Bach Society Orchestra
The entire dynasty of Bach Society Orchestra conductors participated in the orchestra's final concert of the season Sunday night. The founder of the orchestra, Michael Greenebaum, led the first Boston performance of Berg's Kammerkonzert for Piano, Violin, and thirteen Wind Instruments; next year's conductor, John Harbison, made a brief debut; and Michael Senturia made his last appearance as conductor of the orchestra. It was a very nostalgic evening.
Unfortunately for those who are fond of nostalgia, the show was stolen by soloist Charles Forbes with a virtuosic performance of the Haydn Cello Concerto, but there was much else to recommend itself.
The most difficult work on the program, for both the orchestra and the audience was the Berg Kammerkonzert. Mr. Greenebaum performed it twice, before and after intermission. It warranted repetition, partly because the piece rests heavily on formal devices which are almost impossible to grasp on the first hearing, partly because it is an interesting and seldom-played composition, but mostly because the second performance was far better than the first. The orchestra seemed surer of the rhythms, and their initial timidity had entirely worn off.
The soloists were excellent both times. Bruce Archibald managed a stormy piano part without the slightest bit of over-percussiveness. His solo variation sounded almost Romantic, and his pedalling was particularly effective. Linda Schein's violin solo, especially the muted sections, had a haunting quality. Mr. Greenebaum's conducting was steady and commanding throughout.
Mr. Harbison had to cope with an unprepared orchestra in Mozart's Adagio and Fugue, K. 546. There was little he could do with the out-of-tune strings, and the number might better have been omitted.
Mr. Senturia made a short appearance in the first half of the concert to accompany Dorothy Crawford in A. Scarlatti's "Ombre Opache" and Monteverdi's Con Che Soavita. Mrs. Crawford used her pure voice to great advantage in instilling warmth and emotion into the arias, and Mr. Senturia provided her with sensitive accompaniment.
The closing Haydn concerto was perhaps the finest musical performance of the year. The solo part is very flashy, with half the first movement written high on the fingerboard, and most of the last in difficult figuration. Forbes, who is a very suave cellist, played with impeccable taste and an overwhelming charm.
The orchestra, under Senturia, has never sounded better. Full and rich without being heavy, they displayed a tone which can come only from a coherent, yet relaxed ensemble.
Some people were disappointed that Senturia did not choose, for his last performance, a work which would allow him to shine somewhat more than the Haydn. But he has never imposed his personality upon the music or the audience, and it seemed entirely appropriate for him to end with a concerto. The mature musician is satisfied with participating, and does not need the constant glare of the spotlight.