Where would the arts be without the society ladies of 100 years ago? Snide notions of quaintness and dilettantism aside, many of San Antonio’s most venerable arts institutions (and many others around the country) were founded by educated, cultured women who may have lacked professional or legislative efficacy, but still ruled with daintily poised, lace-adorned fists. Founded in 1901 (and still going strong) the Tuesday Musical Club is one of those fine institutions — created by and for ladies — that survived the suffrage movement, two World Wars, the tumult of the late 20th century and the vicissitudes of the early 21st to maintain its position as one of the city’s foremost presenters of classical music.
The Club’s founder was Mrs. Eli Hertzberg, a graduate of the New York Conservatory of Music who married and joined her husband in Texas in 1882. Missing the cultural scene of turn-of-the-century New York, she started the Tuesday Musical Club to provide performance and educational opportunities for both her musical lady friends and the public at large. Forget the delicate Gibson girl: Hertzberg was a member of the politically active Women’s Club, first president of the local Council of Jewish Women and, in 1908, the first woman elected to the School Board, all before women had the right to vote. Many social, educational, and health causes were initiated under her watch. (From Lone Stars of David: the Jews of Texas, by Hollace Ava Weiner and Kenneth Rosemann, 2007).
While “ladies clubs” may seem superfluous today, or just plain snooty, in this case tradition and quality go hand-in-hand. TMC’s exclusively female membership includes some of San Antonio’s best musicians, teachers, and classical aficionados, who all keep up with the international music scene. If you want something done right, get a bunch of smart, feisty women on the job. Over the years this crew has presented such luminaries as Isaac Stern and Van Cliburn, along with more contemporary stars as Joshua Bell, Nathan Gunn, Olga Kern, the Eroica Trio, and Angelika Kirchschlager.
Since 1923, the TMC Artist
Series has featured over 350 concerts by some of the most accomplished musicians in the world — with only one cancellation (the artists’ planes were grounded in the days following 9/11). With this track record, says publicity chairwoman Mary Fleet: “We’re on a good number of musician-agency mail lists, and we have pretty good success at getting top stars just before they hit it really big and we can’t afford them any more.”
One of those artists, tenor Lawrence Brownlee will be making an SA visit. A native of Youngstown, Ohio with gospel roots, Brownlee is rapidly becoming a hot commodity among some of the world’s best opera companies. He made a highly-acclaimed Houston Grand Opera debut last January as the prince in Ceneréntola. In April, he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville, where he sang the notoriously difficult (and usually excised) closing aria “Cessa di piú resistere.” He apparently brought down the biggest house in opera. The aria is included on his San Antonio program, along with classics from the art song repertoire, other opera selections, and a couple of left-hooks courtesy of Kurt Weill and Marc Blitztein. Here’s a rare chance to see a future opera great in a recital setting.
The series continues March 25 with the beautiful Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä, and the April 15 piano duo performance by the Santinelli Sisters, Silvana and Silvia, concludes the 85th consecutive season of the TMC Artist Series.
When not hosting guest artists, individual member recitals and ensemble performances are the main business at TMC’s meetings, held on the first and third Tuesdays from October through May. These concerts are free, open to the public, and of professional caliber. TMC’s educational arm includes a co-ed Junior Membership, where talented elementary through high school students learn the finer points about music, stage presence, and professional comportment. TMC also hosts the prestigious, juried Young Artist Competition for college-level students with a $10,000 prize.
The TMC website says Mrs. Hertzberg founded the organization “in this frontier town” to form “a club where women could continue to pursue their musical talents and stimulate the cultural atmosphere of a city at the fledgling stage of a new century.” A hundred years later, it still seems like a frontier town sometimes. It’s good to know we’ve got these venerable ladies watching our cultural backs. •
2pm Jan 15
Trinity Baptist Church
319 E. Mulberry
(210) 832-0861 or (210) 344-5929
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