The Budapest Symphony Orchestra did a workmanlike but unremarkable job of a strikingly unimaginative program at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall yesterday. But then, how many truly memorable performances are there likely to be of music played as often as the Mendelssohn Overture to "The Hebrides," the Schumann A Minor Piano Concerto, and the Brahms Second Symphony? It continues to be a source of wonder that visiting conductors bring this kind of program here so complacently.
The strings of the orchestra have a warm sound that gave a glow to this 19-century fare, and under the baton of Gyorgy Lehel, they played with a well-seated rhythmic pulse.But the winds, in particular the horns and the oboes, have a decidedly grainy, harsh sound that colored every concerted phrase, bringing out inner voices that rarely see the light of day and that, perhaps, are happier in obscurity.
The soloist for the Schumann was Andras Schiff, a young artist with steely fingers and a powerful sense of rhythmic drive. His Schumann was dynamic and vital, rather than lyrical. Had he been a little more lavish with the legato that he used so sparingly, it would have been excellent. Certainly, his collaboration with Lehel was intense and sympathetic.
A delighted audience recalled Schiff for an encore, a tough driving performance of the first movement of the Bach "Italian Concerto."