Sources for Concerts in 1907 Berlin

My purpose in documenting all the musical events of 1907 in the main Berlin concert halls is to gather concrete data so that the perception of a saturation of the market can be analyzed.

Newspaper Advertisements, Notices, and Reviews

This process of documenting has involved many different sources. More and more concert programs are being put online, but the biggest source is newspaper advertisements. The Berliner Tageblatt had the largest circulation of the Berlin daily newspapers, and most of the issues are digitized, so this has been my primary source. On Sundays there was a much larger edition of the paper, with supplements and full page advertisements. Here is an example of a page of music advertisements from the Sunday morning edition of 27 October 1907:

Tageblatt 27 Oct 1907 2

Short reviews and notices by the critic Leopold Schmidt and others appeared almost on a daily basis in the paper itself. The Berliner Börsen Zeitung is also digitized, and although there are not very many advertisements for concerts, it usually provided a notice of the concerts taking place that day. The other digitized Berlin newspapers are the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and the Berliner Volkszeitung.1 The newspapers listed here are all accessible as part of the Berlin Staatsbibliothek’s website: They are more sporadic in their coverage of concerts, meaning columns of blurry, tiny print in Fraktur type must be scrutinized to find any crumbs. There were literally dozens of newspapers in 1907 Berlin and I have not had access to several of the more important for their music criticism, including the Vossische Zeitung (Max Marschalk) and the Berliner Börsen Courier (Oscar Bie), to name just two.

The Musical Courier cited reviews in the Berlin newspapers: besides the Berliner Börsen Courier, there are the Berliner Morgenpost, Das Kleine Journal, Staatsburger Zeitung, Neue Preussische Zeitung, Die Wahrheit, Berliner Zeitung, and Das Deutsche Blatt. According to Max Graf, in 1900 there were 45 daily newspapers in Berlin. He believed that “in no musical period had musical criticism displayed such virtuosity of style and such brilliancy of presentation, cast so much light on technical problems, or shown so much general intelligence as it did, and still does in our times, in the musical columns of the great dailies.”2Max Graf, Composer and Critic: Two Hundred Years of Music Criticism (New York: W.W. Norton, 1946), 260-61.

Music critics depicted at a concert in the Singakademie. From Das litterarische Berlin. Illustriertes Handbuch der Presse (1898), 141. (Taubert, Tappert, Urban, Bussler, Welti, Krebs, Schott, Bauer, Christiani, Lessmann.)

Music periodicals

Die Musik, which began in 1901, was still trying to cover as much as possible in 1907. The journal itself was a quarterly, but there were six issues to each quarter. Reviews were split between those for opera and for concerts, and then according to city.The cities included varied. The sections on Berlin were made up of several different reports. These critics, who also wrote for other outlets, pulled no punches; they wrote authoritatively and thoughtfully, despite the extreme quantity of concerts they covered.3Wilhelm Altmann, Arthur Laser, E.E. Taubert, R.M. Breithaupt, Alfred Schattmann. While these reviews are a rich resource, they are incomplete and can be confusing. Multiple critics occasionally reviewed the same event, while other events went unreported. The dates of concerts were often not specified, and a backlog could form, so that concerts far apart are tossed together.

The same goes for the Signale für die Musikalische Welt and the Musikalisches Wochenblatt, which had merged with the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik that year. The Signale was taken over by August Spannuth in the middle of 1907. He tried to shake things up with more provocative positions.4For instance, several items questioned the importance of Joachim and objected to the reverence of the tributes after his death. Leopold Schmidt, the critic for the Tageblatt, also wrote for the Signale. The Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, edited by one of the most powerful critics in Berlin, Otto Leßmann, is unfortunately not digitized and is hard to come by. The Neue Musik-Zeitung out of Stuttgart started out in 1880 as a general interest publication with advertisements for all kinds of products (in 1907, for instance, the Odol brand of tooth powder is aggressively advertised). But it became much more substantial and featured Berlin critics J. C. Lusztig and Arthur Laser.

These critics were well aware of how they were providing publicity and serving as the stamp of approval for aspiring musicians. Advertisements for performers, musical scores, and instruction used their words of praise the way book jacket blurbs and movie posters still do today.

Ad for the sisters May (violin) and Beatrice Harrison (cello) from 1914, with quotations from the Berliner Tageblatt, the Allgemeine Musiker-Zeitung, and the Signale für die musikalische Welt.

Besides the German music journals, there are many English-language music publications with reviews from Berlin. The Musical Courier was based in the U.S. but featured extensive reports from its correspondents in all the major European cities. Arthur M. Abell, the Berlin editor, was a social gadfly who liked to report gossip and conversations as well as rather reckless views.5Abell was the author of the infamous Talks with Great Composers, which was published in 1955 but purported to relate verbatim the views on composing by Brahms, Strauss, Puccini, Max Bruch, and others, including Joachim. These interviews were said to have taken place during the time Abell was in Europe (1890-1917), with the necessarily delay in publication due to his promise to Brahms to wait fifty years. The upshot of this book is that the Christian religion informed all these composers’ understanding of their creative activity. This source has different material to offer, which can be useful but does not always qualify as information. There are also many journals from England in 1907, which can be hit or miss in terms of quality and coverage. Edward J. Dent wrote one report of January’s “Music in Berlin” for the Monthly Musical Record; then he moved on to do research in Italy.

Link to Google Books: Signale für die musikalische Welt 1907

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2 thoughts on “Sources for Concerts in 1907 Berlin

  1. It seemed odd to italicize the journal titles after not italicizing the newspaper titles. But it also bothers me, so I’ve now italicized them.

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