Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Antal Dorati returned to the helm of the National Symphony Orchestra Tuesday night and all was very well indeed under the orchestra's former music director, and now its principal guest conductor.
No one who heard the concert at the Kennedy Center need nurse any misconceptions that Dorati's new role will consist of tepid tokenism in the shadow of his successor, Mstislav Rostropovich. For all the excitement generated by the ebullient Russian, the orchestra has not played a more interesting program this year than Tuesday night's under Dorati, who will conduct most of the season's remaining concerts.
If Rostropovich throws off more sparks, Dorati makes up for it in versatility and cool cosmopolitanism. The program was divided into two categories of works in which Dorati is not to be outmatched by any present conductor.
The first half was small-scale pre-Romantic compositions with multiple solo parts. First there was Gabrieli's brief, grave Canzona noni toni, in which three clusters of trumpets and trombones are played off against each other antiphonally. Then came that Vivaldi string showpiece, the B minor concert, for 4 violins and accompaniment. The first movement came with such spirit that it was followed by applause.
Then Dorati replaced the four violinists with oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon for Mozart's dashing Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major for those instruments.
After intermission came the Washington premiere of "A Hungarian Rhapsody" by Zsolt Durko, a young Hungarian.
Built on medieval and folk material, it seemed the weakest work on the program, colorful but predictably eclectic.
As if to compensate for this, Dorati concluded with a sizzling rendition of Kodaly's popular suite from "Hary Janos." Full of grit and wit and zest, the performance was propably the best of it I have ever heard.
Welcome back, Mr. Dorati.