When director James Walker came to Harvard four years ago the Dartmouth concert was a disreputable collection of hack marches, cliched tone poems and loud football songs. Gradually, however, he has made the event into more than a pep rally; last night's program was thoroughty musical in both content and performance.
In previous Dartmouth concerts, band members tolerated, but never really enjoyed, the serious music Walker forced on the program. Last night they relished it, and even the audience, used to musical pap, accepted the transformation.
Paul Fauchet's Symphony in B-Flat was the major presentation of the evening, and despite some problems in execution, the performance justified Walker's decision to revive this little known composition. Though uneven, lacking in cohesion, and at times rambling, the symphony has some memorably melodic and dynamic passages.
Under Walker's prodding baton the band resisted the temptation to dissipate in the quiet passages and executed phases lyrically and cleanly. But while carefully molding individual sections of the work, Walker and the band could not overcome the problem of disunity inherent in the score. The "Overture" sounded like two separate compositions, and the three other movements seemed to have been written by different composers.
Even so, the Symphony provided some of the finest moments in years at the Dartmouth Concert and gave promise of a better future.
Less impressive was the William Byrd Suite arranged by Gordon Jacob. Byrd's music was written for small groups; his light melodies and whim-ical tempos are either lost or made heavy in the transcription for a band of more than 100 players. Walker did his best to preserve the spirit of Byrd and now and then he succeeded. But in the exposed woodwind passages, which should have been airy, 26 clarinets were far too many.
The football music was superb. Dave Keller and Ed Flitton led the drum section to new heights of virtuosity, and the band has not played with better balance or more spirit for years. For the first time anyone could remember, the audience forced an encore after the playing of "Fair Harvard."