In the absence of Mr. Koussevitzky, who is on a holiday before his performance of Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" next week, the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts this afternoon and tomorrow night will be conducted by the Anglo-Belgian director, Mr. Eugene Goosens, known in this country for his work in Rochester and Cincinnati. Despite the obvious fact that Mr. Goosens waves the longest stick seen here in recent years, he is essentially a quiet conductor, in marked contrast to the Orchestra's other guests of late. And as leader of the Orchestra, he is firm and competent in securing what he wants.
Mr. Goosens's unhackneyed programme comprises three works new to these concerts and a rarely played Tschaikovsky symphony. The first number, Handel's Overture to the "Occasional Oratorio" (the "Occasion" having been to celebrate the second Stuart rising against the House of Hanover in 1745), is a powerful and exhilarating piece which suffers in performance only from the cruelly high and long trumpet parts typical of the early 18th century. There are three movements: a grave introduction and quasi-fugal allegro, a fine slow movement with oboe solo, and a rousing finale.
Then follow a number of movements from Schumann's "Carnaval," a set of short piano pieces here given in a workmanlike, never unduly colorful orchestration made by Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Liadov, and Nicolas Chereprin for the Russian Ballet. The most pleasant piece, "Reconnaissance," is omitted; but the rest is good to hear nevertheless. The final march in three-quarter time may puzzle some people.
The conductor appears as composer in two so-called "Nature Poems," orchestrated last year from a set of three written in 1919. This curiously un-vital music consists of a slight Pastoral and a more amusing Bacchanal, composed in a rather wayward French style, uncommonly exotic for an Englishman. The treatment of the orchestra is less brilliant than one might expect.
As a conclusion to the concert, Tschaikovsky's interminable and noisy "Manfred" Symphony is an anti-climax. This work is a series of four symphonic poems intended to illustrate Byron's dramatic poems intended to illustrate Byron's dramatic poem of the same name in three acts, begun in 1816. Those who are annoyed by the program of Berlioz's "Symphonic Fantastique" will find the combination of Byron's story and Tschaikovsky's music even less to their taste. The scherzo, which is mostly a representation of an Alpine waterfall, is very fine and strangely restless in mood, with admirable orchestral effects; but the other three movements are quite bad. Still the first half of the concert is well worth hearing; and it is a pleasure to have Mr. Goosens as guest conductor.