Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Eugene Ormandy led the Philadelphia Orchestra in a handsomely balanced program Monday night in the Kennedy Center, opening the orchestra's new season in Washington.
The evening began with a luminous account of Washington's Birthday by Charles Ives. The magical pages that open this music were mirages in sound, coming from the hushed strings with a blur of bells in the distance. And, since music can seem to look forward as well as backward, there was a reminiscence in Ives of the ideas used by William Bolcom in his new piano quartet. The similarity came in the way Ives introduced familiar parlo songs into the fabric of his work just as Bolcom has done. Ormandy and his musicians were at one in the marvels of the Ives.
The smash hit of the program, however, and it was a real one, came with the two appearances of pianist Martha Argerich in his first Washington performances with orchestra. In contrasts that could not have been greater. Ormandy offered his audience Argerich in the Haydn D Major Concerto and then the G Major of Ravel.
The Argentine artist is a very special pianist. In Haydn she made scales of crystal clarity into vehicles of melodic expressiveness, even at flying speed. In accents, gracious phrases, and ideal tones, she played the grand concerto faultlessly. There was wonderful interplay between the reduced orchestra and pianist, all working toward the finest of Haydn.
The cadenza in the slow movement was not of the same caliber as the others. It is out of character for the piece. Argerich should look into the gem written by Wanda Landowska. It is all she needs for a final touch.
If the interaction between soloist and orchestra was remarkable in Haydn, it touched special heights in Ravel, which had one of its finest interpretations. Now Argerich's tone was richly varied, superbly calculated to draw on a wide range of touches, yet always giving the effect of complete spontaneity. She has a fine flair for insouciance or languor in equal measure, as needed. And such fire for the jazzy finale.
The audience, which was obviously more than ordinarily pleased by Argerich in the Haydn, could not let her and Ormandy go after the Ravel until they had recalled them several times. During one of these demonstrations. Ormandy rightly had the orchestral soloists, who had contributed so much to the performance, stand. Argerich has been away from Washington too long. She ought to come back very soon and often.
The evening closed with Ormandy giving the Mendelsohhn "Scotch" Symphony a flawless reading. It is a good thing for Washington to hear these musicians regularly. They continue to set a unique standard.