Unconventionality marked yesterday's Symphony program, the thirteenth of the season. No symphony, no classic, no Germans, Frenchmen, Russians; none of the usual earmarks of a concert in Symphony Hall. But it was not merely unconventional, it was absorbing.
In answer to innumerable proddings the publishers of Holst's "Planets" at last sent the parts thus enabling Mr. Monteux to fulfill a promise of long standing. Holst is an Englishman of Scandinavian extraction, and might have been expected, from the qualifications to be a loyal follower of Grieg. But he has thoroughly submerged any Scandinavian traits, not, however, to become English. His work is reminiscent of no other composer. In melody, in harmony, but most strikingly in orchestration, he is absolutely original. It is, moreover, an interesting, a powerful originality. Never except in the Glee Club's great song "At Father's Door" have we heard such gripping, monotonous, insistent despairing horror as in the continuous, strangely rhythmed first movement--"Mars--Bringer of War." All the numerous Wallenstein symphonic poems must blush at their innocence! A change in the order of these pieces would improve their effect. Toward the end they are all of such a drowsy spirit that the listener is infected with the same mood. "Jupiter"--Bringer of Jollity" with its American ragtime rhythms would make a better ending than does. "Neptune--the Mystic". In a piece of fifty-five minutes' duration it is more than natural that the interest should lag toward the close; a little rearrangement would help materially.
As to the orchestration,--rarely in the history of Symphony Hall has Mr. Fiedler been kept so busy at his celesta; novelty upon novelty appeared, not loud and startling, but only to the careful listener. Plainly Mr. Holst is not interested in strange noises per se but only as they contribute to the effect of the whole. So he used muted harp and chime in unison, in "Saturn--Bringer of Old Age" with marked success. A much talked of organ glissando proved hardly noticeable, and almost a complete dud. The orchestra has rarely received such an ovation as it did after this piece; even from the floor came loud clapping. MacDowell's Indian Suite completed the program. It proved hardly more interesting than usual, except for the excellent "In War Time".
Two weeks hence, Mr. Ballantine will have a hearing, submitting "From the Garden of Hellas". Other pieces furnish a good background.