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Recent Development of Musical Culture in Chicago.

THE great fire of 1871 drew a red line nearly midway through the history of the young city of Chicago. The Chicagoan locates all details of municipal progress with reference to this line. Whatever has happened since the fire is contrasted or measured with what happened before it. In the ante-fire period there was no decided musical culture. Music was pursued as a recreation in the midst of the serious work of developing the material resources of the city and laying the foundations of its industrial and commercial future. There was neither time nor opportunity for musical culture. Chicago all that time was growing up. How young it is yet may be appreciated when it is remembered that its first regular orchestra was not organized until 1860; that it did not hear Italian opera until 1859, nor German opera until 1865, in which year its first opera-house was built. Less than fifty years spans the history of music in Chicago.

Before that disastrous October Sunday of 1871 music had made a little progress. Then came the conflagration, and all the daughters of music were brought low. It destroyed every audience-room in the city, disrupted every musical society, laid every music-store in ashes, drove nearly every teacher of music away from the city, and compelled them to seek employment in more favored localities. A new city was to be built, and in the reconstruction it was thought music, being a luxury, would be last considered. Its revival, however, came sooner than was anticipated, and in its renascence it began to assume a new phase. It was destined gradually to change from a mere source of popular entertainment to a vigorous educational force, as well defined in its purpose and methods as the University or the Art Institute, which, together with the Public, Newberry, and John Crerar libraries and the Field Columbian Museum, are among the noblest products of the post-fire period.

The foundation for this great work had been laid by Theodore Thomas, whose name is indissolubly associated with the history of music in Chicago. He first came to this city in 1869, bringing with him the orchestra so well known at the Central Park Garden of New York city, and gave three concerts; but they were not well attended. The first night's programme would now provoke a smile among the patrons of the Chicago Orchestra. It included such numbers as Weber's "Invitation to the Dance," Schumann's "Traumerei," a fantasia on the Midsummer-Night's Dream, the overture to William Tell, Strauss's "Blue Danube" waltz, and two of the same composer's polkas, one of Meyerbeer's garish torch-dances, a solo for trombone, and the allegretto movement from Beethoven's Eighth Symphony as a saving clause. Mr. Thomas was feeling his way. He had skilfully adapted his programme to the knowledge and appreciation of his audience. The performance, however, made a decided impression upon the musical people of the city, and was the theme of much discussion. A little incident will illustrate the nature of the change in prospect. On the evening previous a local orchestra had given a concert in the same hall, and played the "Träumerei," scored for full band, including even the percussion instruments, with a zest and strident clamor worthy of the Tannhäuser


"Bacchanale." The Thomas orchestra, the next evening, played it with the strings alone, and with a delicacy of treatment and light dreamy touch that was a genuine revelation. It was the first step indicating the coming change from the old meretricious, popular style to the new artistic and educational product. Mr. Thomas came again the next year, and his orchestra played to large audiences. He had found his way to the hearts of the people of Chicago, and he has kept his place there from that day to this. Between 1869 and 1877 he visited Chicago several times, bringing with him many eminent artists, among them Rubinstein, Wieniawsky, Anna Mehlig, Myron W. Whitney, Madeline Schiller, Campanini, and others, and during this period his programmes show a gradual increase in excellence. He was progressing slowly but surely in his work of elevating and educating the popular musical taste.

Mr. Thomas's real work of education, however, began in the remarkable series of Summer-Night concerts given in the old Exposition Building, and covering the period from 1877 to 1890. The environment of these concerts was not unlike that of the Central Park Garden concerts in New York, but, apart from their eminently social and, in a certain sense, alfresco character, there was manifest a strict educational purpose. To make the concerts more attractive, symphony, national, popular, ball-room, and composers programmes were presented, and each week one "Request" programme was played, made up from requests sent in during that time. It was always these programmes which Mr. Thomas watched with the greatest interest. They were the unfailing guide-posts on his musical journey, showing how far his audience had travelled towards the high ideal which he had set up, and from which no amount of opposition or popular clamor has induced him to swerve. At the outset these Request programmes invariably included some of the dance music of Strauss, Mendelssohn's "Spring Song," the "Amaryllis," the "Traumerei," Handel's "Largo," Gounod's "Ave Maria," Weber's "Invitation to the Dance," Mendelssohn's "Wedding March," and a monotonous array of German and Italian overtures. At the close of these interesting concerts the most successful Request programme contained six successive numbers by Sebastian Bach and the Dvorák symphonic variations in the first part, Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner compositions in the second part, while Liszt's Twelfth Rhapsody and a portion of one of Moskowsky's suites were the lightest numbers in the third part. Programmes of this kind show that the popular education was advancing. Speaking of these programmes, Mr. Thomas once said, "So high a class of music was asked for in the last few seasons of these concerts that I could have made up a regular symphony programme of the most classic order every week without departing in the least from numbers actually requested, had it seemed wise to do so."

The success of the Summer-Night conerts induced Mr. Thomas to leave New York and make his home in Chicago. It also led to another and most important step in the development of musical culture in Chicago, which has now passed the tentative period, and has given this city, like Boston, a permanent orchestra of the highest character, under the leadership of Mr. Thomas and the administration of an association of public-spirited citizens. The work which has been accomplished in Boston as the generosity of one man, who has assumed the responsibilities and deficits of its symphony orchestra, was undertaken by an association of fifty members in Chicago. The sixth season of the concerts under its auspices has just closed. Each year the deficit has grown smaller. The advance subscriptions for the seventh season were larger than ever before, and there can be no question that before long the deficit will be extinguished and the concerts established upon a paying basis, though the association has not once considered them merely from the box-office point of view. It has come at last to be acknowledged that the Chicago Orchestra is no longer only a medium of entertainment, but an educational institution, as much so in its way as the University or the three great libraries of the city. At the close of the third season Mr. Thomas, who has been a close observer of the educational progress which has always been the key-note of his work, said, in an interview, in which he compared the Orchestral Association concerts with the Summer-Night concerts: "Our audience has learned that the master-works of the great composers contain more food for brain and soul


than the prettiest waltzes that ever were penned; it has discovered that there is a deeper joy and a nobler spirituality to be gained from familiarity with the higher art forms than it ever dreamed of seeking in the lower. It has discovered that while Strauss or Bizet will charm the ear, Beethoven and Wagner will warm and thrill the whole nature. Hence I find that our popular programmes do not now draw as large an audience as our symphony programmes, the largest audiences in the last three years having been those last winter when Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was performed — with the exception of those at which Paderewski played." The programme-book of the closing concert of the sixth season contains the titles of all the works performed by the orchestra within the period of these concerts. The list is an extraordinary one, especially as considered from the symphonic point of view. Fifty-six symphonies, by Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Chadwick, Dvorák, Goldmark, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Paine, Raff, Rubinstein, Saint-Saëns, Schönfeld, Schubert, Schumann, Sinding and Tschaikowsky have been given, the number of performances being ninety-four. In this imposing array Beethoven holds the place of honor, fifty-six performances being credited to him, the list including all nine of his symphonies. Besides these, nineteen symphonic poems, twenty-one suites, seventy-three overtures, vorspiels, and preludes, numerous detached movements of symphonies, and thirty-three concertos, representing the higher classical form, besides a great number of works of composers of the modern romantic school, and numerous compositions by rising European writers, have been given their first hearing in this country. The Request programmes in these six seasons confirm the progress of musical education. The programme of the first Request concert, April 23, 1892, included the Introduction to the second part of Bach's Christmas Oratorio; Brahms's Symphony in F, No. 3; Mr. Thomas's transcription of Chopin's "Funeral March"; overture to Wagner's Tannhäser; Theme and Variations from Schubert's D minor Quartet, and Liszt's "Preludes." The last one, given May 1, 1897, included Bach's "Chorale and Fugue," Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony," the finale of Tschaikowsky's "Symphony Pathetique," Massenet's suite "Les Erinnyes," Saint-Saën's Tarantelle for flute and clarinet, and "Siegfried's Rhine Journey," from Wagner's Götterdammeung. These programmes show a long advance from the Spring songs, waltzes, Amaryllises, and other tuneful prettinesses of a few years ago, which were clamorously demanded and enthusiastically applauded. The present year is the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Thomas's musical service in the United States. The larger part of that service was performed in New York, and was begun in that city when Chicago was scarcely more than a trading-post, "'way out West," but no feature of his long and successful career can be more gratifying to him than the educational work he has performed in the metropolis of the West. How highly he esteems it is demonstrated by the fact that he has organized a string quartet which gives chamber music under his immediate direction, and an auxiliary mass chorus, drilled by the assistant conductor, Mr. Arthur Mees, lately of New York, as new agencies for the enlargement of the educational scheme. Although Mr. Mees's chorus is as yet small, and has had but a few months study, and is only in evidence when Mr. Thomas wishes to present some new work combining both vocal and instrumental excellence of a high order, yet its remarkable facility in reading, certainty of tone and attack, and sympathy with the orchestra show that the conductor has an admirable collaborator in his assistant, and one familiar with his methods of leading as well as his artistic interpretation. With these auxiliaries of the string quartet and chorus, Mr. Thomas has now the material requisite for extending his educational scheme, and for including in his curriculum many of the higher works of music which are impossible of performance by the orchestra alone; and during the season of 1897-8 he has entered upon his work with every promise of still more satisfactory results as the outcome of these accessions.

An important factor in this recent development of musical culture in Chicago has been the strong feeling of mutual sympathy between the educator and his pupils. It goes without the saying that Mr. Thomas has had unfriendly and sometimes malicious criticism, which was none the less malignant because it was ignorant. All conductors have had this


experience, especially when they have refused to yield to popular clamor. The philistines are as numerous in young as in old cities, and perhaps even more vociferous in the expression of their shallowness and in the display of their prejudices. Mr. Thomas has had to encounter some of their spite-work in the course of his regular orchestral concerts, and he met with a conspicuous display of these qualities during his service as musical director of the Columbian Exposition. The musical scheme which he formulated for the White City was one of the most dignified and comprehensive ever presented on a festival occasion, and it was in keeping with all the other imposing artistic features of that memorable event. Mr. Thomas is an ideal programme-maker, and the series which he prepared for the exposition period will rank with any in the history of music. And yet commercial greed joined hands with official ignorance to break down his scheme, subject him and prominent artists whom he had engaged to treatment bordering upon personal insult, and gave the philistines an opportunity to vent their spleen. It is due to the musical public of Chicago, however, to say that the collapse of this splendid scheme was not its work. The history of that conspiracy may some day be written, and the blame fastened where it belongs. It will then be shown how one of the most important and brilliant features of the art scheme of the White City was partially ruined by his enemies because he would not prostitute his ideals, sacrifice his art to business, or allow himself to be dragged down to the levels of mediocrity and ignorance. This faithful adherence to the highest and best is the quality in Mr. Thomas which has commended him most heartily to the musical people of Chicago, and it is this strong sympathy with him that has enabled him to do so much for musical education without in the least sacrificing his lofty ideals. He has made no concessions to the popular clamor, but has steadily pursued his way, undisturbed by vulgar prejudice or petty criticism. He has lived up to his purpose, without paying any tribute to merely temporary popularity. It has not been an easy task, however. He has had to endure the opposition of those who regard music only as a form of amusement, and to struggle against the allied forces of ignorance, self-sufficiency, and sensationalism. He has, however, moved steadily along the course he marked out for himself, thankless as it was for a time, confident that he should witness the fruition of his efforts. The courage and firmness which he has displayed have been rewarded. Year by year has added to his following, until now he has a large constituency of educated trons, and the experiment of six years ago has become a success practically and artistically. Chicago has its permanent orchestra, and will retain it, and that orchestra to-day is beginning to be rocognized as one of the prominent educational institutions of the city.

One of the most prominent elements Mr. Thomas's success as an educator is his absolute command of his orchestra. In rehearsal and in concert his will is law. He is even despotic at times in his sway, and a martinet in discipline; but he commands the respect of his players, as well as their admiration, and there is not a man, from his kettle-drummer who has served under him for years, to the boyish concertmeister who has just finished his first season with him, who does not obey him unquestioningly, and recognize that there can be no appeal from his dictum. As a matter of fact, Mr. Thomas does not have to lean upon his first-violin desk, as many conductors do. He is his own concertmeister, by virtue of the rare good fortune that he is a violinist himself, with the invaluable advantage of long experience as a soloist, and as a quartet and orchestral player. There are other conductors who may interpret a score as well, but there are few so intimately acquainted with the technique of the string section of the orchestra as he, and few, therefore, in whom the string-players confide so implicitly. Hence it is that he has met with such success in all those details of technique which go to make up the ensemble of performance, as well as in the scholarly and intelligent reading of the scores. Master of his orchestra, he is equally master of himself — notwithstanding his naturally imperious nature — which accounts for the grace, dignity, and repose of his conducting. Given such qualities, and adding to them the possession of liberal culture in music; the utter absence of sensationalism, which is the latter-day popular tendency; the fixing of high ideals and resolute adherence to them; implicit faith in himself, and


unyielding tenacity of purpose; hearty hatred of shams, and insensibility to flattery; catholicity of taste grounded in the classics, and yet recognizing what is highest and best in modern music — Mr. Thomas has the equipment requisite for the great work of developing musical culture and educating and elevating the popular taste. In seeking to describe the recent development of musical culture in Chicago I have laid special stress upon the orchestra and its conductor, because they constitute the chief factors in the educational scheme. The opera is at best only a luxurious form of musical entertainment, which is too expensive and fashionable to appeal to the masses. The oratorio in the United States is wellnigh defunct. Americans are not an oratorio-loving people, like the English. Most concerts are managed from the box-office point of view, and their success is measured by the receipts. They contribute but little in the way of education, and doubtless it vould be better for music if there were fewer of them, and more attention were aid to their quality.

It would be unjust, however, not to reconize a few other agencies, which have played a more or less important part in the development of musical culture in Chicago. One of these is the Apollo Musical Club, a mixed chorus, which has just celebrated its twenty-fifth, anniversary. This club is not only one of the most important choral organizations of the city, but it takes special pride in the fact that its birth, in the summer of 1872, was the first musical event in Chicago that happened after the great disaster of the previous year. It was organized as a Mannerchor, and three years later was changed into a mixed chorus, under the leadership of Mr. William A. Tomlins, who still remains its conductor. Its first concert gave a new impulse to music; and now, after twenty-five years of work, its members can look back over a period of continuous success, and an array of concerts and programmes which has had a marked influence upon musical progress in Chicago, and has given to their city a national reputation.

Another valuable contributor to musical culture in Chicago is the Amateur Musical Club, an organization composed exclusively of women, who are amateurs of more than ordinary ability and intelligence. It has now several hundred members, both active and associate, engaged in the work of developing their own musical talent and promoting the art interests of the city by concerts, both of a public and private character. It has its annex in the form of a Juvenile Amateur Club, in which candidates are prepared for admission to the parent organization, and it also devotes its surplus finances to the higher education of young and promising musicians. It therefore occupies a conspicuous place in the development of musical culture.

It only remains to call attention to the Newberry Library as one of the most influential promoters of musical education in Chicago. Its music department contains the largest and rarest collection of scores, periodicals, and literature to be found in the United States. The original list of books, which occupied nearly two years in preparation, was submitted to Theodore Thomas, Professor J. K. Paine, of Harvard College, and other experts, and met with their hearty approval. Professor Paine wrote to the compiler: "That is the best list of musical works I have ever seen. If you get them all you will have the best musical library in the country. I think of nothing to be added to it, but I find a number of books in it which I should like to see the Harvard Library get." All the books in the list were obtained, and since that time several private libraries have been purchased,and the collection has been still further enriched with all the important current publications. The gems of the library are the original edition of Jacopo Peri's opera Eurydice — the first opera ever publicly performed in the world, the occasion of its representation being the festivities attending the marriage of Maria de’ Medici of Italy to Henry IV. of France — and the libretto containing Rinucciui's poem. It adds to the interest of the score that it is the only known copy of the first edition in the world, the score in the possession of the British Museum being a second edition. It was published in Florence in 1600, and may be considered unique. The library also contains the works of Boethius, Francesco Soto, Spontone, Zarlino, Brunelli, Cifra, Pellegrini, Palestrina, Athanasius Kiroller, Andrea da Modena, Padre Martini, Marcello, and of many other famous writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, besides unusually complete collections of scores


of operas, oratorios, cantatas, symphonies, and chamber music, psalmody and hymnology, biographies, histories, dictionaries, scientific and technical works, treatises on instrumentation and histories of instruments, song's and ballads, letters and collected writings of composers, theme catalogues, periodicals, librettos, special and first editions, and curiosities and miscellam. In a word, it is now possible for the student to study music in all departments from original sources in this library without crossing the ocean, or even going to the seaboard, and the opportunity is improved most generously.

In the light of this general statement of the development of its musical culture, the writer modestly submits that Chicago is not altogether occupied with its Board of Trade or its stock-yards, and that it is not wholly absorbed in stocks, grain, lumber, provisions, and politics, but finds leisure for the higher things which are "better than meat," and is making commendable progress on all the lines which lead to the enrichment of life with "sweetness and light."