The White House and its warmth toward music and musicians seemed to evoke a special response from Mistislav Rostropovich yesterday afternoon.
As the honored guest and performer at the White House, the world's foremost cellist (and music director of the National Symphony Orchestra) played at an incandescent level. With his daughter Elena as pianist, Rostropovich opened his recital with a Bach adagio in which normally of line was paired with an expressive tone that lifted it to great heights.
If the same mood returned at the beginning of a Weber Adagio, it quickly dissipated in the ensuing Rondo in music Weber wrote for the harmonichord, an instrument long out of use, but which inspired Weber to a magical page. In the rondo,[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] She and her father were in perfect agreement in matters of style and[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
The Shostakovich sonata was the afternoon's central adornment, played magnificently. There are fleet arpeggios up and down the strings, taken pianissimo, that sound unplayble even as they are being played. Rostropovich tossed them off as if they were easy. As for the eloquent melodies that fill the work, they were poured out in a golden flood. Again the piano and cello seemed ideally met.
A Tchaikovsky nocturne was an exquisite, lyrical encore. What came after it, the Popper Danse des Elfes, simply defies both description and belief. It is one of the great stemwinders in any literature, and Rostropovich played the spots off it. The White House is running up a very high batting average on its concerts.