Joel Lazar and the Bach Society Orchestra gave an-other demonstration Sunday afternoon of their phenomenal ability to play almost anything. This time they presented Mozart, Vivaldi, and Milhaud, and handled all three with considerable case. The orchestra's consistently graceful and polished readings afforded a most pleasant antidote to the bleakness of a pre-blizzard Cambridge.
Of the three works on the program, the Mozart Serenade No 9 in D. K. 320 (-"Posthorn") received probably the most successful performance. The serenade demands a good deal of orchestral versatility. Its seven alternately bustling and doleful movements are among Mozart's most intricately scored. To its great credit, Mr. Lazar's orchestra managed to maintain a perfectly balanced tone throughout, and Mr. Lazar's direction was itself pretty close to ideal. His crisp phrasing and invariably brisk tempt imparted to the music a restrained breathlessness that is all too rarely achieved in university Mozart performances. If the strings were occasion-all troubled by faulty intonation, the tone of the winds was consistently and serenely sonorous.
Darius Milhaud's Symphonic No, I pour Petite Orchestre, ("Le Princemps"), the program's second work, hardly deserves to be called a symphony. Its three movements last barely three minutes in all, and the Orchestre is limited to nine players (string quartet, harp, and four winds). But like much early Milhaud, the music, for all its pretensions, is pleasant and quite lyrical. And it received a very lyrical performance. Mr. Lazar conducted with a deft touch, and his small group of players responded with a spirited and humorous reading that pleased the directors as much as it did the audience. He played all three minutes over again for an encore.
The afternoon began with a performance of Vivaldi's Concerto per Orchestre per la solennita di S. Lorenso. The cheerful montony of Vivaldi's Concerti grossi is difficult to sustain, and the orchestra's playing was often marred by a somewhat fuzzy attack. The solist group, with the notable exception of the cellist Clarke Slater, also had an offday, and the strength of the winds only made the Concerto as a whole sound more ragged.
But the Vivaldi was the only exception to the general excellence of the afternoon. Mr. Lazar and his orchestra are continuing a notably brilliant season, and one can only be grateful for their collective presence.