California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. (D) yesterday canceled most of a planned four-day presidential campaign tour of the Northeast.

Brown announced that he would spend only 24 hours in Massachusetts and New Hampshire this weekend, instead of the more ambitious swing through those states and New York that had been previously announced.

Brown aides said the governor had decided to return to Sacramento to push for legislative passage of two major energy bills.

But there was unconfirmed speculation in the California capitol that he was also concerned about what Lt. Gov. Mike Curb (R) might do in his absence. By law, when the governor leaves the state the lieutenant governor assumes his powers. Brown is challenging that law in the courts.

During earlier Brown absences this year, Curb named judges to the bench and took other actions whose legality Brown is challenging.

However, Gray Davis, Brown's executive assistant, denied that the "Curb problem" was a factor in curtailing this Brown trip.

The issue has become a sensitive one for the governor, who is an all-but-official challenger to President Carter's renomination. Associates have said that publicity about the Brown-Curb battles causes some potential Brown supporters to question whether he can leave the state often enough to make an effective challenge to Carter in the 1980 primaries.

In seeking to put that fear to rest, Davis and others in the Brown campaign insisted that only the possibility of seeing legislative approval of bills creating trust funds for alternative energy source development and resource conservation was pulling Brown back to California.

The governor will hold a press conference in Boston when he arrives Saturday night, attend two Democratic picnics in southern New Hampshire Sunday and then fly back to California.