Longy Spring Festival
At Sanders Theater
Most Harvard men know the Longy School of Music only as a large yellowish house marking an end of the long walk to Radcliffe. But it is one of the most famous music schools in the East, and many of the University's most accomplished artists study there under distinguished teachers.
On Friday night, the faculty's second spring concert opened with Manuel de Falla's Harpsichord Concerto. While de Falla's music has a strongly Spanish flavor, it is not the tambourine-and-castanets omelet favored by Rimsky-Korsakov and Bizet. Rather, he uses irregular rhythms, unresolved harmonic tensions, and occasional folk tunes to create an atmosphere of barely concealed Latin violence. The jangling sound of the harpsichord and an accompaniment reduced to five instruments further the effect and connote its inspiration: the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti. Harpsichordist Melville Smith and his ensemble did full justice to lyrical elements in the score, but they lacked the precision essential to this music; a conductor would have helped immeasureably.
Hubert Lamb, who teaches composition at the Longy School, wrote his songs Innocentium Carmina two years ago. Drawn from the medieval poetry collection Carmina Burana, they retain the original Latin text, scored for baritone and wind quintet. It is scarcely surprising to learn that Mr. Lamb is an authority on the work of Igor Stravinsky. Innocentium draws heavily on the Russian master's style, and at times almost flagrantly suggests the music of Oedipus Rex. Nevertheless, it provides varied and often quite beautiful settings of the six love poems; however similar their techniques, Lamb is far more willing than Stravinsky to make melodic concessions to his listeners. The New Art Quintet of New York played the wind parts flawlessly, and bass-baritone Paul Matthen sang difficult vocal lines with assurance and tonal beauty.
Mr. Matthen also offered Rameau's cantata Aquilon et Orithie, a trivial but melodious endorsement of rape as a lover's strategem.
The concluding selection, Beethoven's Septet in E-Flat, represents its creator in his wittiest and most lyrical vein. While retaining features of the older divertimento (especially in the prominent violin part), it also looks forward to the work of later composers--Mendelssohn must have known the scherzo well. Despite a few lapses in intonation, the performers gave all the energy and sparkle the septet demands, and it brought an appropriately enthusiastic response from the audience.