Harvard Crimson 147:24 March 4, 1968, p. 2
Friday night at Sanders
It wasn't the same Harvard [University] Band that tooted its way through the football season and a concert three months ago. It couldn't have been. The intonation Friday night was so astoundingly improved, the solo work so nearly impeccable, the ensemble so often perfect, that one was simply forced to drool in anticipation of the band's next concert.
The problems still plaguing the band were in evidence from the very start--a flute playing out of tune and a shaky clarinet section. But conductor James Walker salvaged Shostakovich's Festive Overture with excellent intonation.
Vincent Persichetti's Masquerade (1966) was the most recently composed and the most colorfully exciting offering. Beginning with a stunning passage for bassoons, saxes, and solo horn, the composition also contains a lovely oboe solo, and an evocative passage for flute, piccolo, and bass drum side. In addition, Persichetti calls for hammer and anvil, four timpani, xylophone, sizzle cymbal, ratchet, marimba, sticks on suspended cymbals, and bare hands on snare drum. At the end of the composition, all these returned in a brilliant overall unity.
Had the rest of the program been as unified and steadily performed as the Persichetii, the evening would have been an unqualified success. But Walker often seemed to substitute rapidity for a clear sense of form. As a result, runs were frequently a struggle for the weakest members of the band, and dynamic levels tended to lack control, particularly in the two fanfares of Clifton Williams (1956) and Alexander Tcherepnin (1964).
Walker's own favorite seemed to be The Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger (1940). This set of six folk songs testifies to the possibilities of marrying folk and classical music. The sweet trumpet tone of Rick Wilson and a delicious canon for oboe and soprano sax, expressively played by Tim Daniels and Hardin Matthews, brought out the work's potential for colors and contrasts.
Before a competent reading of Peter Mennin's Canzona and the concluding Ten Thousand Men of Harvard the band tackled a parvum opus of Anton Bruckner: the March in Eb, "originally for street band," as Walker announced with pain. The thing never should have been arranged for modern band, and HUB was roundly hissed for it--and hissed back, according to tradition.
Nonetheless, the idea of the only march on the program being one by Anton Bruckner is a typical Walkerism. A respect for music, musicianship, and monkey-business--with the present emphasis on improving the second--is rapidly creating out of the clubby organization a real wind ensemble. Problems remain, but on the basis of the improvement over the previous concert, one can safely predict that, given time, Walker will surmount all.
--LEONARD J. LEHRMAN