27 AUGUST 1948, Page 13


Edinburgh Festival LAST year it was a French orchestra, the Orchestre Colonne, which gave the opening concert of the Edinburgh Festival, and the honour this year fell to the Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra, under their own conductor Eduard van Beinum. The programme at the Usher

Hall on Sunday evening was very much better planned than that' of last year's opening concert. First, with no preliminary overture, came Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, suave, polished and graceful, an excellent ambassador at an international gathering. The Con- certgebouw are a finely disciplined orchestra, well-balanced and solid in each department, and their performance was more than efficient ; but it was also less than perfect. There was a certain heaviness of manner and lack of poetry in their playing which made Mendelssohn sound more superficial than he need, and the horns of the trio—the trite but apt 4` horns of elfland faintly blowing "- shattered all fairy illusions by their coarse and prosaic tone. The final Saltarello, too, was taken at a breakneck pace, which seriously affected the articulation even of the strings on several occasions and made what is, after all, a dance perilously near a scramble.

The only other work in the programme was Bruckner's seventh symphony. This was an excellent choice—a genuinely festival work, strange to British audiences who normally have not the patience for its repetitions and leisurely gait, and it was magnificently played from start to finish. Much, probably too much for modern orchestral taste, depends on the quality of the brass, and the very qualities of the Concertgebouw which had seemed over emphatic in the Italian Symphony were wholly right in the unfolding chorale phrases which build up—slow, how slowly—the big golden barogue Himmel of the slow movement. Bruckner had seen his Himmel in countless Aus- trian country churches and at its most splendid at St. Florian, where there could not be too much gold for the eye, and he was as unsparing with brass for the ear. The strings are entrusted with the country- dance rhythm which he introduces as naively as a mediaeval painter would place a dog or a basket of eggs at his Madonna's feet. But it all takes time and, like a true peasant, Bruckner was loth to believe that anyone can have too much of a thing that is really good. Ars longa, indeed ; but the playing of the Concertgebouw ensured that every moment should be a delight to the ear.

* * * *

Don Giovanni, the first of the two Glyndebourne operas, was) given at the King's Theatre on Monday. Paolo Silveri made an! engaging Don, a little too bon enfant and not somehow a serious menace to any society, I felt, but always musical. His Leporello (Vito de Taranto) was inclined to overact and undersing his part,' and his excellent appearance did not make up for the poor tone quality of his voice. Ljuba Welitsch was in every sense a magnifi- cent Donna Anna—a tigress for revenge in Or sai chi l'onore and tenderness personified in Non mi dir. Her voice is full yet delicate, even in tone but vibrant with feeling, and the quality of her tone is something unique among modern sopranos. Christina Carroll' and Richard Lewis had the thankless roles of Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio. That unhappy lady must win our sympathy by more than the beauty of Mozart's music, and she can only do so by a quality of unassailable dignity that was lacking in Miss Carroll's unsubtle interpretation and smart appearance. Ann Ayars sang excellently and looked charming as Zerlina, and Ian Wallace was al suitably bovine Masetto. Carl Ebert's production emphasised the, dramma giocoso and eschewed the " demonic " interpretation of the work, which is now out of fashion though there is so much to be said in its favour. Don Giovanni's final disappearance was par..; titularly well contrived, however, and Hamish Wilson's use of thee double arch in the scene outside Donna Elvira's window was most effective. Rafael Kubelik conducted the Royal Philharmonic! Orchestra and achieved an excellent general balance.

* *

Of the daily chamber music concerts given at the Freemasons Hall by the Boyd Neel Orchestra I shall hope to write next week.