The Bach Society Orchestra, a group composed chiefly of undergraduates and conducted by Michael Greenebaum '55, gave its debut concert Sunday evening. The audience, which filled Paine Hall, expressed enthusiastic approval of this ambitious and well planned venture.
In spite of its name, however, the Orchestra showed little affinity for the performance of Baroque music. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 fared somewhat better than the Handel D Minor Concerto Grosso. In the Bach the exotic coloring of the woodwind passages, marvelously executed by the section, overshadowed such outstanding lacks as the weakness of the bass line (in which, besides, the usual keyboard continue was lacking) and the technically inept handling of the violin obbligato by a mercifully unnamed soloist.
Handel has provided a veritable dictionary of musical rhetoric in which expressiveness is attained via articulation and in which major and minor scales and dominant harmony still evoke all the necessary emotional resonances in the listener. Mr. Greenebaum seems not to have scrutinized a single one of the phrasing patterns in the work. The thunderous 32nd notes in the introduction were played too slowly and without the indicated rest beforehand. Not even in syncopated rhythms was the uniform level of long bowings varied. The last movement was indeed played with a bright and appropriate staccato, but Mr. Greenebaum, as if mistrusting the work's power to hold attention, inserted an uncharacteristic and unwarranted dynamic change.
Charles Ives' Symphony No. 3 received a uniformly fine performance, which indicates that the Orchestra's chief service may be in the cause of new mucis. Mr. Greenebaum seemed thoroughly at home in a difficult score. Composed in 1904, the Symphony did not receive its premiere until 1946. Many seem to think that Mr. Ives' patience in waiting (all the while working over his insurance accounts) should be rewarded by extravagant praise of his daring and originality. Undoubtedly he experimented at an early time with techniques which have since become important in contemporary music. But overtones of Brahms and Wagner, in much diluted form, pervade the work. In the melodic writing there is a curious ungainliness and ungraciousness, and yet it serves well to further the dominantly religious tone of the Symphony, best exemplified by the superb hymnal passages at the beginning and end.