Mr. Joel Lazar, the outgoing conductor of the Bach Society, is not a man to submit to Mr. T.S. Eliot's strictures on Last Things; the final concert of his tenure proved to be one of his very best. Ray Still, the oboeist, Joel Sachs, pianist, and Mark B. DeVoto, an undergraduate composer, contributed materially to the evening's excellence, but Mr. Lazar's triumph eclipsed even these gentlemen.
Mark DeVoto's Introduction and Allegro, which the orchestra, bless them, performed twice, is an attractive and intelligent, if occasionally somewhat disjoined, piece of music. Mr. DeVoto writes with easy assurance; his deft, varied and imaginative scoring and an evident command of conventional forms allow him to experiment at leisure with the work's harmonies and tonalities. This is a relaxed and clever style reminiscent, if anything, of the early Ernest Bloch--I have in mind particularly, his Concerto grosso for Orchestra.
Both of the orchestra's readings of the DeVoto piece evidenced rather hurried preparation; the strings especially often had difficulty agreeing on the notes. With the Mozart oboe concerto, however, they experienced no difficulties whatsoever. Ray Still, it is probably unnecessary to announce, is one of the country's best oboeists; his performance was remarkable for its sonority and its precision.
And the Bach Society showed what an excellent accompanying group it can be. Mr. Lazar can make his orchestra glisten like a winter day in Vermont; they are immediate and keen. The winds, always good, played with unusual elegance, and in the dialogue between the solo and accompanying oboes in the final allegro assai, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish Mr. Still from the Society's James Weiss and Eliot Noyes.
The evening concluded with a performance of a second Mozart concerto, this one the Concerto No. 19 in F, K. 459. Joel Sachs, the pianist, gave a more than adequate performance. His control of dynamics and phrasing are convincingly professional, and the quiet allegretto was played with delicacy and poise. The orchestra, it seems almost redundant to say, accompanied Mr. Sachs with care and with grace.
The entire concert was a tribute to the superior qualities of Joel Lazar's abilities as a conductor. Throughout the year he has given us solid programs and better than solid performances. This is a considerable accomplishment, an accomplishment for which I am very grateful.