Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The old goodies never seem to lose their allure. The New York Philharmonic's all-Tchaikovsky program drew an overflow crowd to Wolf Trap Sunday night. Not a patch of grass was showing. The box office counted about 6,500 admissions - that capacity. It looked like more.
Though the crowd enjoyed itself to the hilt, it wasn't more than a moderately satisfactory concert from a purely esthetic standpoint. Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" Symphony and First Piano Concerto were, of course, known quantities. So were conductor Julius Rudel and soloist Andre Watts. There were no surprises to speak of. Yet, somehow, neither the direction nor the piano playing, nor the orchestral performance for that matter, quite lived up to expectations.
Rudel's "Pathetique," for example, lacked the sense of total conviction the same conductor has brought so often to his Mahler performances at Wolf Trap. The approach to almost every climax was flawed by a premature crescendo, the dynamic curve rising too quickly and reaching an apex too soon, leaving no more room for ascent. The lilting buoyancy of the second movement, though, was an unblemished delight.
The orchestra has sounded better, too. In forceful passages, the strings had a fibrous edge and the brass was on the coarse side.
In the Concerto, Watts gave forth with a sound a tremendous penetration and physical excitement. But he seemed unable to resist the accelerator at every available opportunity. The speed in the famous octave passages overtaxed even Watts' phenomenal technique. IN general, it was an interpretation of Tchaikovsky akin to that of Ken Russell's movie, "The Music Lovers" - febrile, hysterical, overpowering, but not exactly what you'd call sympathetic.