almost always identified on her published songs as “Miss Browne.” For the full story, and how Harriett Browne should not be confused with another composer of her era, Augusta Browne, please see this informative blog post by Bonny Miller (which, by the way, is much more complete and accurate than the “Harriet Browne” entry at Wikipedia).
The song is longer than many of the items on the first part of our Beethoven Society concert. It is through-composed, with a recurring melodic refrain supported by several different accompaniment patterns. The effect is similar to an operatic scena, which suits the generally grandiloquent mood of the song as it extols the Pilgrim immigrants.
Performance: It appears that this is another once-popular song (the linked pdf is of the 56th edition of the song!) that has disappeared from modern musical life. Not a single recording can be found online, not even a cheesy modern arrangment (compare with J. P. Martini’s “Plasir d’amour”). But we have the sheet music, courtesy of the collections of the Sydney Living Museums and Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Austrailia. Click here for the pdf and have fun singing.
- Chorus—The Lord descended from above……Masoni
I can’t find a composer named “Masoni” anywhere. I suspect Masoni is a printer’s error for Mason, and that probably means the enormously prolific and influential American composer, publisher and music educator, Lowell Mason (1792-1872). Mason did compose a hymn to this text; I located a copy in the Baptist Hymn and Tune Book […], published in New York and Chicago in 1858.
Mason’s hymn appears on page 46 of the book. The text is attributed to Sternhold and is in common meter. The music is in 3/4-time, and is supposedly arranged from the hymn tune “Kent” by L. Mason. I’ve compared this tune to two versions of “Kent” and I don’t hear a resemblance; the current tune known as “Kent” is in 4/4-time and is quite different. It’s possible that this is not the chorus that closed the first half of the Beethoven Society’s concert, but I can’t locate any other pieces with the correct title and likely composer.
Performance: To close the first half of the program we have one last do-it-yourself chorus, a solid, four-part harmony hymn tune. Click the music to open a larger image in a new window and sing along:
Well, this Beethoven Society project is turning out to be more involved—in both research, writing, and link-locating—than expected. So, like the audience in 1843, I’m going to take an intermission. Back soon with the exciting PART SECOND of the debut concert of the Milwaukie Beethoven Society.
- Violin or Fiddle, which is it? If you play Beethoven with it, it’s a violin. If you’re accompanying the dancing at a wedding or barn raising, it’s a fiddle. Same instrument, and often the same performer.
- “Plasir d’amour” is certainly old, popular, and French, but is it too mellow to open the inaugural concert of the Milwaukie Beethoven Society? Readers: do you have any suggestions for a more festive “popular French air,” circa 1843, for the concert’s opening song? Please share your thoughts.
- OK, Haydn fans! Do any of you recognize the original Haydn piece that became this chorus? If so, please let me know.
- Are any of you readers Bellini fans? If so, please let me know which Bellini work is the source of this arranged chorus (click here for the whole piece if you haven’t already):
- Any choral directors out there? Do you recognize this piece by G. B. Martini, perhaps with its original Latin words? If so, let me know! (Here’s the link to a pdf of whole work, in case you missed it earlier.)