Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 5. March 30, 1950
Second National Symphony concerto programme, Wellington, Much 25.
Leonora, No. 3. Beethoven.
Sixth Symphony: Vaughan Williams.
E Minor Violin Concerto: Mendelssohn.
Don Joan: Bichard Strauss.
Dr. Bainton has undoubtedly improved the tone and balance of the Orchestra especially in the rearrangement of the basses and brass. There were times, most of all in the Vaughan Williams, when we were unrestrainedly glad that the old order had gone—for their tone would have ruined it Sainton's economy of gesture in conducting seems to be very effective, and the whole orchestra is much more a unit.
But the programming for this concert anyway was bad.
The Vaughan Williams Sixth is an impressive and exciting work—the sort of thing which makes one wish that it could be repeated at the end of the programme. It has a most unusual arrangement; it is virile, strong, and almost sardonic in parts. It leads to a climax in the second movement with the relentless repitition of the trumpet figure and ends in a whole thoughtful quiet epilogue. The orchestra hung to, gather well through most of it—only at the climax in the moderato section was there any hint of the old battle for supremacy between strings and brass. The almost jazz first movement and the depth of the varying sherzo, with the startling second and quiet last movements, gave no hint of any decline in Vaughan Williams power to handle a major work.
After this, the Mendelssohn could have been, perhaps, a reminder that romanticism has its appeal and its effect. But even though the orchestra was well balanced throughout, and though they accorded reasonably with the spirit of the concerto, the soloist—certainly after the astringency of the sixth symphony—appeared to be hamming his way through. Perhaps the extravagant gesture, the grandiose sweep, the tossing head and the dramatic drop of the arm as the orchestra took over were not intentional striving for effect; and the somewhat smug look of the soloist in the centre of attraction may have been accidental, But it succeeded in spoiling the whole effect of the concerto for one of the audience at least. His technical skill was made more pointed occasionally by a deliberate slowing down of the tempo to emphasise his technique, but the skill did not compensate for the lack of any convincing tone. The whole thing lacked the joi-de-vivre which could have made the romanticism acceptable: and the slow movement impressed us as more boring than moving.
The Leonora No. 3 was not well enough done for the opening of the programme, though it certainly showed the improved standard of the orchestra. And to end on Strauss when Vaughan Williams had had his say was rather too clogging on the digestion. We found ourselves listening with only one ear to the latter half of the programme while the spirit of the Vaughan Williams hung like a guilty conscience round the hall.