The current series of "Music of Today" presentations by the Longy School, despite its good music and capable performers, would be far more valuable if those in charge paid more attention to the lecture part of the so-called concert-lectures. At least half of the music in the second program Thursday night could have used explication, and since all the composers were present, there can be no excuse for Gregory Tucker's superficial introductory remarks, which served as the lecture.
In particular, Hubert Lamb's Intervale Variations for Violin and Orchestra might have been a great deal more palatable if the composer had told the large audience just what he was trying to say in his music. After a slow introduction, the main theme is stated, allegro. Then there are ten variations, punctuated by three codas. Although there are some striking contrasts in rhythm and mood, the piece seems to lack nay principle of unity.
The two Copland sonatas that opened the program needed neither explanation nor excuse. They are well-constructed, self-consistent works that created favorable impressions even on first hearing. I preferred the Sonata for Violin and Piano (1943) mostly because of its more lyrical themes and greater restraint. Copland's music has a distinctive fresh-air quality that compares favorably with the suffocating works of some of his contemporaries. All that his music requires for maximum effect is a straightforward performance, and Mr. Tucker is above all a straightforward performer.
Two typical Piston works brought the program to a pleasant, if not profound, conclusion. The Sonatina for Viola and Harpsichord, played by Miss Pernel and Melville Smith, consists of two light, almost frivolous, allegros with a subdued adagio in between. Miss Pernel showed greater self-confidence than earlier in the evening, and Mr. Smith, except for an occasional harshness in tone, was quite satisfactory.
The Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, arranged for two pianos, drew the loudest applause of the evening, but perhaps that was because Mr. Piston himself was at one of the pianos. The music's substance was unclear--the themes undistinctive, the dissonances meaningless, and the two-piano arrangement not wholly successful. The piece appeared to be little more than long, scale passages, and the composer must have intended more than that. However, Piston and Tucker both played zealously, and it appeared that they, if no one else, knew exactly what was going on.
The final presentation of the series, on March 6, will present Paul Hindemith's song cycle, "Das Marien Leben." Would it be too much to hope that Mr. Hindemith himself will be there beforehand to tell the audience what to expect.