Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
If at first it seemed rather strange that the National Symphony Orchestra had never performed "Alexander Nevsky" by Prokofiev until Tuesday, somehow the reason for the delay seemed to become apparent as Mstislay Rostropovich conducted the orchestra, the Choral Arts Society and Lili Chookasian.
Not until now did the National Symphony have precisely the right conductor, chorus and power for the huge score. Writtern originally for the memorable Elsenstein film, the cantata that Prokofiev drew from the longer work is a dramatic pageant of sound, depicting Russia in the 13th century battling invading Teutonic forces.
All of Prokofiev's resources in superb scoring, both in fortissimo and planissimo passages, are illustrated handsomely, as is his mastery of the choral art.
Scribner's singers turned in one of their finest performances, singing in Russian which Rostropovich said was clearer than he had heard in Moscow. As for the magnificence of Chookasian, it is impossible to think of another singer today who can so profoundly move you with the brooding beauty of her song in this all-too-brief solo.
Rostropovich led the work with immense affection and flawless feeling for every phrase and sound.
What made the evening the more remarkable was that his counterbalance in the first half, the Manfred Overture and Second Symphony by Schumann were no less impressive.