By ERNEST MOSS.
The B.B.C. gave one of the few concerts of its series devoted to modern composers last Wednesday week. The concert opened with a Chaconne from the King Arthur music by Purcell; but after this there followed Bax's Sixth Symphony, Prokofiev's violin concerto, and Stravinsky's ballet music, Le Sacre du Printemps.
My boredom during the Bax symphony was brightened only by the fascinating grace of the bowing of the lady nearest the audience among the first fiddles, and by flashes of unintentional humour like the first entry of the tambourin. Mr. Ezra Pound, I believe, would call this Bax music " gummy." The poet has written a sensible article on a festival of contemporary music in the January issue of Music and Letters. He assumes a delightful air of authority, and his comment on the Piazza San Marco for students of acoustic, is acoustic ignorance.
The Prokofiev Concerto The most interesting music at the concert, except Purcell's, was the Prokofiev violin concerto.
It is a bracing work. full of rhythmic and harmonic grip, devoid of slushiness. demanding extraordinary dexterities, from the soloist. but making them essential to the music in the same way that the great colotura writers can make vocal gymnastics essential to the music.
Szigeti gave the work a superb performance, and the audience (right, I think), who had been very half-hearted in their appreciation of the Bax, became really enthusiastic.
The concert ended with Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, which is growing stale. " Stravinsky is the only living composer who makes one feel like a dud ... I mean, by my opening sentence, that Stravinsky's music makes me, as a workman in a different art, want to go back to my own métier, overhaul my technique, and be ready to do a better job next time," says Ezra Pound.
A detached interest in technique was the only pleasure I got from this performance of Le Sacre. I found no contact with " those mysterious and Pan-like kingdoms of nature which lie beneath the normal consciousness of the human," which is the appeal for some. There seemed none of that splendour which comes from putting good technique to a worthy end; a splendour which I think shines in the same cornposer's Oedipus Rex (though I have only heard it once). M. Maritain, we can see from Art and Scholasticism, was perplexed by Le Sacre.
On the Tuesday the Bach Choir gave Verdi's Requiem. The trouble with trying, as Verdi did, to be dramatic in an outward sense over the sublime, is that you often end up by being comic. The assertive, almost lip-licking, whistle of the piccolo at the Confutatis maledictis is a case in point here. Mozart's trombone solo in the Tuba mirum is another; though perhaps here the toppling over into comedy could be avoided by an inspired performance.