samedi 26 mai 2018

From Felix Mottl to Siegfried Wagner, european musicians who are anxious to be heard in America, an american point of view from 1902.

an article from The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, Mo.), 26 Oct. 1902.


Nathan Franko, concert-meister, who has returned from abroad, says old-world artists would gladly emulate examples of Paderewski and Mascagni all are interested in classical programmes performed in New York, Chicago and Saint-Louis.

New York. Oct. 25. Not without reason, America has become the lodestone to attract the great celebrities of the world.The magnetism of the United States creates and invites the longing of European celebrities to enjoy its hospitalities. Mr. Nahan Franko, the well-known concert meister. has just returned from Europe, where he has visited the treat living musicians of the day. Upon his return he said that without exception they all wished to visit America, and each of them declared that his ambitions would never be satisfiednor could he consider his fame established until he had won indorsement and reputation in the United States.

"There are many who believe." said Mr. Franko, "that the real reason for the dearth of good music, and especially classical concerts in America is the fact that there are artists who would follow, but alas there are no leaders of sufficient prominence or ability to command the respect of the musicians and the attention of educated audiences."

All the musicians of Europe are surprised at the rapid development of musical culture of which they have heard, and are interested in watching and noting the fine classical programmes that are performed in New York, St Louis, Boston. Chicago and Cincinnati, and they have eagerly listened to
the reports of their brethren who have returned to Germany or France with wonderful tales of their reception in America.

"And", said Mr. Franko rather naively, "I need not tell you how much they would like to taste some of the emoluments which the New World is in the habit of contributing to great artists who enjoy the favor of the American public.

"It is only a matter of financial arrangement," continued Mr. Franko, "America should have the best music in the world and will have it, whenever the problem of establishing a permanent orchestra is solved. It will not be a difficult one, except in its commencement, for such an orchestra would, in a short time, be self supporting. 


"I will tell you." said Mr. Franko, "about some of the european conductors I have visited.

"I called upon Felix Mottl in Bayreuth. He is one of the famous conductors of the European world and now resides in Carlsruhe, Baden. He is a peculiar man and a thorough musical enthusiast, a great authority at the opera and well known in Bayreuth and in London. He is a man about 45 years, amiable in his manner, but quick of temper if aroused. It has often been said that the late Anton Seidl copied his style of conducting.

"He is tall, about six feet in height, and exercises a peculiar hypnotic control over his bond. This is particularly noticeable when he is called upon to produce great effects. He has been known to tell his players of brass instruments, Now, gentlemen, do not play with your two lungs; borrow an other's and play with three. It must be loud.

"He is severe with artists and seldom favors them if they do not comply with the requirements of the music. He insists on being the authority at rehearsals and pets fprraanees. On one occasion, at a performance of "Rheingold",  one of the singers complained that he could not sing the music in such fast time. "You cannot?, said Mottl; then go and learn bow to do it."

"Herr Mottl has studied the scores so thoroughly that he has memorised every word and note of the operas, and can prompt any singer without the book, which he places at 1 his side, but to which he seldom refers, He is the one musician in Germany to whom the title of  "General Musical Director" has been given.

"He expressed himself as very anxious. If an opportunity could be afforded him to visit the United States.


"I met another conductor." resumed Mr. Franko. "who, it will be remembered, visited America some time ago. He is Ernst Von Schuch. He is now at the Royal Opera-house at Dresden. When he visited New York he was called upon to conduct Lohengrin at the Metropolitan Opera-house. with rehearsal. It is said that the managers ought to retain him in the city, but the pecuniary emoluments promised were not satisfactory or sufficient to tempt him to change his residence.

"I cannot speak about European conductors without telling you about Hans Richter", tells Mr. Franko, "He is well known among music lovers, as he is the recognised king of all authorities in all matters musical, and has no equal as a student of Beethoven and Wagner. He became famous in Bayreuth as the first conductor of Wagner operas. He too can teach and conduct the operas without the scores, not alone the German operas, but those of the italian repertoire.

"He is inclined to take things philosophically at the present time, as he is advancing in years and naturally is not as active as in his younger years. His work in London is somewhat hampered by the fact that he has not the material there to produce effects which  contributed to the fame and reputation of his younger days in Germany." 

Anothcr famous conductor visited was Doctor Karl Muck. Mr Franko says that he was frequently spoken of in Europe as the coming man of the Wagner school.

Doctor Muck is about 40 years of age and is connected with the Royal Opera in Berlin. He is a great favorite with Emperor William. Last year he wielded the baton at Bayreuth,  and was highly praised for his clear, decisve beat, which, although emphatic,  was always given with elegance and grace of manner.

"He said he had had several offers recently to visit the United States, but he could not entertain them for the reason that he has a five years contract to remain in Berlin, and even if he could be released there-from, he would not offend the Emperor by even asking for permission to leave his native land.


"I must tell you about another prominent European conductor, Felix Weingartner, said Mr. Franko. "He is a man of about thirty-five. He is  of slight build, with a fine head of hair. He is not only graceful, but has a commanding presence. He will visit the United States during the coming winter and bring with him the K:am [sic] Orchestra from Munich.

"His band numbers sixty men, and will play in the United States during the months of January and February. I did not hear the orchestra, and did not have the pleasure of meeting him this trip, for the reason that, although we were both in Bayreuth at the same time, I was given to understand that Herr Weingartner wished to be there "incognito" and did not care to be called upon or recognised by any of his friends. He was very much engaged in his studies and. as I knew we would soon meet here, I did not care to intrude upon bis privacy."

Mr. Franko heard Richard Strauss and was with him when he conducted the six hundredth performance of Mozart' "Don Juan" In Berlin. Mr. Franko calls him a "secessionist" in music and explains the term by saying that Mr Strauss departs absolutely from the conventional and is entirely original in his conception and delivery of musical compositions.


Siegfried Wagner is unhappy because the American newspapers have spoken of him slightingly and said they absolutely misunderstood him. It is not unlikely that Herr Wagner may conduct concerts in the United States before many years, for he is exceeding curious about us and longs for an opportunity to visit America.

Karl Panzner, who now holds the position that Anton Seidl occupied in Bremen and who, like his predecessor, is an exponent of Wagner, and Kapellmeister Kunwald of Frankfort, who is a man about
30 years old and a very promising musician, are also among those who expressed themselves as anxious to visit the United States.They are both able and talented men."

About Nahan Franko (1861-1930)
from the article "Principal Musicians of the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera"  on

Nahan Franko was born in New Orleans July 23, 1861 into a large musical family (11 children). His family lost all during the Civil War, the father, Hamman Franko being an ardent Confederate supporter. Hamman Franco and his wife Helene Bergman Franko were German Jews who emigrated to Texas. The original family name for Hamman Franco, a jeweler, was Hollander, a leading German Jewish family which also produced a number of musicians. 

 In 1864, following the occupation of New Orleans by Union forces, and Hamman's finances being threatened, the Franko family relocated to Germany, Nahan Franko and his brother Sam Franko (1857-1937) studied with Heinrich Karl Hermann de Ahna (1835-1892) in Berlin - probably at the Berlin Akademische Hochschule für Musik where de Ahna taught under Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) direction. Nahan's sister, Jeanne, was a pianist. The Franko family returned to New York in 1869. Later, both Nahan and Sam Franko returned to Berlin for further study with Joachim and August Wilhelmj (1845-1908). 

Nahan Franko began as Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, according to Heiles  probably in 1883. He of course did not play at the MET when it was closed 1897 - 1898. Also, he did not play there in the 1904 - 1905 season after a disagreement with the conductor of the German repertoire Alfred Hertz (Hertz was later the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony). As was the practice of that era when musicians sought constant work, Nahan Franko also seems to have at least sometimes acted as Concertmaster of the New York Symphony during this MET period. Franko conducted more than 100 performances of the Metropolitan Opera in the first decade of the 1900s, including the series of Sunday evening orchestral concerts. During the 1910s and 1920s, Nahan Franko also lead the 'Franko Orchestra' at concerts and social occasions. Nahan Franko died in Amityville, New York on June 7, 1930 subsequent to a stroke.

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