Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
Bernard Klee is guest conducting the National Symphony this week in the orchestra's Tuesday-Wednesday concerts. The Leipzig-born conductor opened his program Tuesday night with Debussy's Iberia, closing it with the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven . In between, with Nicanor Zabaleta as solist, he led a reduced orchestra in the Harp Concerto by Boieldieu.
Debussy's tripartite paean to Spain is all subtle rhythms and nusances. Far more, even, than La Mer, it should suggest more than it declares. As its titles hint at nighttime scents and hidden byways, so should its gorgeous orchestration be filled with lights and shadows that come from the most highly sensitive touch.
Klee has his conducting technique firmly in hand, with every motion and gesture clear and distinct. The players seemed to follow every indication he gave.
Yet the final result was a strangely unsatisfying performance that had far more in black and white than it offered in the vivd reds and oranges of Debussy's blazing sun, or the pastels that should be evoked in his nocturnal mood. Everything was in place, yet nothing happened.
The Boieldieu is a museum piece of little charm and less interest. Nothing played by Zabaleta is ever without its compelling moments, for he is one of the world's master musicians. The muted sounds he produced in the cadenzas, the gallantry of his announcement of the pallid themes, the panache he gave the sterile music, all seemed the more remarkable because of the poverty of the material. Klee and the orchestra played for him with admirable style.