THE musical season opened rather mildly Sundav evening, October 29th, at the Boston Theatre, with a miscellaneous (very miscellaneous) concert, in which Mademoiselle Anna de Belocca was the chief lioness. The most really enjoyable parts of the entertainment were the violin and piano-forte playing of Monsieur Sauret and his charming wife, and Signor Ferranti’s inimitable buffo singing. Mademoiselle de Belocca has a powerful voice, of considerable compass and great beauty ; she also has much native charm in singing. But her voice is not wholly under control, and her phrasing is often inartistic. Of intrinsic depth of sentiment we could discern but little in her. Her most satisfying efforts were some bright little songs which she sang with great spirit as an encore to one of her numbers. We do not know how well she might have sung Beethoven’s Adelaide to a decent accompaniment, but we doubt whether Mario himself could have made anything out of the song accompanied as site was.
The “solid” music of the winter has also begun. The Harvard Musical Association have entered upon their twelfth season of symphony concerts, and (at the time of our writing this) Mr. Thomas has given three “popular” concerts. His orchestra is not quite so large as last year (only eight violins on a part), but the perfection of its playing remains. We are sorry that Mr. Thomas has found it inexpedient to continue his symphony concerts here. Boston (unfortunately) looks to his orchestra almost solely to keep it up to the times in the larger forms of orchestral music. Our city has gained a very fair name as a musical ceutre ; the familiarity of our general musical public with the best classic music is indeed something to be proud of, but it is a little melancholy to think how many important works of the modern German and French schools have never been heard here. It is but little to the point whether these schools are bad or good ; they represent the condition of music at the present time, and we ought to know them. It does not follow that a man is behind the age because he does not admire Raff, Brahms, Goldmarck, Rheinberger, Hofmann, Liszt, Berlioz, Félicien David, Saint - Saëns. Bizet, Massenet, Reyer, Glinka, Rubinstein, Tschaikowski, and others of the modern schools, but a man is decidedly behind the age who does not know their most important works. There seems to be a sort of timidity in some of our local musical powers, a fear that these new composers will displace the old ones, as if the human mind were a popgun, into which you can put nothing new without something old shooting out of the other end. Have we, then, such little faith in the eternal power of the great classic masters over men’s souls that we are afraid of the new schools ousting their memory from our hearts and usurping their royal thrones ? Or must we have a detective police force to examine every new-comer, and make sure there is no taint of revolution about him, before we give him a public hearing ? As it is, we are heartily sorry to lose Mr. Thomas’s symphony concerts. However, his miscellaneous concerts are welcome, in default of something better. Of the new things, and pieces of new things he has given us, the adagio and scherzo from Hofmann’s Frithjof symphony pleased us greatly. In this year of Bayreuth Dramas, and Cooperation of Arts, it is comforting to find that the art of writing music, pure and simple, music for its own sake, is in no danger of dying. Liszt’s scoring of the andante from Beethoven’s B-flat trio did not strike us as more edifying than when we heard it first, some years ago. In this work Liszt has dared either too much or too little. The piano-forte part in the original is so very claviermässig, as the Germans say, so wholly in the nature of the instrument, that any attempt to transcribe it literally for the orchestra, even by such a master of both orchestra and piano-forte as Liszt, could not but he a failure. How much effect it might have made in a freer treatment we are by no means sure, but suspect that if Liszt had allowed himself more liberty he might have made something more effective of it, if less like Beethoven’s original. As it was, it sounded poor, thin, and unsatisfactory. Glinka’s odd and fascinating Komarinskaja, so full of downright Sclavonic humor, was delightfully played. Wagner’s Centennial March was a thorough disappointment ; so much so, that we do not care to theorize upon Mr. Thomas’s surprisingly slow tempo, and the inefficiency of so small an orchestra in scores of that sort. It has the most fatal of all qualities in any form of art : it is a bore.
Both Mr. Paine’s Centennial Hymn and Mr. Buck’s cantata pleased us even more than a pretty thorough acquaintance with their respective piano-forte scores had led us to expect. Mr. Buck has managed his orchestra very handsomely in the cantata, except in some of the storm-wind passages, where the piccolo-flute is rather trivial in its prominence, and the doubling the voiceparts by the trombones in the opening of the final fugue. The treatment of the words “ kiss o’er and replight ” is exceedingly beautiful. It is by far the finest thing Mr. Buck has done.