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I "PRO PA TR IA. ",,

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 South Wales !Musicai Festival.


 South Wales !Musicai Festival. ———— 1—Swansea. f? TRICTLY speaking, no doubt we are ? straining terms w hen we de- scribe the lour concerts of the week, the first of which was given at Swansea..a.t mght, as a Soum \Vaie.s Musical Festival; but the description is not eu.ti.reiy inaocuial-c. ihe quartet of musical events, ajranged by a com- mon council, make up a real fest)val, and they will do the work of festivals as we usually understand it 'If the re- maining three create in the other town& the musical enthusiasm that we felt at the Albert HaU. They will abundantly feed the name of the lamp of art. Possi- bly the novelty of the concert, the great name ot the orchestra, had something to do with the immenRe audience that last night p,Ùl higher prices than are customary, and half explained the zeal of galleryites who lined up in queue (and in rain) over an hour before the doors opened. But one believes also that the new standards of music that are being presented us, and are gradu- ally weaning us from our old-fashioned provinoIaliRins, are having their works. Beecham's orchestra, the combinations of west country players who have ac- companied more recently, the visit of Sir Henry Wood's famous band, have made us discontented with the old class of fare although we are not ungrate- ful to thús.e w ho served us in the days of small things. One practical outcome of these events ought to be the to"1l1a-- tiou of a Welsh Oicue&tral Soe:ety. The eSect of such a soc.ety on the deveiop- ment of music in \\aies would be im- mense. it would solve the perplexities of many conductors who cannot face the finances of London aid, and would directly affect the of composition we wouid hear. < We have a long journey in front of ua in the pilgrim's progress of musical appreciation. Let us tako our minds back to the popular verdict as we gave it last night at the Albert Hall! Did not our greatest praise faU upon the rendition of Dr. Protheroe's "Nun of NIdajoa"? To that emotional chorus we gave our loudest plaudits; we stormed with hands and voice even be- fore the la&t notes of the chorun had ceased echoing, and lung before the band had played its closing bars. What next? Wa.s not the second favourite verdict for the Humoreske by Dvorak, a melodic fancy that pleased us with its prettiness and its piquancy? The grea.t things ol the evening, the "Fifth," the "Flying Dutchman." the "Antigone," came' later in the order of our appreciation. Weii, such a work as the Beethoven Symphony, if not tor the elect, a.t least requires greater knowledge of its de- r..i!s than the majority of us can pos- sibly claim—in Swansea to-day. The profound things of Beethoven are not to bo apprehended save after wrest- ling. They are to be gathered only after patient toil. A well-known Tiiisi- cian once declared to the writer, con- cerning a performance of the Matthew Passion, that Bach had to be heard, not once or twice, but four times or hve, before hi<$ conceptions became clear..N0. 5 Symphony may he made easier to our understanding by such analyses as the programme con- tained, and a local authority save our readers last week, but to each listener the work must whisper its own mes- sage, the commentaries only placing him in the right hrst position: and ,8 must hear it again and again before it can reveal a tithe of its meaning to us. The cuft of Beethoven is a matter of long apprenticeship. To how many of us did the symphony last night express much more than a vague sense of mysterious I sorrow, or an indescribable sense of loveliness, or of mere melod' c charm? We are utterly unused to music that so intimately bears upon the things of the spirit. Truly, our orchestral shore- comings have been heavily paid for. w < I One of the critics assured the writer that the finest thing in the evening's programme was the playing of the slow movement in the symphony that the or- cnestra interpreted this wonderful part with an art that was beyond cntic]sm. What, however, was sure in its imme- diate effect, next to the Humoreske* was the Wagner overture. Here with fair certainty, we could follow the tone- picture, revelling in the intensity of its tragedy; iuterpretiag with some con- ndence the working out of the theme; rejoicing in the grandeur of it, and thrilled by its fury, its eerie strains, its gusts, and its passion. The art of Wagner is nearer the soul of the Welsh- man than the hner appeal of Beeth- oven. It was, then, a memorable evening of orchestral music, such an evening as to leave one compiaining of the barrenness of our ground. Every musician of note who comes to Wa)es tells us that we have one thing lacking: a national orchestra. The South Wales Musical Festival will show us our poverty a hundred times more pftectiveiy than such criticism, valuable though that is. We can never hope to get at the heart of such as Beethoven until we have per- fected an instrument that will educate us, and lead us into these shining fields. We have a long pilgrim's progress be- fore ua. u,, < t Where the doctors do din'er, and differ with some asperity, it is not for the pressman 'nho cannot claim lor himself the essential technical qua.lin- cations. to sit in judgment upon \ienddssohll'S "Antigone." Opinions dcctora where they met in conclave a:-J pronounced verdicts. "The apotheosis of musical expression," deter- mmed.ly said one, In perfect accord with the drama," said another of the music. "ShclMng peas I" said a third. Sincerity is desirable above all things in mustC; anectation or cant is the H'IY devil. One is embarking upon very debatable ground—a,nd the risk is greater to the provincial when he knows of the presence of well-known authori- ties, and wonders what they will say- but the impression remains with the wnter-and it is well to be out with it, no matter the morrow's sorrow—that Mendelssohn provided very uninspired gtuff for the Antigone." Consider the dra.ma.! It is the last in a ttilogy that has no equal in intense tragedy. It remains the most poignant dramatic expression the ancients have given ua. It plunges us from the hrst line into )nexti)\guishable woe. It broods over the riddle of destiny. A t-heme this, not for tuneful IIJts, but ror agonising chords, for music that olumbs the deepest depths of passion Can it be said that Mendelssohn pro- vided it? Can it be said that the setting of the strophes, of the messages of ('},o'us, are adequate to their in- tensity ? \H (aga.in)! The doctors do diSer, but a layman is emboldened to suggest that, here and there where there are nashes of genius—as in the Bacchus chorus with its wonderful climax- Mendelssohn found no inspira.tion, and put into his music no realisation of the great drama in which mankind are puppets; where what the Fates ordain, will be: Prayer nor advances nor retards their stpro decree. The "Antigone" was recommended to the choir by a great mu&icat authority. Of course thsre is not a. wide held of selection open to ma.i.o choirs when they break a,;i-ay from the convention.al ;,Laudards that have railed Wales in the past. Mendelssohn'a wcik is new to South Wales, and it has but i-are'ty been performed in England. One sees ':t suggested this morning that "probably the main reason for rta choice is that it is the only complete work of Mendelssohn written for male voices," and that a better choice would have been the composer's To the Son's of War which, though a frag- ment rather than a complete work lika Antigone,' is far more attractive." However, it was a great thing for the cho.r to break away from the old type of piece, from the Destructton cf Gaza" and Martyrs" type. They, give a fine lead to Wa-les. < As to the work of the Swansea ajid District Male Choir, one can only sa,y what has many times before been sajd of Mr. Llewelyn Bowen's men. They pTO< duced a very fine tone, and they re- sponded to the baton j3f 81r Henry \ood with a &ureness that had its re< ward, when at the close of the ? Anti- the famous conductor sent on the praise of the audience, with an expressive wave of the hand, to the choristers. Mr. Bowen secured his per- sonal triumph in the prolonged a.ppla.us& that followed the Nun of Nidaros "-— meant in great part one ':& sure in re" cognition of the part he had played in the training of the choir in the Anti- gone." In Fair Semole's high-born Son "—the one chorus which has lived ?n the wo;k-,and achieved popularity—- the choir had practically its only greaT opportunity and it used it to the fulL It worked up to a magnificent finale that showed what a perfect singing body M) Bowen has. Sir Henry Wood is credited with the opinion that "I am really delighted with the tone. Everything is perfect. It reflects the highest credit upon all tak- ing part." It would be waste of words, after that judgment, to say more. Mr. Bowtm himself sang, with understanding and power, the solos. Fry (who had abridged the drama, but kept th<) story clear), and Mi&s Emit Leslie; and thc-y Kave the strong lines with sue'. force that none in the audience could fail to bo gripped by the tragedy. When the organisers of the festiva heard of the of Mr. Ernlyn who was one of the vice-presidents, they immediateiy considered the possibility of arranging a memorial. There wen" dimculties in the way, but after a few appropriate introductory words by Mr. William James, the choir sang an "in memorium" verse to the setting 01. Handel's "Dead March." It waR 4 touching tribute to one who, in the words of Mr. James, was not only .t great musician, but a great Welshman also. One must not conclude without grate- fully recognising the hard work the concert cntajled for, among others, Mr. Arthur James, Detective-Inspectop Roberts, Mr. John Dennis, and Mr. Martyn Thomas. The former worked for its success with a zeal that hatk Ïl3 reward in a nnancial as well as a musi- cal succc&s. Ihe choir owes m'jch to Mr. James. The hall dimculty was never more keenly felt. Very many more tickets could have been sold had there heen greater accommodation. Musical eS'o.-t m Swansea is handicapped at the ver< start. J.D.W.

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