On February 12, 1946 a symphony concert was to be held at the municipal auditorium in New Orleans at 8:30 PM. This is right at the midst of Carnival season so many people were predicted to come. Guest performer Beverage Webster, a well-known American pianist was going to be performing. Webster was born May 13, 1908 in Pittsburgh, his father who founded and directed the Pittsburgh Conservatory began to give him lessons at the age of five years old. He studied piano in Europe in the late 20s and early 30s and made his debut performance in November 1934 at Carnegie Hall in New York City with the New York Philharmonic Symphony. By the end of the ‘30s Webster performed with many major American orchestras and was a well-known and respected pianist. Webster taught at the New England Conservatory during the time of his performance and is best known for his elegant performances of French and American contemporary scores.
Theater critic Evans Rodgers described Webster’s playing of Franz Liszt’s Concerto Number 1 as being “just as it should be played, with great gusto and a flashing brilliance that brought forth prolonged applause from the audience. It brought the twelfth concert of the season,” continued Rodgers, “to a dramatic finish and seemed to send the crowd home quite satisfied.” New Orleans States critic Marie Goodspeed added that Webster played the Concerto “with a vigorous, fiery interpretation.”
Following the performance Webster played at a private party, which many people attended because Mardi Gras was in full swing. Symphony concerts were very common around the time of Mardi Gras. Due to the large number of people coming from all around to partake in Mardi Gras, the symphony concerts were a huge hit.
Symphony concerts have been occurring in New Orleans for over 100 years. Many orchestras have been formed and concerts occur all over the city.In 1910 an Orchestra entitled the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra was formed under the command of Severin O. Conductors changed with the years along with the name of the symphony. These concerts were held periodically throughout the year, mainly planned around holidays or celebrations. At the concerts songs written by Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and others, along with Broadway show tunes, pop standards and patriotic themes are played. Other orchestras such as the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony orchestra was also amongst the orchestra that played at these theaters. Shows are mainly held in theaters or auditoriums. Some of the most popular theaters are, Saenger Theatre, Orpheum Theater, Joy Theater, and the Civic Theatre. Symphonies consisted of multiple guest musicians at select shows.
- Evan Rodgers, “Gutsy Liszt Concerto Is Symphony Feature,” Times-Picayune, February 13, 1946, Access World News – Historical and Current; Marie Goodspeed, “Webster Dynamic in Liszt Concerto,” New Orleans States, February 13, 1946, America’s News – Historical and Current.