Overview of the musical events of 1907

There are as many artists living in Berlin as in all the other German cities combined, claimed music critic Arthur Laser in his overview of music in Berlin in 1907.1Arthur Laser, Kritische Rundschau, Neue Musik-Zeitung (1907): 266.


By far the most sensational musical work in 1907 was Richard Strauss’s Salome, which was conducted by the composer at its premiere at the Königlichen Oper on December 4, 1906. Forecasts for success had been uncertain, but it exceeded all expectations and reached 50 performances on November 9, 1907. Premieres in New York and Paris were also the subject of enormous publicity that year, even though the world premiere of the opera in Dresden had taken place earlier, on December 9, 1905.

Edward J. Dent’s report on Salome for the Monthly Musical Record: From the end of November until the dissolution of the Reichstag, the principal sensation of Berlin was “Salome.” The production of the opera had been forbidden for some time on grounds of public morality, and it is rumoured that the captive was finally ransomed at the price of a military march composed by Strauss at the Emperor`s request. The first performance took place on December 5th, the anniversary of Mozart`s death, and the excitement that it evoked was almost equal to that which greeted the singing of Caruso earlier in the year. As in the case of the once-famous military play “Zapfenstreich,” the obvious result of disapproval in high places was to give the work the best possible advertisement, and “Salome” has been played twice a week for some six weeks to crowded houses. It would, however, be unfair to suggest that the opera has enjoyed a mere succèss de scandale. The performance of the orchestra is truly marvellous, and the title-part has found a striking interpreter in Fräulein Destinn. The Emperor, we are told, has taken the greatest interest in the rehearsals, and it is at his suggestion that after the death of Salome there appears in the lurid heavens the pale (and somewhat belated) Star of Bethlehem. 2Edward J. Dent, “Music in Berlin,” The Monthly Musical Record (February 1907): 29. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951001930173t

Berlin premieres of Madama Butterfly (September), Eugen d’Albert’s Tiefland, Massenet’s Therese, Der Barbier von Baghdad by Cornelius, and Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame were at the Königliche Oper. Enrico Caruso visited again in October and starred in Rigoletto, Aida, and Lucia di Lammermoor. One critic wrote that Caruso was resorting to treating his throat with a cocaine spray while on stage in order to be able to sing every night.3Signale, dated October 28, 1907.

The Komische Oper also gave the German premiere of Puccini’s Tosca; the critic for the Signale predicted that “it will stay in the repertoire for a while.”

Orchestral concerts

The number of concerts grew again this year: in October 1907 three more halls opened: the Blüthner Saal (1600 seats), the Klindworth-Scharwenka Saal (700 seats), and the Choralion Saal (400 seats).

Of the hundreds of concerts, there were historic events, such as Mahler conducting his Third Symphony with the Philharmonic on January 14th.

Also in January, Sibelius’s First Symphony in E minor got another hearing, but critics and the audience liked the other work on the program, Paul Ertel’s symphonic poem “Pompeji,” better.4Ertel, who was also a music critic, received strong notices for his works this year. Incidentally, no one seems to have objected to the conflict of interest when a composer was also an important critic. E.E. Taubert, another composer/critic, wrote in Die Musik that “the level of this music is so low that one is glad when the rumbling of the Vesuvius eruption puts an end to the street music.” The Sibelius seemed “certainly serious, very serious, austere in its tonal language and somewhat dismembered, unclear in its thematic design.”

Arthur Nikisch with a smoking cigarette

At the beginning of May the Philharmonic marked its 25th anniversary with two concerts. Both featured long programs of the “three B’s”: on the first there was a Bach cantata, the Brahms German Requiem, and the Beethoven “Emperor” Piano Concerto. The second had Arthur Nikisch conducting Brahms’s First and Beethoven’s Ninth as a single concert.

Pietro Mascagni conducting (Vanity Fair, 1912)

Guest composers included Edvard Grieg, who conducted two concerts in April. He, Camille Saint-Säens and Jules Massenet happened to be in Berlin at the same time, and were invited to lunch by the Kaiser. The next guest of the Philharmonic that month was Pietro Mascagni, who conducted his own works as well as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Works published in 1907 and performed that year in Berlin

4 Pieces for Piano, Op.3 (Bortkiewicz, Sergei)
Viola Sonata No.1, Op.18 (Bowen, York)
Piano Concerto, RT VII/4 (Delius, Frederick)
String Quartet No.2, Op.15 (Dohnányi, Ernő)
Violin Sonata No.3, Op.50 (Kahn, Robert)
Piano Sonata No.1, Op.50 (Karg-Elert, Sigfrid)
Violin Concerto No.3, Op.99 (Hubay, Jenö)
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by J.A. Hiller, Op.100 (Reger, Max)
Aus dem Schi-King, Op.15 (Sekles, Bernhard)
Symphony No.2, Op.83 (Sinding, Christian)
2 Violin Sonatas, Op.42 (Weingartner, Felix)
6 Lieder, Op.13 (Wolff, Erich Jaques)

Many composers, including two women (Leocadie Kaschperow and Nancy von Hadein), gave concerts of their music: Nicholas Medtner, Bernhard Sekles, James Rothstein, Max Vogrich, Eduard Behm, Gustav Beyer, Heinrich van Eyken, Gerhard Gschjederup, E.N. von Reznicek, Franz Bothe, Gustav Lazarus, Arthur Perleberg, Felix Lederer-Prina, Ignaz Waghalter, Richard Wintzer, Henry Hadley, and Maurice Arnold. Besides these, there were concerts of all-Polish and all-Dutch new music (21 March and 11 April); and on other concerts there were new works by Conrad Ansorge, York Bowen, Reinhold Glière, Alexander Glazunov, Robert Herrmann, Arnold Mendelssohn, Jean Nicodé, Max Schillings, Jean Sibelius and others.

Visiting Chamber Music Groups

The Bohemian Quartet had been a fixture on the Berlin calendar for a decade; they played four concerts a season. The Petersburger Quartet, and the up-and-coming Ševčik Quartet also gave multiple performances. In addition, there were visits by the highly praised Brussels Quartet, the Münchener Quartet, and the Nora Clench Quartet.

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