Last Saturday evening's concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra was as poorly balanced as the great majority of the programs heard at Symphony Hall during the current season. The performance of the works, as usual, was more than adcquate, but the music itself was of such doubtful and flimsy quality that the effect was hardly preportional to the amount of applause which a Symphony Hall audience always showers upon its beloved Dr. Koussevitsky when he heroically introduces a new work. The program consisted of Edward Burlingame Hill's for Symphony, the first, and possibly last, performance of Roy Harris Fifth Symphony, and Alexander Borovsky's playing of the Third Prokofield Piano Concerto.
For the most glaring fault that a survey of programs would show, is that they have been as unbalanced as Humpty Dumpty on his wall, and neither Dr. Koussevitsky nor his orchestra have been able to put them together very coherently. I have heard enough late nineteenth and early twentieth century works to last me through three seasons. Music of such mediocrity as Lopatnikoff's Sinfonictta Opus 27, Martinu's 1st Symphony, Bennett's "Sights and Sounds," and Loeffler's "A Pagan Poem" have been foisted off under the wornout banner of "giving the other fellow a chance," or "Becthoven and Brahms were never appreciated by their contemporaries, either." The program of January 23, for instance, consisted of the two last works mentioned, plus Hindemith's "Nobilissina Visione" Concert Suite, and Tschaikowsky's "Romeo and Juliet." When works of unquestionable fibre have been given, they have often been thrown, together indiscriminately, as witnessed by another program which boasted of nothing but modern French music by Milhaud, Debussy and Ravel, enough to tire even the most ardent admirer of musical delicacy and impressionism. To date there has not been a single note of Bach or Handel heard in Symphony Hall. Although there seemed to be time enough for two by Shostakovitch and one by Miaskovsky, there was not a single Haydn, and but one Mozart symphony performed.
After the Symphony's union adjustment early this year, it was hoped and expected that more first rate soloists and a few guest conductors might appear out of the blue. To date there have been but three instrumental guest soloists, all pianists, and only one guest conductor, George Szell, none of whom have noticeably shaken the foundations of the hall. Perhaps the orchestra is glancing uneasily in the direction of its brethren in Carnegie Hall who went to the other extreme and are now paying the penalty.
I have not meant to give the impression that the Boston Symphony is anything but a competent, well conducted musical machine. If criticism is levelled at the organization, it is an indication of the fact that musical audiences refuse to have their tastes forcibly changed, that they have a right to expect more music of their own choosing from the orchestra which they support. Dr. Koussevitsky has, to date, gotten more than his baton's worth out of the music which he particularly enjoys. But there are seven programs to be heard and he may yet lower himself to the level of Bach and Handel.