Theodore Eisfeld

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Theodore Eisfeld Theodore Eisfeld.jpg
Theodore Eisfeld

Theodore Eisfeld (April 11, 1816, Wolfenbüttel, Duchy of Brunswick – 16 September 1882, Wiesbaden) was a conductor, most notably of the New York Philharmonic Society, which became the New York Philharmonic.

Wolfenbüttel Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Wolfenbüttel is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, the administrative capital of Wolfenbüttel District. It is best known as the location of the internationally renowned Herzog August Library and for having the largest concentration of timber-framed buildings in Germany. It is an episcopal see of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick. It is also home to the Jägermeister distillery and houses a campus of the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences.

Duchy of Brunswick in Germany

The Duchy of Brunswick was a historical German state. Its capital was the city of Brunswick (Braunschweig). It was established as the successor state of the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In the course of the 19th-century history of Germany, the duchy was part of the German Confederation, the North German Confederation and from 1871 the German Empire. It was disestablished after the end of World War I, its territory incorporated into the Weimar Republic as the Free State of Brunswick.

Wiesbaden Place in Hesse, Germany

Wiesbaden is a city in central western Germany and the capital of the federal state of Hesse. In January 2018, it had 289,544 inhabitants, plus approximately 19,000 United States citizens. The Wiesbaden urban area is home to approx. 560,000 people.



Eisfeld's chief instructor in musical composition was Carl Gottlieb Reissiger, of Dresden. Between 1839 and 1843 he served as Kapellmeister of the Court Theatre at Wiesbaden. [1] He came to New York in 1848, and in 1849 was the first man chosen by the New York Philharmonic Society to be sole conductor for an entire season (prior to this time it had been customary for several musicians to share the conducting duties). [2] He began the custom of giving an annual Christmas performance of Handel's Messiah . He also introduced the first regular concerts of chamber music in New York. [1]

Carl Gottlieb Reißiger was a German Kapellmeister and composer.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister ("master"). The word was originally used to refer to somebody in charge of music in a chapel. However, the term has evolved considerably in its meaning in response to changes in the musical profession.

From 1849 through the 1865/1866 season, when he resigned, Eisfeld often served as conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society. [3] In this period it was customary for the conductor to change from season to season, sometimes with two men sharing the duties. On 18 February 1851, he began a series of quartet concerts, the first being given at Hope Chapel. Eisfeld was also the first conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Society, which was founded in 1857. [4] He continued in this position, alternating with Theodore Thomas between 1862 and 1865, before Thomas took over. This period also saw the composition of some brief works by Eisfeld. [5]

String quartet musical ensemble of four string players

A string quartet is a musical ensemble consisting of four string players – two violin players, a viola player and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group. The string quartet is one of the most prominent chamber ensembles in classical music, with most major composers, from the mid 18th century onwards, writing string quartets.

There have been several organizations referred to as the "Brooklyn Philharmonic." The most recent one was the now-defunct Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, an American orchestra based in the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City in existence from the 1950s until 2012. In its heyday it was called "groundbreaking" and “one of the most innovative and respected symphony orchestras of modern times.”

Theodore Thomas (conductor) American violinist and conductor

Theodore Thomas was a German-American violinist, conductor, and orchestrator of German birth. He is considered the first renowned American orchestral conductor and was the founder and first music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891–1905).

On Eisfeld's return trip from a visit to Europe in September 1858, he was one of the few survivors of the burning of the steamship SS Austria where he was lashed to a platform and so drifted on the ocean, without food, for nearly two days and nights. Eisfeld never recovered from this extraordinary prostration, returning to Germany in 1866, and remained there until his death in Wiesbaden at 66.

SS <i>Austria</i> ship

SS Austria was a steamship of the Hamburg America Line which sank on 13 September 1858, in one of the worst transatlantic maritime disasters of the nineteenth century, claiming the lives of 449 passengers and crew. The Austria was built by Caird & Co. of Greenock, Scotland and was launched on 23 June 1857. She was 318 ft and 2,684 BRT, with three masts and single screw propeller propulsion.

In his autobiography, Theodore Thomas described Eisfeld as follows:

Eisfeld belonged to the class of "time-beaters" and would make corrections in the harmonies of master-works he did not understand [1]

Conductors of the New York Philharmonic Society, 1849 - 1865


  1. 1 2 3 Thomas (1905), p. 35
  2. 1 2 Ritter (1883), p. 348
  3. 1 2 Thomas (1905), p. 149
  4. Thomas (1905), p. 144
  5. see Library of Congress scans under his name, some reproduced at IMSLP

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