Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra revealed new facets of their art Tuesday night in the Kennedy Center as they continued their traversal of the cycle of Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos. They did it first by bringing out a Fourth Symphony of unusual luster and poetry.
The more obvious cause of the lyrical appeal of this beautiful symphony was Haitink's reduction of his orchestra's string body in keeping with the essential character of the music. There were, for example, six double basses instead of eight; eight cellos instead of 10. The violas and violins were proportionately reduced.
One result was to present the music with the very clarity the composer had in mind, since he wrote it for an orchestra far nearer to this instrumental distribution than that which is almost universally employed in this country.
But as always with this conductor, the principal result came through the depth of Haitink's perceptive study of the music - the profound calm with which he led the opening adagio, the serene quiet of the slow movement, the mild gravity of the scherzo.
Ashkenazy is, by now, a familiar story in the concertos, but a story wherein familiarity breeds only admiration. His approach to the opening movement of the fifth concerto was at one with the conductor's; his rapt song in the slow movement an ideal. Again Beethoven was well served.