Bach Society Orchestra
At Sanders Theatre last night
It was the singular genius of the framers of the so-called Blue Laws to discover the peculiar Truth that any activity carried on in Greater Boston of a Sunday must invariably be infected with an air of cavernous gloom (man should certainly be discouraged from drinking on a day when Liquor would only bring on a bilious attack); and it is only to be regretted that they did not enlarge their prescription to include orchestral concerts. For last night's Bach Society concert was certainly a flaccid and weary affair for the most part, and perhaps far-sighted and selfless Legislation might have been able to put a stop to it.
Perhaps, too, of course, Mr. Andrew Schenck, the Bach Society's new conductor, might have done something to enliven the evening. Mr. Schenck is blessed with one of the most competent small (and largely collegiate) orchestras in the country--it is hampered neither by ghostly strings nor awkward brass--but like Haydn and his themes, he often seems unable to decide what he wants to do with his musicians.
Haydn, indeed, is a case in point. His Symphony No. 88 in G was the most important work on the program (although the printed program neglected to include mention of the various movements in its listing), but it received a listless reading. Mr. Schenk's tempi dragged, his dynamics lacked any shading (he managed only a creditable fortissimo and much less creditable mezzopiano), his attacks were ragged, his control uncertain.
Only the second movement, dominated by the calm theme that Brahms vowed he would include in his ninth symphony, achieved any degree of balance or emotion, and even then it was not Mr. Schenck's doing: the orchestra's principal oboist, Eliott Noyes, and its principal cellist, Clarke Slater, (both of whom received their musical training at Vermont's Putney School) were chiefly responsible for this transient success.
Nor was the rest of the program in any way noteworthy. Miss Dorothy Crawford, who has a pleasant voice, was the soloist in a secular cantata, Non sa che sia Dolore, attributed (maliciously) to J. S. Bach; the Orchestra's strings played Purcell's Fantasia on One Note with as much life as a bagpipe; and everybody fretted over the overture to Mozart's Impresario like gummed velvet.
The NBC Symphony Orchestra toured the country without a conductor after Toscanini's death. Mr. Schenck, who must see himself as a William Dobbin, should not accord the departed Joel Lazar the same rites. The Bach Society Orchestra this year stands in considerable need of a conductor, and one who will be both meticulous and despotic.