There were eighty wines to choose from, as well as beer, punch, soft drinks, ice cream, sandwiches, and cakes. Oh yes, there was an orchestra too, the Boston Pops, no less-or at least a reasonable facsimile (the B.S.O. is currently touring Europe).
Last Thursday at the Pops' opening night in Symphony Hall, Arthur Fiedler led a group of musicians assembled from all parts of the country. The orchestra never achieved the sonority that regulars could produce, but by conscientious playing and careful adherence to the conductor's directions, its members made up for this fault. Fiedler's interpretations of the symphonic works, though not overly imaginative, were always spirited and precise.
The program, as usual, was a mixture of leftovers from the classical and popular fields, though mostly from the former. Fiedler is unsurpassed at planning programs with wide appeal. If you attend for the relaxation and refreshments, you cannot go wrong. The music will provide intermittent high spots, but will generally be tame enough to place no great strain on your attention. On the other hand, if you're interested primarily in the music, you will find a few rewarding numbers. But they will often be accompanied by a subdued buzz from the ground floor.
Last Thursday, Eugene List provided the musical climax of the evening by his performance of the Liszt E Flat Piano Concerto, a work which he will repeat at tonight's concert. Mr. List is a young man who can mold an expressive lyrical line out of a passage which many others would use merely to display fast finger-work. The length of the concerto left him no time for encores, though the audience recalled him repeatedly. I for one would rather have heard another selection by him than such encore offerings of Fiedler's as Plink, Plank, Plunk and The Irish Washerwoman.
But these were extremes; the more substantial numbers on the program included Enesco's. Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1, Vaughn Williams' Fantasia on "Greensleeves," and Sibelius' Finlandia (the last complete with the popping of champagne corks during the dramatic pauses of the opening section). Rossini's overture to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) showed off the orchestra's first-rate woodwind section. And an arrangement of Cry proved to be a hilarious satire, with quotations from several symphonic works, imitations of whimpering by the trumpets and growling by the horns, and a most realistic baby cry--by a member of the second violin section, I believe.