The Bach Society Orhcestra
at Paine Hall
A spirited performance of Bach's Suite #3 opened the second season of the Bach Society Orchestra Sunday night. started last year by the zeal of conductor Michael Greenebaum '55 and the sponsoring Harvard-Radcliffe Music Club, the orchestra's first function has been to present Bach's cantatas, suites, and concerti in capable performances. On Sunday night guest conductor Landon Young '58 successfully avoided the two major pitfalls which face the conductor of Bach: the performance was neither Romantic nor pedantic in approach, although it did lack polish.
Another equally important function of the orchestra is the presentation of modern and often local compositions. Under Greenebaum's direction the orchestra gave a taut, electrifying performance of Howard Swanson's Short Symphony. Swanson has written a difficult, powerful work of almost flaming intensity, within a compact three movement structure. One of his favorite effect is to bring the orchestra in a slow cresendo to a fortissimo, then follow immediately with a quiet passage in the winds, without ever abandoning his driving tension. The orchestra was exciting tonally and always under Greenebaumn's tight control.
The Bach Society proved itself equally adept at the Romantic idiom with a flawless performance of Brahms' Screnade in D, a work written very early in the composer's career. The Serenade has a very pleasant pastoral character, using four French horns, but suffers from extreme lengthiness. Backed by such first chair palyers as flutist Cynthia Crain and cellist Stephen McGhee, conductor Greene baum exacted a virtuoso performance from the orchestra. It is a pleasure to have a local group with the ambition and the prowess of the Bach Society.