Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sang so magnificently Saturday night at Hunter College that it seems a pity to have to register any complaints .
Still a demurrer or two must be entered .
Schwarzkopf is , of course , Schwarzkopf .
For style and assurance , for a supreme and regal bearing there is still no one who can touch her .
If the voice is just a shade less glorious than it used to be , it is still a beautiful instrument , controlled and flexible .
Put to the service of lieder of Schubert , Brahms , Strauss and Wolf in a dramatical and musical way , it made its effect with ease and precision .
But what has been happening recently might be described as creeping mannerism .
Instead of her old confidence in the simplest , purest , most moving musical expression , Miss Schwarzkopf is letting herself be tempted by the classic sin of artistic pride -- that subtle vanity that sometimes misleads a great artist into thinking that he or she can somehow better the music by bringing to it something extra , some personal dramatic touch imposed from the outside .
The symptoms Saturday night were unmistakable .
Clever light songs were overly coy , tragic songs a little too melodramatic .
There was an extra pause here , a gasp or a sigh there , here and there an extra little twist of a word or note , all in the interest of effect .
The result was like that of a beautiful painting with some of the highlights touched up almost to the point of garishness .
There were stunning musical phrases too , and sometimes the deepest kind of musical and poetic absorption and communication .
Miss Schwarzkopf and her excellent pianist , John Wustman , often achieved the highest lyrical ideals of the lieder tradition .
All the more reason why there should have been no place for the frills ; ;
Miss Schwarzkopf is too great an artist to need them .
The dance , dancers and dance enthusiasts ( 8,500 of them ) had a much better time of it at Lewisohn Stadium on Saturday night than all had had two nights earlier , when Stadium Concerts presented the first of two dance programs .
On Saturday , the orchestra was sensibly situated down on the field , the stage floor was apparently in decent condition for dancing , and the order of the program improved .
There was , additionally , a bonus for the Saturday-night patrons .
Alvin Ailey and Carmen De Lavallade appeared in the first New York performance of Mr. Ailey's `` Roots Of The Blues '' , a work given its premiere three weeks ago at the Boston Arts Festival .
Otherwise , the program included , as on Thursday , the Taras-Tchaikovsky `` Design For Strings '' , the Dollar-Britten `` Divertimento '' , the Dollar-De Banfield `` The Duel '' and the pas de deux from `` The Nutcracker '' .
Maria Tallchief and Erik Bruhn , who danced the `` Nutcracker '' pas de deux , were also seen in the Petipa-Minkus pas de deux from `` Don Quixote '' , another brilliant showpiece that displayed their technical prowess handsomely .
Among the other solo ballet dancers of the evening , Elisabeth Carroll and Ivan Allen were particularly impressive in their roles in `` The Duel '' , a work that depends so much upon the precision and incisiveness of the two principal combatants .
Mr. Ailey's `` Roots Of The Blues '' , an earthy and very human modern dance work , provided strong contrast to the ballet selections of the evening .
As Brother John Sellers sang five `` blues '' to the guitar and drum accompaniments of Bruce Langhorne and Shep Shepard , Mr. Ailey and Miss De Lavallade went through volatile dances that were by turns insinuating , threatening , contemptuous and ecstatic .
Their props were two stepladders , a chair and a palm fan .
He wore the clothes of a laborer , and she was wondrously seductive in a yellow and orange dress .
The cat-like sinuousness and agility of both dancers were exploited in leaps , lifts , crawls and slides that were almost invariably compelling in a work of strong , sometimes almost frightening , tensions .
`` Roots Of The Blues '' may not be for gentle souls , but others should welcome its super-charged impact .
`` Perhaps it is better to stay at home .
The armchair traveler preserves his illusions '' .
This somewhat cynical comment may be found in `` Blue Skies , Brown Studies '' , a collection of travel essays by William Sansom , who would never consider staying home for long .
Mr. Sansom is English , bearded , formidably cultivated , the versatile author of numerous volumes of short stories , of novels and of pieces that are neither short stories nor travel articles but something midway between .
The only man alive who seems qualified by his learning , his disposition and his addiction to a baroque luxuriance of language to inherit the literary mantle of Sacheverell Sitwell , Mr. Sansom writes of foreign parts with a dedication to decoration worthy of a pastry chef creating a wedding cake for the marriage of a Hungarian beauty ( her third ) and an American multimillionaire ( his fourth ) .
The result is rather wonderful , but so rich as to be indigestible if taken in too thick slices .
There are sixteen essays in `` Blue Skies , Brown Studies '' .
Most of them were written between 1953 and 1960 and originally appeared in various magazines .
All are well written and are overwritten .
But , even if Mr. Sansom labors too hard to extract more refinements of meaning and feeling from his travel experiences than the limits of language allow , he still can charm and astound .
Too many books and articles are just assembled by putting one word after another .
Mr. Sansom actually writes his with a nice ear for a gracefully composed sentence , with an intense relish in all the metaphorical resources of English , with a thick shower of sophisticated , cultural references .
A contemplative connoisseur
`` I like to sniff a place , and reproduce what it really smells and looks like , its color , its particular kind of life '' .
This is an exact description of what Mr. Sansom does .
He ignores guidebook facts .
He only rarely tells a personal anecdote and hardly ever sketches an individual or quotes his opinions .
It is an over-all impression Mr. Sansom strives for , an impression compounded of visual details , of a savory mixture of smells , of much loving attention to architecture and scenery , of lights and shadows , of intangibles of atmosphere and of echoes of the past .
William Sansom writes only about Europe in this book and frequently of such familiar places as London , Vienna , the French Riviera and the Norwegian fjords .
But no matter what he writes about he brings to his subject his own original mind and his own sensitive reactions .
`` A writer lives , at best , in a state of astonishment '' , he says .
`` Beneath any feeling he has of the good or the evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all .
To transmit that feeling he writes '' .
This may not be true of many writers , but it certainly is true of Mr. Sansom .
So in these pages one can share his wonder at the traditional fiesta of St. Torpetius that still persists in St. Tropez ; ;
at the sun and the heat of Mediterranean lands , always much brighter and hotter to an Englishman than to an American used to summers in New York or Kansas City ; ;
at the supreme delights to be found in one of the world's finest restaurants , La Bonne Auberge , which is situated on the seacoast twenty miles west of the Nice airport ; ;
and at the infinite variety of London .
Mr. Sansom can be eloquent in a spectacular way which recalls ( to those who recall easily ) the statues of Bernini and the gigantic paintings of Tintoretto .
He can coin a neat phrase : `` a street spattered with an invigoration of people '' ; ;
tulips with `` petals wide and shaggy as a spaniel's ears '' ; ;
after a snowstorm a landscape smelling `` of woodsmoke and clarity '' .
And , for all his lacquered , almost Byzantine self-consciousness , he can make one recognize the aptness of an unexpected comparison .
Beauty borrowed from afar
In one of his best essays Mr. Sansom expresses his enthusiasm for the many country mansions designed by Andrea Palladio himself that dot the environs of Vicenza .
How far that pedimented and pillared style has shed its influence Mr. Sansom reminds us thus :
`` The white colonnaded , cedar-roofed Southern mansion is directly traceable via the grey and buff stone of grey-skied England to the golden stucco of one particular part of the blue South , the Palladian orbit stretching out from Vicenza : the old mind of Andrea Palladio still smiles from behind many an old rocking chair on a Southern porch , the deep friezes of his architectonic music rise firm above the shallower freeze in the kitchen , his feeling for light and shade brings a glitter from a tall mint julep , his sense of columns framing the warm velvet night has brought together a million couple of mating lips '' .
Nice , even if a trifle gaudy .
`` Blue Skies , Brown Studies '' is illustrated with numerous excellent photographs .
In recent days there have been extensive lamentations over the absence of original drama on television , but not for years have many regretted the passing of new plays on radio .
WBAI , the listener-supported outlet on the frequency-modulation band , has decided to do what it can to correct this aural void .
Yesterday it offered `` Poised For Violence '' , by Jean Reavey .
WBAI is on the right track : in the sound medium there has been excessive emphasis on music and news and there could and should be a place for theatre , as the Canadian and British Broadcasting Corporations continue to demonstrate .
Unfortunately , `` Poised For Violence '' was not the happiest vehicle with which to make the point .
Mrs. Reavey's work is written for the stage -- it is mentioned for an off-Broadway production in the fall -- and , in addition , employs an avant-garde structure that particularly needs to be seen if comprehension is to be encouraged .
The play's device is to explore society's obsession with disaster and violence through the eyes of a group of artist's models who remain part of someone else's painting rather than just be themselves .
In a succession of scenes they appear in different guises -- patrons of a cafe , performers in a circus and participants in a family picnic -- but in each instance they inevitably put ugliness before beauty .
Somewhere in Mrs. Reavey's play there is both protest and aspiration of merit .
But its relentless discursiveness and determined complexity are so overwhelming that after an hour and a half a listener's stamina begins to wilt .
Moreover , her central figures are so busily fulfilling their multitudinous assignments that none emerges as an arresting individual in his own right or as a provocative symbol of mankind's ills .
But quite conceivably an altogether different impression will obtain when the work is offered in the theatre and there can be other effects to relieve the burden on the author's words .
Which in itself is an immediate reward of the WBAI experiment ; ;
good radio drama has its own special demands that badly need reinvigoration .
A weekly showcase for contemporary music , from the austere archaism of Stravinsky to the bleeps and bloops of electronic music , is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month .
Titled `` What's New In Music '' ? ?
The enterprising program is heard Saturday afternoons on radio station Aj .
The brief notes introducing each work offer salient historical or technical points , and many listeners are probably grateful for being intelligently taken by the hand through an often difficult maze .
The show is programed and written by the station's assistant continuity editor , Chuck Briefer .
The first Saturday in each month is set aside for new recordings .
Last Saturday's interesting melange included Ernst Toch , Karlheinz Stockhausen , Richard Yardumian and a brief excerpt from a new `` space '' opera by the Swedish composer , Karl-Birger Blomdahl .
Other Saturdays are devoted to studies of a selected American composer , a particular type of music or the music of a given country .
It is commendable that a regularly scheduled hour is set aside for an introduction to the contemporary musical scene .
But one wishes , when the appetite is whetted , as it was in the case of the all-too-brief excerpt from the Blomdahl opera , that further opportunity would be provided both for hearing the works in their entirety and for a closer analytical look at the sense and nature of the compositions .
The Moiseyev Dance Company dropped in at Madison Square Garden last night for the first of four farewell performances before it brings its long American tour to a close .
It is not simply giving a repetition of the program it gave during its New York engagement earlier this season , but has brought back many of the numbers that were on the bill when it paid us its first visit and won everybody's heart .
It is good to see those numbers again .
The `` Suite Of Old Russian Dances '' that opened that inaugural program with the slow and modest entrance of the maidens and built steadily into typical Moiseyev vigor and warmth ; ;
the amusing `` Yurochka '' , in which a hard-to-please young man is given his come-uppance ; ;
the lovely ( and of course vigorous ) `` Polyanka '' or `` The Meadow '' ; ;
the three Moldavian dances entitled `` Zhok '' ; ;
the sweet and funny little dance about potato planting called `` Bul'ba '' ; ;
and the hilarious picture of social life in an earlier day called `` City Quadrille '' are all just as good as one remembers them to have been , and they are welcome back .
So , for that matter , are the newer dances -- the `` Kalmuk Dance '' with its animal movements , that genial juggling act by Sergei Tsvetkov called `` The Platter '' , the rousing and beautiful betrothal celebration called `` Summer '' , `` The Three Shepherds '' of Azerbaijan hopping up on their staffs , and , of course , the trenchant `` Rock 'n' Roll '' .