Well, the summer season's over, and taken all in all it was a good season. More people than ever before flocked to the musical attractions at the Hollywood Bowl, the Philadelphia Robin Hood Dell, the Lewisohn Stadium and the Berkshire Festival, making it obvious to all eyes that the Americans are fast becoming the most music-loving and music-conscoius public in the world, if they haven't become so already.
The Lewisohn Stadium and the Berkshire Festival seem to me to illustrate very strikingly the two fundamental ideals of music presentation, and the difficulty, not to say insurmountability, of combining them. One ideal is that of hearing the best music performed by the best conductors, orchestras, and soloists, and clearly the Festival satisfies this requirement. The other is the equally important need of bringing music to the masses of the people frequently and at low prices, a condition abundantly fulfilled by the Stadium. But both of these topnotch institutions fall wretchedly short of one or the other goal.
At the Stadium, for instance, it was an impressive and moving spectacle to see on a good night the thousands upon thousands of people who had preferred to come to a concert rather than go to the movies at the same price. Yet it was painfully clear that they were extending their patronage first and foremost not to the music of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart, but to the fiddling, or to the ivory tickling, of Hcifetz, Mcnuhin and Rubinstcin. The desire to hear top-fight soloists is at best a natural desire to hear music performed by those most capable of performing it, but when this desire supersedes the wish for music itself, it into the song of mass idolatory of popular figures sponsored by Hollywood (a spirit well illusrated by a banner hanging in a mid western to a recently where Herfetz was scheduled to play. "Hcilcts and his violin!"
The Stadium management makes no bones about truckling to the soloist trade. It hires soloists by the bushel, and ladies out Tableaus sums for them. As a result--and here is the rub--it must budget, and in so doing cheats the public with second and third-rate conductors. The substitution of some first-rank conductors like Rodzinski and Beecham for the interminable Golschmanns, Smalleness, and Von Hoogstrateus, (who obviously have only got their jobs through Curuegie Hall politics), would take the curse off a concert without soloists, and the public might begin to go in for Brahms and Becthoven a little more, Hcifetz and Rubinstein a little less.
The Berkshire Festival, on the other hand, is musically irreproachable. Koussevitzky himself directs nine splendid concerts a year. And in addition to the concerts themselves, other musical activities are beginning to center around Tanglewood. On a nearby mountain, a very fine string quartet gives a series of weekly concerts extending throughout the summer, with well-known pianists as guest artists, and on another mountain a fine ballet festival extends for several weeks, performing nearly every day.
But the Berkshire Festival has one limitation which even time cannot be expected to eradicate. That is, it caters to a fairly high income group, one that can afford the week or weekend vacation in the Berkshires that a trip to Tanglewood means. Even for local people, winter prices on seats probably make all but an occasional visit to Tanglewood impossible. (General admission, just to sit on the grass, is a dollar and a half, as compared with twenty-five cents for a grandstand seat at the Stadium.) Again, with increasing fame, the Berkshire Festival attracts a more and more fashionable crowd. More and more people go just because it is the thing to do, and as the proportion of this type of person goes up, the proportion of genuine music-lovers goes down.
Probably the situation will be somewhat alleviated. The concerts drew such phenomenal crowds this year that the Festival management plans to increase the number next season, and plans also to sponsor opears given by the Music School. Such a program of expansion might well precede a lowering of admission prices, gradually bringing the concerts within reach of a larger section of the public. With the Stadium, it is largely a question of which is to come first, the chicken or the egg. Is the public to get over being soloiststruck, and start patronizing orchestral concerts on the merits of the music alone, or is the Stadium going of hire conductors that do the New York Philharmonic Orchestra justice, and make it worth people's while to attend?