Bach Society Orchestra
At Paine Hall Saturday night
An excellent group of soloists and a nicely balanced program made the second concert of the Bach Society Orchestra even more successful than the first. Mozart's Bassoon Concerto, which opened the concert, was a delight. Soloist Jackson Bryce's tone was full and rich from the bottom to the top of his range, his phrasing graceful, and his technical control impressive. He played the romantic cadenzas pensively, entrancing the audience. Conductor Daniel Hathaway controlled the orchestra tightly, following Bryce's phrasing and balancing him nicely.
As an unfortunate contrast, the orchestra was disappointing in Schubert's Symphony No. 5. The first movement was rushed, and the slow movement was uncomfortably splattered with bad intonation and overlooked sharps and flats in the strings. In the minuet the strings were not together with the winds, and were themselves in internal rhythmic strife. The finale was more compelling, especially near the end. When the players were in tune and together, the orchestra, though small, made a big, rich sound. The winds were generally dependable, although the horns occasionally faltered and the oboes battled as to which of them would play more out of tune with the violins in the slow movement.
In Piston's pleasant little Divertimento, the nine performers gave a cheerful and accurate reading of the outer movements, and put considerable intensity into the lyrical middle movement. Hathaway conducted apparently without a clear understanding of the work. Melodic lines were submerged in the first two movements. The last was more convincing, even if slightly mechanical.
Happily, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.5 matched the brilliance of the Mozart. Harpsichordist G. S. Rousseau ripped through his part with a technical virtuosity that left listeners breathless. His concern with speed caused him to rush in all three movements, but his control and clear phrasing helped make up for this. Violinist Marylou Speaker and flutist Leslie Claff both played very sensitively, executing their imitative sections elegantly. Miss Speaker's tone was rich and warm; Miss Claff's was clear but, unfortunately, was often covered by the orchestra. The strings, especially the violins, were astonishing: their sound blossomed in the opening bars and rarely let down. Hathaway co-ordinated his forces deftly, generally letting the piece play itself, producing perhaps the best Bach Brandenburg at these concerts in years.