Besides Dr. Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, last Friday afternoon and Saturday evening Symphony Hall boasted of a narrator, a guest conductor, the Radcliffe Choral Society, and the Harvard Glee Club with tow soloists. The equally impressive program consisting of four works could lay claim to one world and two Boston premier performances. Yet, out of all the novelty and excitement emerged a concert which will rank with the foremost of the current season.
When Dr. Koussevitsky raised his baton for the world premiere of William Schumann's second secular cantata, "A Free Song," the combined Radcliffe and Harvard choirs had a bare three weeks of rehearsal behind them; the baritone soloists had three days. Yet the technical difficulties of the music had all been mastered, the opening dissonance was clean, the final "We Hear Liberty" rang out, and with very few and minor exceptions the performance was all that could have been expected. There was no lack of smoothness, maturity, etc, by the non-professional choruses "to be made up by their vigor . . . their driving energy . . . their sincere desire to please 'Koussy' and the audience." The music itself is angular, rough, forceful, enthusiastic. Particular attention and praise also should be called to the plaintive woodwin solos at the close of "Look Down, Fair Moon," and the God knows-how-many voice orchestral fugue opening the "Song of the Banner."
The only familiar work on the well balanced program, the Sibelius Fifth Symphony, written in the distant past of 1915, was given an adequate reading. Following the intermission, Camargo Guarnieri, Brazilian composer, conducted the orchestra in-his own new "Abertura Concertante" while not particularly remarkable or inspired, is pleasant and diverting. And knee-deep in a mid-western drawl, engrossed in his Lincolnian stance, speaker Will Geer skillfully assisted she BSO in the local premiere of Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait" to conclude the concert.
One significant trend in this program should be noticed, that out of two new works with voices, both in their won distinct ways are effective bits of common-man propaganda. That, by itself is not to be criticized, but when the music suffers, or becomes secondary because of it, the matter should be given some thought. Dr. Koussevitsky came closest to describing the state of affairs when he appeared out of the blue at a Thursday night Sever rehearsal and is reported to have fluently remarked that it was not the music, but "the exaltation of the words . . . the sociology of the music, that I want."