Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam were welcomed to Washington with a standing ovation Sunday night at the Kennedy Center.
They earned it with a spectacularly good performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - powerful, superbly controlled, rich in color and precisely balanced and shaped, exactly what the capacity audience hoped to hear from this high-powered combination of talents.
There were a few dry spells earlier in the program, but they should be blamed more on Beethoven than on the Dutch musicians, who will be presenting his complete symphonies and piano concertos in six concerts between now and May 24.
Inevitably, in a complete cycle, you have to get to Beethoven's apprentice works, the ones in which he is still very much the discipline of Mozart. Two of them were on this program to counterbalance the Fifth, which is undoubtedly Beethoven's greatest hit. The Second Symphony is a bright, lively work, full of interesting ideas in its own right. It goes quite well with the Fifth because (like many of Beethoven's other early works) it has some earlier sketches of the dit-dit-dit-dah motif that the composer (and the Concertgebouw Sunday night) finally rode to glory.
The Second Piano Concerto is a tougher challenge. Vladmir Ashkenazy was on hand to solo (as he will be for the other four concertos during the next 10 days), and his incandescent touch made the music sound as good as it can. Those who have tickets for the rest of the series may expect happily that all the other concertos will sound better.