Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Virtuoso flash and structural solidity were combined in almost equal proportions Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall when the National Symphony presented the ebullient Eighth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the dionysian "Bacchus et Ariane Suite No. 2" of Roussel and the Brahms Violin Concerto with Itzhak Perlman as soloist.
A sad addendum to the program was inserted as its opening number: Barber's Adagio for Strings, played in memory of the late Osby L. Weir, former president of the National Symphony Orchestra Association and a member of its board of directors until his death Jan. 6.
Under the batton of Howard Mitchell, the orchestra accompanied Perlman's brilliant performance in the Brahms with slightly subdued precision except for one unbalanced outburst by the winds in the runaway finale. The Roussel was properly orgiastic at the climax, though (like the Barber and the first movement of the Vaughan Williams) it had a few rough spots in the phrasing elsewhere.
The English composer's Eighth Symphony, written in his mid-80s, is one of the most joyful musical romps of our time and it must be a special treat for an orchestra; each section has a special movement: winds alone in the second, strings alone in the third and a large percussion battery (with the full orchestra allowed to make its comments) in the finale. The most impressive performance in this work was that of the winds in the brilliant scherzo, but the whole work (except for a few small lapses) was well performed.
Perlman's solo in the Brahms was everything one expects of this artist, clear and rich in tone, beautifully phrased and deeply expressive withoutsacrificing clarity.