The Bach Society Orchestra
at Paine Hall
Considering its enormous turnover of personnel, not to mention the acquiring of a new conductor, the Bach Society Orchestra performed surprisingly well last night in its first concert of the season. Unfortunately, the group has an almost Olympian reputation and it will take a long period of hard work and playing together before they can meet the standards of past years.
The choice of works was undoubtedly a handicap to the orchestra in the first place. The major work, Haydn's Symphony No. 44 in e minor, is not one of his happiest compositions, being almost devoid of humor or lightness. The orchestra was having problems of intonation, and not until the last movement did they relax and play freely. By that time, the nervousness and tension which dominated the first half of the program began to wear off, and both the tone and the ensemble work improved noticeably.
The new conductor is John Harbison '60, a former violinist and trombonist in the orchestra. Harbison is an excellent musician, and when he and the orchestra gain more rapport with each other, as they did only occasionally last night, many of the minor imperfections of the first concert will disappear. He needs much more assurance, and is at present far too restrained, especially in making sudden contrasts and shaping phrases.
Katherine Gratwick, the new concertmistress, and Michael Nieland were soloists in Bach's Double Concerto. They were extremely competent, but could both have used more warmth in the slow movement and subtlety throughout. If they left some opportunities unexplored, they did perform with spirit and clarity.
The concert opened with Gluck's overture to Iphigenia in Aulis, an incredibly repetitive work which was all the more embarrassing in that the same faults came up over and over. The closing piece was Bartok's Roumanian Folk Dance suite, in which the orchestra, with its warmer tone and greater cohesiveness, gave promise of better things in the near future.