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Glee Club and Choral Society

The Concertgoer


THE GLEE CLUB--Choral Society concert, with the assistance of the Bach Society Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and St. Paul's Boys Choir, was one of the two finest choral events of the year (the other being the University Chorus's Easter performance of the St. John Passion).

The Choirs sang Gabrieli's O Jesu mi dulcissime, Sweelinck's Psalm 150, and Schutz's Psalm 150 with commendable intonation, balance, dynamic nuance, and tone. The parts were defined and clearly combined rather than blended into an ermine confusion. The antiphonal Gabrieli suffered from a slight lack of vitality, but at least avoided the exaggerated vivacity which often vulgarizes his works. Schutz's great Psalm, a polychoral, instrumentally supported work in concerto style, was distinguished for its sensitive singing and generally excellent brass playing. But the Sweelinck provided the evening's finest performance. Here purity of syllable, beauty of phrase, ease in the high soprano tessitura, and highly intelligent conducting elicited the complex polyphony of the piece.

The fourth item on the program, Benjamin Britten's cantata St. Nicolas, exemplifies the typical predilections of this composer. The melos of the work derives from a dulcissimo consort whose colors are determined by the whites and blacks of the human voice. St. Nicolas, like most of Britten's work, is characterized by self-effacing virtuosity, ingenuous theatricality, and effortless joviality. The Glee Club-Choral Society performance was vigorous and eminently enjoyable, with Tenor soloist Robert Gartside, the excellent solo violin, and the accomplished boy soloist all deserving particular praise.

THIS SORT of good-humored piece is almost beyond criticism. Yet I feel that its simplicity, facility, and accessibility collapsed into a mere smile of irritating urbanity. Nearly every one of Britten's works is charming; in fact, so is nearly every British and American work that is ever performed. Billy the Kid, Rodeo, Red Pony, Appalachian Spring, The Incredible Flutist, and Tender Land are all charming. The Tallis and Greensleeves fantasias, Young Person's Guide, Ceremony of Carols, and Spring Symphony are all exquisitely charming, irresistibly delicious. But I, for one, am slowly drowning in this unendurably "childlike" floodtide of syrup and sugarplums. The popular repertoire of English and American works is one great confectionery, a banquet of indigenous sweetmeats, a maddeningly luxurious dessert table from which the audiences can engorge marzipan and seraphim until prostrate from he sheer agreeableness of it all.

American and British composers have been misrepresented to some extent by the works which have proven digestible, but it still seems that they possess a weary delight in the mood of the rose-garden. The typical audience salivates for the caramel center of he symphonic repertoire. Its decayed sweet tooth cannot be extracted by more sugar, and its delight in gratuitous perfumes cannot be disciplined by more profferments of dusty oleander. This never-ending recovery of "adolescence" and "national roots" on the part of Anglo-Saxon composers, their incessant celebration of the precious and popular, reaches an apotheosis of sorts when a British commentator asserts that Benjamen Britten's personality "does not show Stravinsky's uncomplicated sadomasochism, Schönberg's desexualization of music, or the naive barbarism of Bartok." There is really no answer to this kind of a chocolate-cream musicologist except to suggest that he write his glutinous panegyrics on the backs of sugar packets. CHRIS ROCHESTER

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