THE MUSIC BOX
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Last weekend Brahms' First Symphony received its first performance. This is not to say that a work by this name hasn't appeared before. In fact, it has been going the rounds since 1876. But anyone who heard Charles Munch conduct Brahms' in Symphony Hall must have had the feeling of hearing it for the first time.
The task of recreating such a familiar work becomes increasingly difficult with each successive performance. If Munch's interpretation had had one new slant, or two, probably no one would have noticed. But everything about this was different, startling, and best of all it wasn't Munch (or Koussevitzky), it was Brahms. From the first page everything converged upon a cataclysmic finale. The brass chorale in the last movement nearly knocked the statue of Pan in the second balcony off its pedestal. The end was a great overpowering mass of sound.
Magnificent as it was, the Brahms by no means obliterated Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, the other item on the program. The work presents such a succession of beauties that it is impossible to absorb them all at once. This performance revealed new ones, testifying again to the versitility of Mr. Munch and not incidently to the genius of Beethoven.
Last Fall I had thought that the Boston Symphony Orchestra was at such a state of perfection that it would sound magnificent no matter who the conductor. Charles Munch's first season has caused me to change my mind. Not only does the Orchestra sound different, it sounds better, something many people would have thought impossible. Mr. Munch seems to instill the men with his boundless enthusiasm, extracting every ounce from the music without crossing into the realm of sensationalism. He is a musician through and through; it is as a musician that he has already won the full confidence of his audience, and the ovation he received on Saturday predicts growing support in the years to come.