For the otherwise intelligent music lover who does not like modern music and for the concert-goer who is looking for something different the Longy School's "Music of Today" series supplies an ideal remedy. Last Thursday, Gregory Tucker successfully presented the first of three concert-lectures devoted to contemporary music. The featured work was Arnold Schonberg's enigmatic Violin Concerto (Op. 36), the artists were Mr. and Mrs. Louis Krasner, and the result was one of the season's most important musical events.
Krasner played the concerto twice--no easy task since it is one of the most difficult works in the repertoire. He exhibited great manual dexterity, backed up by a full, rich tone. Having no definite conception of how the music should be played, I can say very little about the interpretation. However, there did seem to be a lack of rapport between soloist and accompanist. The quiet passion which marked Krasner's playing was far removed from his wife's cool, almost mechanical pianism. I don't know which style is valid, but one of them was certainly out of place. In fairness to Mrs. Krasner it must be added that she is a first rate technician who effortlessly surmounted all the difficulties of her part (originally written for orchestra).
The effect of atonality (or as Schonberg preferred to call it, "pantonality") is not particularly pleasing to the ear. The absence of all conventional melody, harmony, rhythm, and direction in the piece leaves a half hour of tenseness and doubts which are never fully resolved. And the vacillating, rhapsodic themes, occasionally broken by piquant pizzicatos and eerie glissandos, gave me a feeling of desolation throughout. Viewed in its entirety, the work is a lot more difficult to comprehend than its more lyrical sister concerto, by Alban Berg, and future performances would be most welcome. Two hearings of the concerto aren't enough to make Schonberg fans of anyone, but at least they served to stimulate interest, and I'm sure that is all the Longy School intended.
The next concert-lecture in the series, dealing with Copland, Lamb, and Piston, will be given on February 14. I hope that Gregory Tucker and his colleagues will plan a better organized discussion period for future programs. An authoritative talk about the techniques and objectives of the composer would be much more rewarding than the brief question period which provided last Thursday's only dull moments.