Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The midwinter return of Mstislav Rostropovich to the National Symphony platform at the Kennedy Center Tuesday night brought striking new sounds to the orchestra.
There was the world premiere of "Timbres, espace, mouvement," by Henri Dutilleux; there was pianist Martha Argerich in her first NSO appearance playing not one but two concertos; and there were 12 cellos and 10 double basses, two more of each than before.
And "Timbres" was a revelation, for it gave National Symphony audiences their first look at Rostropovich interpreting a new, large orchestral work in its premiere. Neither the idiom, nor any details of performance, escaped his comprehensive reading for which afterwards the composer joined with the audience in applauding him and the players.
Argerich, Rostropivich and the orchestra, in addition to repeating the Chopin F Minor and Schumann Concertos on Wednesday and Thursday nights, will be recording them for the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Dutilleux is no stranger to Washington audiences. His major works have been conducted here in the past by Charles Munch, George Szell and Howard Mitchell, while his early ballet, "Le Loup," was danced here by Roland Petit and Violette Verdy.
"Timbres, espace, mouvement," translated "Tones', Space, Movement," is the first part of a two-part work commissioned from the composer by Rostropovich and the National Symphony.Its second part will be heard here next season.
In the new work heard Tuesday night, Dutilleux is working with sounds, often in clusters, sometimes heard only in mysterious murmurs from percussion instruments, as often in fluttered notes from woodwinds.
Scored for large orchestra, but with no violins or violas, it has moments of gorgeous sonorities when chords that seem as if suspended in space emerge from the chorus of cellos and double basses. No more auspicious work could have been played to emphasize the value of the newly added players.
It must also be said with every possible emphasis that the Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz, at the beginning of the program, was unbelievably brilliant, dazzling in impact, conducted with a fiery power that has been missing in most readings of the familiar pieces.
Argerich is simply a beautiful pianist. She makes lovely sounds and plays with an impetuous note that often strikes precisely the right accent. Her Chopin concerto was filled with felicitous passages, filagree work of lithe beauty, and appropriately impassioned. It was handsomely supported throughout, which is no easy assignment, by Rostropovich and the reduced orchestra.