Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
For his first appearances as guest conductor with the National Symphony, Seiji Ozawa has chosen a rather brief program. In it, however, he fully reveals the familiar beauties of the Eighth Symphony of Beethoven and the unfamiliar power of a great classic of the first decades of this century. This is the complete score of the ballet-pantomime, "The Miraculous Mandarin" by Bela Bartok.
To the radiant pages of the Beethoven shmphony, Ozawa and the orchestra bought refinement in sound and a welcome deliberateness of approach in lyrical passages. The slow opening was held in ideal restraint, with a measured solemnity that was the more impressive for the way it ushered in the animated movement that followed.
Style and pacing were kept in fine, classic proportion throughout. The trio of the third movement was taken a bit more slowly than its neighboring pages suggest, but nonetheless persuasively.
Hearing the full "Mandarin" score Bartok wrote, rather than the reduced suite he subsequently drew from it, made it seem a shame to have had to wait this long for the impact provided by the whole. Bulwarked by the organ, and with the wordless chorus which, in the few measures it sings, adds to the total effect, Bartok's dramatic power takes on all kinds of novel lights and shadows.
Ozawa knows the innermost secrets of the Bartok which he led with the same remarkable clarity and sure feeling for large and small details that stamped his Beethoven. In their brief appearance, about 50 members of the Oratorio Society gave just the right sound.
The orchestra discharged its heavy responsibilities with a clear sense of security, delighting, in Bartok as in Beethoven, in its guest leader. At one point, refusing to stand at his signal, they remained seated and joined the audience in applauding Ozawa.