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The performance of a major work by the top musicians at Harvard should provide an exciting evening, and the concert last night fulfilled this expectation. For their centennial and sesquicentennial anniversaries, respectively, the Harvard Glee Club and the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra joined with the Radcliffe Choral Society to present Haydn's oratorio "The Creation."
Under the direction of Attilio Poto, the work received a performance that was consistently solid and occasionally superb. "The Creation" contains some of Haydn's greatest music, and this was conveyed without any of the idiosyncracies that can so easily mar an otherwise satisfactory reading.
The dominating figure of the evening was Mr. Poto. His impeccable technique kept every passage under the strictest control. The balances were outstanding at all times, and the precision of the players was unusually good. The chorus and soloists seemed to find no difficulty in following his decisive beat. In more less technical matter, however, he was not so strong. He showed little imagination in interpretation, and the less dramatic section suffered especially from a lack of phrasing and nuance. His conception of the music was generally not clear, resulting frequently in a formlessness which could have been avoided.
The soloists, Grace Hunter, Wesley Copplestone, and Thomas Beveridge '58, were uniformly excellent in quality of style and technique and in intonation. The main problem they faced was that Miss Hunter's tone was noticeably larger and stronger than either of the others'. Singing from in back of the orchestra, the men's voices sounded somewhat thin. Curiously enough, this was more apparent in the solo arias than in the ensembles, where the balance was much better. Miss Hunter performed with spirit and facility, and her singing with the chorus was particularly effective. Mr. Beveridge, the only non-professional soloist, was not in the least overshadowed, and he managed his voice skillfully throughout the two-octave range of his part. Mr. Copplestone also sang with feeling and clarity.
The Orchestra has attained a level of proficiency where such defects as timid openings and sloppy horn passages should be removed in rehearsal. Except for these lapses, the Orchestra played well, and its wind solos continued to be exceptionally lovely. The strings require more warmth and feeling in their glossy tone, but, as a section, they sound very well. The full orchestra, playing alone, was too constrained for such a highly dramatic work.
The Glee Club and Choral Society buttressed the performance with superior singing. Never becoming obtrusive, they supplied spirit and strength, in addition to some beautiful quiet passages. Their preparation by Allan Miller was entirely adequate for an unusually disciplined and musical performance.
The performance of large works, such as "The Creation," provides a definite simulus to Harvard music. Annual joint performances on the calibre of last evening's would be rewarding and enjoyable contributions.
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