Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra were in towering form last night in an all-Russian program at Wolf Trap.
Familiar though Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and Scythian Suite may be, they both demand and reward the height of orchestra virtuosity, which is what they got from everyone involved.
There was an incredible shimmer to the sound of the four flutes with harps, celeste, and muted strings in the Adoration of Veles and Ala early in the Scythian Suite, and a singular kind of vast power in its long, steady depiction of sunrise.
As for the Second Symphony of Rachmaninov, I have never heard it played more beautifully. The Philadelphians are, after all, the nearest thing Rachmaninov came to having his own orchestra in this country, the amazing fact being the way they still retain the sound he loved three decades after his death. As for Anthony Gigliotti's solo clarinet in the slow movement, it was to dream!
Having taken the measure of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony with admirable tempos and accents, Ormandy delivered the Rachmaninov symphony with every nuance and fervor. He knows its beauty and believes in it, two elements without which conductors should leave this rhapsodic music alone. Music lovers at Wolf Trap recognized no gas shortage. The place was jammed.