Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Let us be perfectly straightforward about this week's National Symphony Orchestra concerts under Antal Dorati: Two of the mightiest works in the repertory are performed in interpretations quite worthy of of their stature.
First, at Tuesday's Kennedy Center concert, there was Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with pianist Eugene Istomin. Both Dorati and Istomin were consistently reaching for the grand rhetorical line of this majestic composition. If there was one movement in which they succeeded most thoroughly it was in the serene Adagio.
Dorati's phrasing of the opening chorale exemplified both him and the NSO at their very best. The dynamic subtleties were exceptional. Istomin's meandering entrance developed into a lyrical and harmonic vision that one suspects only Serkin today could match.
After intermission came Schubert's Ninth, and last, symphony, described by Richard Freed in his notes as, "among musicians themselves . . . the most beloved of all symphonies." Dorati and the National Symphony played it that way. Just to cite one example, the scherzo third movement could hardly have been executed with greater fleetness and brio.
Dorati, by contrast with his successor, Mstislav Rostropovich, conducted (as is increasingly his wont) entirely from memory. That's not necessarily essential, but when the results are like Tuesday night's it is most impressive.
About the only qualms one could object to in the interpretation came in some abrupt tempo changes at bridge passes in the first movement, but these didn't last very long and could be easily forgotten.