Saturday, 3 November 2012

Deems Taylor: Suite –‘Through the Looking Glass’. Contemporary Review in the New York Times.

The New York Times review began by noting the absence of a symphony in the New York Symphony Society’s concert at the Aeolian Hall on 11 March 1923.  However it pointed out that there was the first performance of Deems Taylor’s new orchestral suite ‘Through the Looking Glass.’  Taylor’s skill as an orchestral player has been previously witnessed at a Philharmonic Society performance of his tone poem ‘The Sirens.’
The reviewer is concerned to emphasise that Mr Taylor is no ‘modern.’  ‘He is not in the new movement.  He not only can write melodies, but does, and his score is all compact of them. He can and does write intelligible and finely effective harmonies. He has skill in orchestration; and altogether he fills his music with a feeling for beauty as well as with humorous descriptive touches.’
‘The opening movement is intended to recall Lewis Carroll’s verses of dedication to the ‘Child of the pure unclouded brow’ charming in its suavity and poetical grace. The movements descriptive of the ‘Garden of Live-Flowers,’ the fight with the Jabberwock, the Looking-Glass insects and Alice’s meeting with the White Knight are all written with a genial humour and with an elaborate ingenuity in the invention of themes and the use of them for descriptive purposes that have musical value and a potency of musical development.
The epic of the ‘Jabberwocky’ and the episode of the White Knight are the most elaborate of the five. They are all very descriptive and, it may be feared, would not make all their effect if listened to ‘purely as music,’ as some distinguished programmatic musicians have wished their music to be. So Mr. Damrosch [1] announced that he would give a three-minute intermission for everybody to read the program notes: everybody having read them diligently for three minutes, the performance went on.
‘The piece was received with great pleasure and evidently missed none of its points in the minds of the listeners’.
‘Mr. Taylor was present in the audience instead of taking a Sunday holiday, as all well-regulated music critics should do, [2] and was called to the front of the platform to bow and shake Mr. Damrosch by the hand.’
Richard Aldrich, New York Times 12 March 1922 with minor edits

Other works in the 11 March Concert included Erno von Dohnanyi’s Violin Concerto with Albert Spalding as soloist.  The program began with Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and concluded with ‘admirable finish and spirit’ with dances by Josef and Johann Strauss.

[1] Deems Taylor was at this time a regular music correspondent and reviewer for the New York World.
[2] Walter Damrosch (1862-1950) American (though born in Breslau, Germany) conductor and composer. He studied in Germany but settled in the United States in 1871. He became the conductor of the New York Oratorio and Symphonic Societies in 1885. He was director of the Damrosch Opera Company (1894-9).  In 1891 Damrosch brought Tchaikovsky to America and suggested that he compose the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony.

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