Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Tuesday night's finale of the National Symphony Orchestra's season at the Kennedy Center featured the year's most sensational cello playing, and the soloist was not Mstislav Rostropovich.
The evening was replete with symbolism. Just to take the prime example, the cello concerto was the Washington premiere of what seemed to this listener, an unusually spontaneous and inventive work by none other than Antal Dorati, the orchestra's principal guest conductor and Rostropovich's predecessor.
The soloist was Janos Starker, who, next to Rostropovich, is probably the most widely respected cellist now performing.
There were many marvelous moments in Starker's performance, but the most dazzling one was a scale of thirds in the third movement that suggested for a while that Dorati had written a 20th-century equivalent to the same brilliant passagework in Dvorak's Cello Concerto - the most formidable of all such works.
Dorati's work falls a bit short of that level, but of the many of his works Dorati has conducted during his years in Washington, this was the most exciting and passionate. How much Starker's virtutosity was the key on the first performance is hard to be sure of, but it doesn't much matter. The whole experience was quite exciting.
Dorati also bent head over heels to get everything he could out of Wagner's Overture and Venusberg Music from "Tannhauser" and that peerless vehicle with which to end the season, the "Meistersinger" prelude.
The result was a standing ovation by both audience and orchestra.