|March, E flat, Opus 40||Schubert|
|Symphony No. 2 D Major, Opus 36||Beethoven|
|»Macbeth« (first time)||Richard Strauss|
|Tone poem after Shakspeare’s [sic] drama.|
|Fragments from »Das Rheingold« (new)||Wagner|
It was an afternoon for thankfulness. Thankfulness that a Beethoven had lived to make ever sensible through the magical medium of tones the joyous gladness, the peace of mind, and the contentment that possessed him when he conceived his second symphony. Thankfulness that a Schubert and a Weber had lived and created. Thankfulness that in this busy, hurrying City of Chicago there are men generous enough and thoughtful enough of others’ pleasure to make possible the maintaining of an organization so excellent in material and so ideal in purpose as is the Chicago Orchestra. Thankfulness that players of such high artistic abilities have been banded together and that the man who directs and guides them is still preserved to us in the plenitude of those powers which place him first among the orchestral leaders of America, and without superior in the world.
Yes, and thankfulness, too, that the audience was of a size and quality that justify the belief that the public is awakening to a realization and appreciation of the orchestra’s worth. For the Auditorium was comfortably filled by an audience that welcomed Mr. Thomas with hearty applause when he appeared, and, after the symphony, recalled him in a manner the spontaneity and decision of which left no doubt as to the spirit that prompted it.
The orchestra proved to be in fine trim – the best, in fact, that one has ever noted at the beginning of the season. The result was playing that in finish and spirit left nothing to be desired. The Schubert March is the sunny natured Franz in one of his happy hearted moods, and opened the concert cheerily, while a more poetic, finely tempered performance of the Weber overture would be hard to imagine, much less find. In these two selections the orchestra showed conclusively that it was in fine fettle, but it was in the Beethoven symphony that the splendid powers of both Mr. Thomas and his men stood fully revealed. It is doubtful if there is in the world today a Beethoven conductor who is the equal of Theodore Thomas. None of the clan of modern virtuoso conductors in Europe is, and Hans Richter of the older school is the only one who can lay claim to being his peer. The modern virtuosi in their zeal for the »bringing out of detail« bring into their readings a restlessness and a finickiness that are especially undesirable in Beethoven. The breadth, virility, and dignity which are ever present in the Bonn master’s creations are lessened because repose in the performance is largely wanting. That Mr. Thomas in nowise loses sight of detail any one who watched his leading of the second symphony yesterday will concede. The exquisite finish in shading and in nuance that characterized the larghetto and the crystalline clarity with which the scherzo was given were sufficient to show that »detail« had received its full share of attention. And yet what dignity, calm yet forceful, conscious yet free from all trace of egotism or pedantry, characterized the reading. Temperament, emotion, poetry were there, all in delightful proportion and ample measure, but the breadth and the repose that also are essential for the revealment of the nobility of Beethoven’s genius in its completeness were never for an instant sacrificed, and the result was a performance as near the ideal as one is apt ever to find.
There is perhaps nothing in the range of concert music that is more difficult for a newspaper reviewer of a concert to describe or discuss than a tone poem by Richard Strauss. This mightiest of the moderns writes so much that means so much when you know what it means, and sounds so awful when you don’t. The first hearing usually discovers only the awful – the significant comes out with the repeated hearings. In his »Macbeth« Strauss had written program music, and has supplied a program consisting of two labels – one »Macbeth,« the other »Lady Macbeth« and a quotation from Shakspeare [sic] – tacked on to two phrases. All the rest is left to the imagination or the clairvoyance of the listener. The two phrases that are named are the most pregnant and significant in the work, and may be considered as finely characteristic of the two personages they represent – Macbeth’s, with its vaulting arpeggio of the diminished seventh chord, and its two unexpected major seventh plunges downward, and Lady Macbeth’s with its mystery, and its constant returning to the beginning tone, which might be taken as significant of the »golden round« of which she dreams for her husband. The first motive heard, with its open fourths and fifths, would seem to stand for fate, so constantly and malevolently it is in evidence when the final climax that marks Macbeth’s downfall is reached. This climax from the time the first shiver of the cymbals is heard until the bit of a march and dirge with which the work closes is reached, is little more than a succession of terrific dissonances. At least so it seemed yesterday, but further hearing may let something of meaning sound through – much of beauty is scarcely expected.
The »Rheingold« Fragments proved interesting and pleasant to listen to, and unusually well and effectively put together. Beginning with the great E‑flat pedal‑point, the scene in the Rhine is unfolded up to the point where the Rhinegold is illuminated – the illumination seemed a bit dim yesterday owing to the long‑sustained horn‑tone being kept too subdued – then follows the transition to the abiding place of the gods. Walhalla is pictured, the scene between Wotan and the giants is suggested, and the visit with Lodge to [Nibelheim], and the meeting and capture of Alberich are skillfully touched upon. Then comes the summoning of the storm, the rainbow bridge, and the entrance into Walhalla. The selection is a welcome addition to the concert repertory, and bids fair to find abundant favor.
The program will be repeated tonight at the Auditorium at 8:15 o’clock.