The Leipzig Gewandhaus is one of the most illustrious names in the history of music. Its orchestra played in the Kennedy Center on Saturday night, under its current music director, Kurt Masur, with Peter Roesel as pianist in the Third Concerto of Rachmaninov.

Masur opened fittingly with the overture to Schumann's stillborn opera, "Genoveva." The appropriateness of the gesture was due less to the music, which is largely on the square, uninspired side, than to the fact that it was the Gewandhaus orchestra of its day, under the composer's direction, that first played the music.

Roesel is a pianist of immense gifts. His tone is under total control from a soft delicacy to a vast, unforced sound. He played the larger of the two cadenzas available for the first movement, and at no point sounded movement, and at no point sounded taxed, even in its largest passages. Indeed, the element that is lacking in this young artist's playing at the moment is one of surprise, or of a great outburst of passion. Everything is perfectly in place, but rather too predictably so.

Masur took his competent if modest orchestra through the concerto and the ensuring Third Symphony by Bruckner with few hitches. There were, also, few moments of excitement.