At Sanders Theatre
The most exciting kind of concert is one which presents an opportunity to come in contact not only with the artistry, but also the personality of a great musician. One of the greatest of our time, Nadia Boulanger, last night accomplished the difficult feat of communicating with every person in the theatre, musicians and listeners alike; and, as if incidentally, produced some inspired moments of music.
The essence of Mlle. Boulanger's greatness is her complete affinity with the spirit, and more especially with the rhythm of the music. Conducting a program which consisted of an almost bewildering array of styles, she shifted in and out with complete ease and sureness. The depth of her musical understanding was illustrated by the modulations of approach within each composer, bringing out the enormous variety possible in a group of Monteverdi, or in a Bach Cantata.
Mlle. Boulanger's technique as a conductor is not to lead, so much as to elicit the music from the players and singers, participating with them in chamber music fashion. She conducted standing at the piano, occasionally supplying her own version of a continuo part. This resulted frequently in uncertainty, and some awkward moments. But for the most part, she had the complete sympathy of the musicians, whose grasp of her rhythms and nuances amounted almost to mystical communion.
The participants in last night's concert were a select number of the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society, and the Bach Society Orchestra. Most of the members of these groups have a technical competence on the professional level, and musical capacities far above many professionals, enabling them to respond fully to Mlle. Boulanger's wishes. The orchestra was unusually rich and warm in Lili Boulanger's Vieille Priere Bouddhique, and the chorus sang with beautiful tone as always.
O'Brien Nicholas '59, performed an aria in Bach's Cantata No. 41 with a freshness and grace which excelled even her own past performances. The other soloists, Thomas Beveridge '59, Ruth Oeste '58, and Karl Dan Sorensen, also possess very fine voices. The only villains of the evening were the trumpets, particularly the second, who came near to turning the Bach into a shambles.
The concert as a whole was not as good as some of its parts, owing to a curious method of programming which seemed calculated to upset with each piece the effect of the preceding work. But there was enough great music-making to more than compensate for this drawback.
The audience received Mlle. Boulanger with a standing ovation, which it repeated at the end of the concert; but Mlle. Boulanger, in a final gracious gesture, sat down at the piano, and refused to rise until the musicians rose to share the applause with her.