Bergmann, Carl

1821-1876

Eminent conductor who held an important place in the progress of music in America. Carl Bergmann was born in Ebersbach, Saxony, studied in Zittau under Zimmermann, and in Breslau was a pupil of Hesse. Bergmann came to America in 1850, and as violoncellist toured the eastern cities with the Germania Orchestra, an organization of German musicians, of which he became conductor. He entered the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1855, and with Eisfeld, conducted alternately till 1862, at which date he became sole conductor, and so remained until his death in New York in 1876. His successor was Leopold Damrosch. To music lovers in America, Carl Bergmann rendered great service in introducing here the works of Liszt and Wagner. Theodore Thomas was the first to make Americans well acquainted with Wagner, but, as Upton says, the credit for giving the first performance, in this country, of a Wagner composition, the overture to Tannhauser, belongs to Carl Bergmann. In Theodore Thomas' Autobiography there is given this view of that great conductor's association with Bergmann and a personal estimate of the man: "It has been said by those who are unfamiliar with the history of that time, that Bergmann was my model in conducting. This is incorrect. Eckert . . . was the one who influenced me, and from whom I learned. He, (Bergmann) lacked most of the qualities of a first-rank conductor, but he had one great redeeming quality for those days, which soon brought him into prominence, he possessed an artistic nature, and was in sympathy with the so-called ' Zukunft Musik ' (music of the future)."

Previous to his occupancy of the post of conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society, Bergmann conducted the concerts of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston; and in New York for several years conducted the German male chorus "Arion." In 1854 Bergmann went to Chicago, and here was engaged to take charge of the Philharmonic Society, but dissensions arising, he left early in 1855 and returned to New York. This same year a series of chamber concerts under the name of Mason and Bergmann was instituted, at which concerts Bergmann played violoncello, Theodore Thomas first violin, and Mason was pianist. Long afterward Thomas declared that the first programs of Mason and Bergmann sounded the war-cry of death, to stale and meaningless music, and proclaimed progress. Krehbiel, writing in Grove, pays this tribute to Carl Bergmann: " Bergmann was the pioneer in America of the new school of conductors, as distinguished from the old class of mere time-beaters. He was strongly individual and assertive in his interpretations, a radical, and an enthusiastic and devoted champion of Liszt and Wagner."