Lorin Maazel, well known in Washington both as a brilliant conductor of opera and as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, made his initial appearance as guest conductor of the National Symphony last night in the Kennedy Center.

Tonight and Thursday night, and again on Friday afternoon, he will lead the orchestra in the overture to Weber's "Euryanthe," and the third symphonies by Mendelssohn and Schumann.

There is no more secure, precise or explicit baton to be seen anywhere in the world today than Maazel's. No player is in the slightest doubt as to the meaning behind each gesture, and should there be any need for the subdivision of a beat, the exact timing of each note is clearly outlined.

In music as thrice-familiar as that which Maazel chose for this week's concerts, it was, therefore, purely a matter of the orchestra's response to the interpretive ideas the visiting conductor would lay before it.

That response was, on the whole, excellent. Never before have the horns of the National Symphony sounded more imperious than in the opening movement of the Schumann. The cellos and violas gave Maazel all the expressive phrasing he asked. The woodwind choir was a joy. The music spoke for itself.