Reprinted from yesterday's late edition

Save the tearful farewells a little longer; Antai Dorati is still the principal conductor of the National Symphony and doing the job better than ever. He demonstrated the fact Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center by tackling the toughest conductorial assignment of all: pulling the fire out of chestnuts.

The program was one of those monumental events that can be a monumental disaster if too many things go wrong; the Second Piano Concerto of Brahms followed by his First Symphony. We're all heard it before, many times, and most of us have heard it (at least on phonographs or the radio) done by the greatest performers of our time. The audience's expectations (and a critic's, too) in this repertoire are considerably higher than they are for Scriabin or Copland or Vaughn Williams. When you play Brahms, you are willy-nilly competing with Toscanini and Klempeter and Herbert von Karajan.

Dorati directed performers that were not flawless (it will take more than his seven years in Washington to reach that dubiously valuable point) but - more important - exciting, organically unified, superbly controlled and directed with finely proportioned musical logic. The orchestra communicated as it seldom does because he was communicating with and through it.

In the concerto, pianist Misha Dichter performed brilliantly and in fine integration with the uncommonly well-integrated orchestra.