By Charles G.
I was dining recently at a restaurant where the orchestra was giving its usual selection of pieces. It ploughed its way industriously through operatic selections and musical jigsaws, eut the clattering of the knives and forks went on without any stoppage and the applause, if any, was lukewarm and perfunctory.
And then a strange thing happened. The conductor dismissed his orchestra and proceeded to the grand piano, several of the diners looking round to see what was going to happen. Then, very purely and pet fectly, came the opening bars of one of the intermezzi of Brahms; there was a lull in the conversation and the audience was definitely thrilled and attentive. When the piece was finished there was genuine applause, and then, wonder of wonc:ers, we were given a really stiff prelude and fugue from the works of HacI and this fairly brought the house down.
What Does The Pu b!ic Want
This little incident, here faithfully recoi.ded, makes one ponde; once again on that eternal theme, " What does the public want'?" It is a question that every publisher and producer asks himself anxiously many times a week, and it is a question to which there can never be a certain answer.
But at least one is encouraged to think that beneath all the whirl of life and its superficial conventions there is something in human nature that steadily demands the best, that can detect and appreciate it.
I do nat suppose that it would have been possible for restaurant music twenty years ago to haveindulged in so serious an interlude, but " serious" again may be the wrong word. It is a misconception to think that great art has no immediate appeal or requires some rare and elusive mood for its enjoyment.
Art is thoroughly aware of the necessity of fixing attention upon itself, of making itself plain to the passing glance, casual at first, soon to be more closely attracted. In music we might take two illustrations, overtures and songs. Overtures generally begin eith something that arrests the attention, that excites interest and makes the heart beat faster.
A song, from its first opening notes, must induce a mood and must practisealso a rigid economy. A few bars of prelude must suffice for the setting and all that is to follow, be it tragic or humorous, descriptive or meditative. Or notice again the way in which the great masters have constructed their chamber music or their concerti.
If Beethoven is writing a sonata for iolin or sioloncello hewill sometimes give the opening bars, not to the pianist but to the other instrumentalist, as, for instance, in the Kreutzer Sonata or in the wellknown Sonata in A for 'cello and piano. In his Pianoforte Concerto in G the piano plays the opening theme unaccompanied, and then the orchestral prelude starts from a chord on B. Or, again, notice the way in which the solo violin is introduced in a violin concerto, say, in Elgar's Concerto.
For all the world it is like the quiet and impressive entry of the leading actor. Such instances could be multiplied; the point is that with a little education the ordinary !istener is introduced suavely and naturally to whatever profundities may follow.
For there is, of course, another side to great art, and that is, that we cannot hope to exhaust its significance with a single hearing. Indeed, one must live with such works over a number of years, waiting for them to yield up their secrets.
They are like fascinating friends whose moods are worth studying, full, too, of delicious surprises; of paradox, of abrupt silence, more eloquent than speech. Time is never wasted if cnent in thit kind of initiation, and there is great cause for thankfulness to-day that so vast a number of people are open to .he'call and are receiving cultural lessons that were once only t ossible for the few.
There has been one practical result from the recent Mozart festival at Cilyndebourne, and that is, a recording of part of Mozart's Faro on six records, issued in an album to subscribers to the Mozart Opera Society by the Gramophone Company.
It may well be claimed that the ensembles of Glyndcbourne were so well done that they set a new standard for operatic performance in England. All the freshness and spontaneity of this music has been preserved on the records, which can now be studied at leisure without the distractions of the theatre.
Mozart's Human Touch
For it was, indeed, in this particular department that Mozart stands head and shoulders above his Italian contemporaries and his immediate successors in opera. The finale, for instance, as handled by Mozart, may be compared to a symphonic movement; but Mozart was at the same time keenly alive to the dramatic action—the two being blended by his unique genius.
There is a great deal of Mozart's music. vivacious and elegant, as it always is. that might seem supet•ficial, though this. of
rism-kt• ormici cairl et•rn... ci( had to have a French hall-mark, and these first "Proms." were called "Concerts d'hiver a la Alumni," and they consisted invariably of tour waltzes, four quadrilles, four overtures, and a solo by a wind instrument. Strange formula!
Musard was a great figure, with a makeup like one of Napoleon's marshals. Haying swept Paris off its feet with his masked balls at the Opera, his orchestra of seventy players, his delirious gallop and his romantic cornet a piston, he proceeded to do the same by London.
He was followed by a certain Jullien, whose "Monster Promenade Concerts" in the '40's and '50's were at once the craze and the joke of London. Punch in those years is full of him. But Jullien, arch-showman though he was, really did something for English music. He used to smuggle odd movements of the classics among his quadrilles and polkas, and so was a pioneer in the work taken up in earnest later by Matins at the Crystal Palace and cornpleted by Wood at the Queen's Hall.
Indeed, there has hardly been a year since 1838 when there have not been promenade concerts of some sort in London, and these, however elementary we might think many of them to-day, must have added something to the growing appreciation of good music which made Wood's work in 1895 passible.
B.B.C. Film Success
The extraordinary curiosity that exists about the inside of Broadcasting House is shown not only by the success of the new film B.B.C.—The Voice of Britain. hut by the fact that the applications for tickets to visit studios during performances are again •coming in in spate.
It is said that more than 30,000 people were admitted last year. The waiting list twelve months ago was so swollen that no more applications were received. The list was re-opened only last month. The film, by the way, though not the inspiration of Sir Stephen Tallents, indicates the spirit of the new publicity which will mark his directorship of public relations.
I understand that the B.B.C. is really apprehensive lest the rise in licences since 1930 may not be maintained. It is prepared for a falling off before long, and this possibility it is anxious to meet by the most advanced methods of modern publicity.
"Inform the Listener"
Surely its fears are groundless? Whether or no, what its public, or the more valuable part of it, really asks from Sir Stephen Tallents is less a glimpse of the working of the machine than a glimpse oh the mind behind the machine in other words, a little more information as to the why and wherefore of programme-plan. n ing.
The B.B.C. has (so rightly) set its face from the first against any "consult the listener" policy, as it is understood by coat