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Seven art songs, a concerto, two symphonies, and an opera, all on the same program: this was the offering of the Adams House Music Society Wednesday night, and it well deserved its overflowing, enthusiastic audience.
James Harkless sang his group of English and Italian art songs with simplicity and fluency. His mellow, relaxed style, however, seemed fitting only in "The Willow Song" and in Salvator Rosa's "Star Vincino." The rest quickly became cloying.
Bassoonist Alex Gelley brought to Vivaldi's seldom-performed A minor Bassoon Concerto a brightness of tone and seriousness of interpretation that made it easy to ignore the comparative triviality of the music. Surprisingly, his agile phrasing, full of subtle nuances and contrasts, did not unnerve the small orchestra that accompanies him. All the musicians showed a single-mindedness in matters of rubate and dynamics that is probably attributable to the fine conducting job of Norman Shapiro.
The orchestra was less successful in this regard in the two slender symphonies by William Boyce which had opened the concert. The performances, particularly of the Symphony Number Three, lacked the unanimity of attacks so necessary in brisk Eighteenth Century miniatures of this kind. But enthusiasm is almost as important as finesse, and enthusiasm the orchestra had in abundance.
"There and Back," a ten-minute opera by Paul Hindemith, is more than merely clever--it is funny. The plot involves a husband (Barry Morley) who learns of the infidelity of his wife (Janet Wheeler). He shoots her and jumps out the window. At this point the lights dim, and a wise man (Robert Simon) appears. "Let us reverse this fate and make things turn back," he says. The husband jumps back in the window, and the action shifts into reverse, ending as it began. Obviously, the situation has almost limitless potentialities, most of which were realized in the performance. In the exposition, for instance, the wife at one point pours some coffee and drinks it. In the recapitulation, she drinks it again, then nochalantly pours it back into the coffee pot. The singers were on key, articulate, and appropriately hammy. And the ubiquitous orchestra handled its assignment expertly. All in all, the evening did justice to the admirable Adams House tradition.
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