Release Date: 01 March 2007
MUSIC IN LONDON 1890-94 fre0Me y BY BERNARD SHAW IN THREE VOLUMES VOLUME HI LONDON CONSTABLE AND COMPANY LIMITED Revised znd reprinted jbr this Standard JSditzon rights fully protected ctnd reserved IN GREAT BY R. It. CL. ARIC, f USIC IN LONDON 1890-94 7 June 1893 I HAVE to congratulate the Philharmonic Society on having at last made a resolute and fairly successful effort to give a concert of nearly reasonable length. Instead of the usual two or three con certos, five or six symphonies, selection of overtures, suite from the latest incidental music composed for the theatres by one of our professors, and a march or so, besides the vocal pieces, we had only about two hours music and though that is a good half hour too much, still, it is better than two hours and forty or fifty minutes. We also had the orchestra under the command of con ductors who, as their own works were in hand, were strongly interested in making the most of the occasion and the result was instructive, Saint-Saens Rouet dOmphale is trivial enough to satisfy even the weariest of the unhappy persons who go to the Philharmonic for the sake of culture, under compulsion of fashion or their parents, and who invariably betray themselves by the rapture with which they greet any of those bogus concertos or sym phonies which are really only very slightly developed suites de ballet, with episodical barcarolles disguised as second subjects. But it afforded the relief of contemplating a broad expanse of finely graded sound between the fortissimo of the band as Saint-Saens handled it and its pianissimo. There were ten degrees of color and force in the gradation where there is usually only one and even these did not exhaust thepossible range of effect, for the orchestra is capable of a much more powerful fortissimo than Saint-Saens required from it. Again, in the scherzo of Tchaikowskys symphony, a move ment of purely orchestral display, the quality of tone in the pizzicato for the strings and in the section for the brass was wonderful. Probably Tchaikowsky could not have achieved such a result anywhere else in the world at equally short notice. But why is it that but for the occasional visits of strangers like Grieg, VOL, III I MUSIC IN LONDON 1890-94 Tchaikowsky, and Saint-Saens, we should never know what our best London band can do Solely, I take it, because the visitors are virtually independent of that impossible body of hardened malversators of our English funds of musical skill, the Phil harmonic directors. For their displeasure the distinguished foreign composer does not care a brass farthing he comes and instals himself at the rehearsals, making their insufficiency suffice for his own work by prolonging and monopolizing them. On the other hand, the official conductor is the slave of the directors if he complains to them they take no notice of his complaints if he complains to the public, as Mr Cowen did in desperation, they dismiss him, knowing, unfortunately, that there will be no difficulty in finding someone else to take his place, which, except artistically, is a highly desirable one. This season, thanks to the scandal of Mr Cowens complaint and dismissal, and to such tweaking of the Philharmonic nose and tripping up of its heels, and unexpected hurling of sharp cornered bricks at its third waistcoat button as those critics who have the Societys interests really at heart can find time for, therehas been an improvement, of which I, for one, have given rather exaggerated accounts for the better encouragement of the direc tors in the right path but, after all, here I am face to face with a concert in which the band did admirable work under the batons of Russian and French strangers, whilst, under the official con ductor, it played the accompaniment to Isoldes Liebestod in a way that would have fully justified poor Miss Macintyre in send ing for the police...
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