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Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

A Comprehensive Reference

John H. Baron

Publication Year: 2013

During the nineteenth century, New Orleans thrived as the epicenter of classical music in America, outshining New York, Boston, and San Francisco before the Civil War and rivaling them thereafter. While other cities offered few if any operatic productions, New Orleans gained renown for its glorious opera seasons. Resident composers, performers, publishers, teachers, instrument makers, and dealers fed the public's voracious cultural appetite. Tourists came from across the United States to experience the city's thriving musical scene. Until now, no study has offered a thorough history of this exciting and momentous era in American musical performance history. John H. Baron's Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans impressively fills that gap.

Baron's exhaustively researched work details all aspects of New Orleans's nineteenth-century musical renditions, including the development of orchestras; the surrounding social, political, and economic conditions; and the individuals who collectively made the city a premier destination for world-class musicians. Baron includes a wide-ranging chronological discussion of nearly every documented concert that took place in the Crescent City in the 1800s, establishing Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans as an indispensable reference volume.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

...This is the first and only comprehensive history of classical concerts in New Orleans from 1805 to 1897.1 During this period the musical scene in New Orleans was probably unrivaled by that in any other American city. There was regular repertory opera in New Orleans when the major cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest had none...

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pp. xiii-xvi

...This study would not have been possible without the assistance of generous friends and students, chief among whom are Jack Belsom and Sarah Borgatti. I also wish to thank the dedicated librarians at Tulane University, the Louisiana State Archives at the United States Mint in New Orleans, the Historic New Orleans Collection, Louisiana State...

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pp. 1-4

...New Orleans was first inhabited by American Indians. Then, from 1718 on it was the haven for adventurers, refugees, slaves, soldiers, and do-gooders from Europe and the rest of the world. The French established it as a dumping ground for humans they regarded as antisocial, and a disregard for established rules and morals in the colony led to a...

Book I: A Topical History

Part I: Musical Institutions and Genres

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pp. 7-8

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1. Concert Venues in New Orleans1805–1897

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pp. 9-30

...The performance venues in New Orleans in the nineteenth century included both private and public locations. Concerts in private homes were occasionally mentioned, but it is difficult to reconstruct the specific rooms where the performances took place, even if we can locate today the actual home.1While the homes in the French Quarter in general...

Image Plates 1

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pp. 48-65

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2. Symphonic Music in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

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pp. 31-67

...The history of orchestral music in New Orleans begins at the end of the eighteenth century when the first theater orchestra was established. During the nineteenth century it was the theater orchestras that provided the main impetus for the development of orchestral music in the city. The unique strength of the city’s theater orchestras vis-à-vis...

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3. The Concert Societies and Series

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pp. 68-96

...During the nineteenth century, several musical societies were organized to promote concerts of classical music. Some were vehicles for amateurs to perform in while others presented musicians at the highest professional level. Some were primarily choral societies and on occasion included instrumental music as well; others were orchestral societies; still...

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4. Music and Race in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

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pp. 97-104

...At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the French-speaking community ruled a polyglot population that differed greatly from any other American community. As the nineteenth century progressed, the predominant French-speakers felt threatened. Anglo-Saxons poured in, as well as many persons of other ancestries, and when the French in New Orleans...

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5. Music Education

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pp. 105-120

...A healthy musical environment requires the musical training of performers from beginners to advanced professionals, of composers, and of the audience. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, New Orleans was fortunate to have music teachers who imparted those skills to pupils who, in turn, conveyed them to the next generation...

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6. Women in the Musical Life of the City in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

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pp. 121-138

...Women have always played an important role in the musical life of New Orleans, so much so that to write a separate chapter on women in the music of New Orleans seems almost superfluous or redundant. Yet there is a sexual bias towards men both in the sources of nineteenth-century music history and in the general conception...

PART II: Personalities

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pp. 139-140

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1. Louis Hus Desforges

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pp. 141-145

...Louis Hus Desforges is among the earliest professional musicians to have made a career performing in concerts in New Orleans. He was born about 1776 in La Rochelle, France,1 and was in New Orleans by August 7, 1799, when he married Isavel Victoria Dupre. The following year, on June 12, 1800, Isavel gave birth to a son, Louis Hus Desforges Jr...

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2. Gregorio Curto

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pp. 146-163

...One of the most distinguished musicians in New Orleans during the nineteenth century was Gregorio Curto. At first a leading member of the opera troupe at the Théâtre d’Orléans, he later became one of the more successful composers of opera in America, a conductor, a church musician, and a teacher of voice. His continued presence in the city ensured the respect that the musical life of New Orleans garnered among professional...

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3. Paul Emile Johns

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pp. 164-168

...In 1832 Chopin dedicated his famous Mazurkas Opus 7 to M Johns de Nouvelle Orléans. No other American was ever so honored by the Polish émigré. Why did this seemingly obscure American cotton magnate deserve Chopin’s admiration? Who was this gentleman from one of the leading cultural centers of nineteenth-century America? Paul Emile Johns or simply Emile Johns as...

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4. Ludovico Gabici

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pp. 169-178

...Ludovico Gabici was born in Ravenna, Italy, about 1813.1We know nothing about his early life or his education. When we first meet him in 1837, he is the twenty-four-year-old chef d’orchestra or conductor of the Italian Opera in Havana. He was married to Caroline Deninger (ca. 1813– 83), a native of Stuttgart, Germany, who bore him a son, Charles L. Gabici, and a daughter, Louise Amélie.2Whether he married her before or after his...

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5. Eugène Prévost

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pp. 179-183

...Eugène-Prosper Prévost was one of the most important musicians to have lived and worked in New Orleans in the nineteenth century. He had significant careers as conductor and composer both in Paris and in New Orleans, and his influence on the music in New Orleans lasted well beyond his death through his many students. He was born in Paris on April 23, 1809, and attended...

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6. Theodore von La Hache

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pp. 184-196

...He came to New Orleans probably in 1842,2 but the first public record of him in the city was on February 19, 1846, when he married Maria Emilia Johnston in Saint Patrick’s Church (then a cathedral). His musical career in the city began about that time when he was first known as a successful professor (teacher).3 Also in 1846 he published his first important work...

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7. Hubert Rolling

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pp. 197-204

...Rolling’s first wife was Marie Louise Willamine Irma Desforges, granddaughter of Louis Hus Desforges, the first important classical musician in New Orleans (see part II, chapter 1). After her death he married Miss Tarrut, and when she too died, he married Miss Jacquet. Rolling and his first wife sired a son,William Hubert Rolling Jr. (1857–1943), who joined his father...

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8. Jeanne Franko

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pp. 205-209

...Hamman was a successful jeweler in New Orleans. However, when the Union Army occupied the city in 1862, he was forced to flee New Orleans and moved to Breslau, Germany, with his young family. Years later he recounted how he was robbed by General Butler and the U.S. Army.3 Hamman remained loyal to the Confederacy. Upon returning to his native Germany, he immediately provided...

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9. Marguerite Elie Samuel

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pp. 210-222

...of the nineteenth century New Orleans was the envy of all other American cities for its exquisite music. There were hundreds of opera performances each year, usually performed by excellent professionals from Paris and other French cities. Concerts were relatively frequent by local and international soloists. Yet there was always an undercurrent of discontent by those whose tastes went beyond...

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10. Mark Kaiser

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pp. 223-232

...career at age eighteen back in America. After a decade of dazzling audiences from Dubuque and Saint Louis to Boston and New York and of residing as a concertizing violinist in Baltimore and Chicago, he returned to New Orleans late in 1882 where he performed, taught, and conducted for the remainder of his life. He was one of the most highly respected musicians in the city not only for his...

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11. Gustave D’Aquin

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pp. 233-243

...teenager he was studying flute with the leading flutist in the city, Leopold Carrière, who was a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire and had been first flutist in the French Opera Orchestra since at least 1841. D’Aquin debuted on November 28, 1872, in the second of two concerts led by Gustave Collignon and featuring the young violinist Camille Urso. The reviewer...

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12. Theodore Curant

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pp. 244-248

...of European musical life from which they had been systematically excluded until the early nineteenth century. Curant showed musical promise as a child and received initial instruction on the violin in his native village. Later he studied at the Imperial Conservatory in Vienna, where one of his classmates was...

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13. Henry Wehrman Jr.

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pp. 249-257

...Henry P. Wehrman is usually referred to as Henry Wehrman Jr. His parents, HenriWehrmann Sr. (1827–1903) and Charlotte Wehrmann (1830–1910), were among the most prominent engravers of music in America from 1849 to 1888, and their home was a center of music in New Orleans. Henry Jr. was born in New Orleans in 1870, the fourth and last child of Henri Sr. and...

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14. William Henry Pilcher’s Conservatory of Music

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pp. 258-266

...music in New Orleans, and its pupils—many from leading socialite families—were to be the arbiters of music of European origins for the next several generations of New Orleanians. Perhaps one of the reasons jazz originated in this particular city and so many great performers of jazz emerged from New Orleans is that New Orleans was a center for the performance and teaching of classical European music, and standards of excellence were high...

Image Plates 2

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pp. 302-313

Book II: A Chronological History

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1. The Early Years

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pp. 269-302

...There were in this case orchestral music, vocal music, and concertos for two different solo instruments with orchestral accompaniment. Amateurs and professionals performed together, in solos, in chamber ensembles, and in the orchestra. As was often the case, one performer was highlighted: Professor Brun on the pianoforte. The concert was followed by a ball. We do...

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2. The Musical Metropolis

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pp. 303-348

...month alone. Before 1836 almost all concerts were by local musicians, but afterward the number of guest performers, often world-class stars, increased manifold—though the visitors were still outnumbered by the locals. Several new kinds of concerts emerged: sacred concerts mostly in churches, student recitals, and even full symphony-orchestra seasons. Sometimes more than one concert...

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3. The Great Years

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pp. 349-390

...Local musicians spearheaded the concert life, but stimuli came from the outside as well, including new young virtuosi and returning masters. All this came at a time when the city had great opera seasons not only at the Théâtre d’Orléans, usually in French, but substantial English, German, and Italian opera companies as well...

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4. Concert Music during the Civil War

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pp. 391-400

...New Orleans was under siege, and then from April 1862 until 1865 it was occupied by Union troops. The last concert before the blockade was on February 5, 1861, at Odd Fellows’ Hall. It had been postponed from January 23. It was a benefit for the younger Asile de Saint Vincent orphans and featured Mozart’s Mass No. 12, performed by fifty men and women, plus an orchestra of the best musicians of the city...

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5. Recovery of the Postwar Years

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pp. 401-426

...The next evening violinist Page gave an instrumental and vocal concert at the Saint Charles Theatre, with M Flandry and a group of amateur singers. Page performed his new, brilliant waltz, “Hommage aux Louisianais,” the music for which could be purchased at local venders and the proceeds from which were donated to the poor of the city...

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6. From the City to the Lake andthe Great Exposition

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pp. 427-480

...performances. The Opera House opened the 1872–73 season without grand opera, and few concerts were given. From then until 1880 the city was often without its own grand opera company, and without a resident opera company there was no need to maintain a high-quality orchestra. When the orchestra was allowed to disintegrate, the number of chamber concerts, as well as orchestral...

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7. The Grand Old City

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pp. 481-546

...century. There continued to be lake concerts, and there continued to be many student concerts. Home concerts, church concerts, and benefit concerts continued in increasing number. Famous artists arrived, now usually for only one or two performances rather than the month-long residencies heretofore. Local professionals were busier than ever, and many amateurs enriched the concert...


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pp. 547-656


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pp. 657-664


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pp. 665-697

E-ISBN-13: 9780807150832
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150825

Page Count: 752
Illustrations: 45 halftones, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Music -- Social aspects -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- History -- 19th century.
  • Music -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Concerts -- Louisiana -- New Orleans -- History -- 19th century.
  • Musicians -- Louisiana -- New Orleans.
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