An extremely fine concert was given last Wednesday week in the Guildhall by the Leppard Chamber Orchestra, conductor Raymond Leppard. One has heard of the warm reception of the Prodigal Son occasioned by his return from prodigality, but the warm welcome Cambridge gave Mr Leppard was occasioned both by his return and by his prodigality—there and then, a very present prodigality of musical talents. We were treated to exquisite playing, and a general liveliness and sensibility in interpretation, which made one forget all one’s usual prejudices against the phrase “chamber orchestra”—prejudices ingrained from previous suffering at countless chamber concerts. The word music is so often a mere courtesy-title for the ungainly scrabbling of string-players and for the grotesque popping, bubbling, frothing, squeaking, bawling and brattling of wind-players.
But on the day of which I write, we heard the music in its clarity. There was Handel’s Overture to “Il Pastor Fido,” Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor for four violins (Vivaldi doubtless included to appease the snobs who just at present believe him to be superior to Bach for social rather than musical reasons), Haydn’s 47th Symphony (of which the slow movement came out a little bit too long all the way through), Robin Orr’s Italian Overture (an interesting, luminous, flexible, agile music, acrimonious from time to time, but never enraged to the point of cruelty, and comparable for its dry sweetness to shortbread), Walter Leigh’s Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings (in which Thurston Dart played the solo with positive éclat) and, finally, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 (taken at just the right speed to stress its delicious dumpiness, with the wind blowing—I noted—in the right direction).
I went to this concert tired, and in spite of its substantial dimensions, I was kept awake and taking notice all through, though I do admit the Brandenburg Concerto’s eternal minuet gave me misgivings. So the musicians certainly deserve congratulation. When I say the concert was wholly delightful, I mean wholly, for I would also congratulate those concerned on one of the best intervals we have had in Cambridge for several years. Its length was superb, and it was a change to be at leisure. People go to concerts largely for their pleasure, but the servitors seldom think of this. The interval is a part of the concert, like the rests in a bar, and it greatly lessens one’s enjoyment to be brow-beaten and harried into a herdish regularity like babies on pots. A wholly delightful concert.