Not surprisingly, the compositions by Ralph Vaughn Williams and Karl Amadeus Hartmann paled before the Bach and Buxtehude in Friday evening's Christmas Concert.
Vaughn Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis could have been received either as a magnificent catharsis or as an offensive, over-extended tear-jerker. The audience chose the cathartic interpretation, even though the members of the string orchestra did not end their chords together, did not play their pizzicati together, and did not all tune to the standard of pitch habitual in civilized countries.
Hartmann's Symphony No. 5 received its United States premiere Friday as a memorial to the composer, who died a week ago yesterday. This symphony, called "Symphonie Concertante," is one of the more skillful anthologies of Stravinsky's music to appear since World War II. Its first movement presents the principal ideas of Agon, with a dash of Canticum Sacrum; its second, themes from The Rite of Spring; its third, themes from The Symphony of Psalms. After carful editing removes the boring parts where Hartmann tries some of his own tricks, the symphony should be very popular in short courses on twentieth century music literature.
The works by Bach (Cantata No. 65), Buxtehude (Das neugebor'ne Kindelein) and Schein (Vom Hillel hoch da komm ich her), as performed by the Glee Clubs with the Orchestra, were, in nearly every detail, an unmitigated delight.