Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra this week, has brought a stunning program, including two premieres.
National Symphony musicians have in the past played Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps." But never before has the enlarged NSO been heard in the music, and last night at the Kennedy Center, under the great Spanish conductor, the famous musical landmark came in for a tremendous performance.
Scored for the largest ensemble Stravinsky ever used, the music profited by the addition of every new member of the orchestra. Fruhbeck's immense concept, faithful to the composer's directions, filled with inspiration and operating at a fever pitch, gave the great music a new impetus.
Not only did the huge sounds come out without forcing from anyone, but also the magical soft moments that lighten the score had a lustrous texture. Oue word of caution: At the introduction and early measures of the Glorification of the Chosen One, the timpani and bass drum threaten to overwhelm all other sounds, despite all the rest that is going on. Even so, one of the Fruhbeck's marvels is his phenomenal control of the wide-ranging dynamics of the piece.
The conductor appeared also as arranger in the first of two Spanish works played by harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. The audience heard the world premiere of Fruhbeck's version for harp and strings of Joaquin Turina's "Theme and Variations," originally for harp with piano.
The very first chord from the full string orchestra is so sumptuous a sound that the new version was immediately justified. The music and its performance were of a taste and elegance worthy of the world's most gorgeous salon.
A U.S. premiere followed in the Harp Concerto of Xavier Montsalvatge. Here with its exotic precussion and rhythms both Spanish and Latin-American is a more recent (1975) Hispanic sound. Zabaleta, who stands with the world's greatest virtuosos, rapped and tapped his sounding board, swept through brilliant passages that included not merely conventional glissandos but some on a single string. It was another brilliant episode in a concert that opened with the first NSO listing of Haydn's Symphony No. 6, called "Morning," in an ideal performance.