To thundering cannons and roaring applause Mstislav Rostropovich last night began his summer appearance with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. In what promises to develop into an annual event, Rostropovich, as he did last year, presented an all-Tchaikovsky program that ended with a rousing version of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannoneers from South Bend, Ind.
For sheer excitement, Rostropovich's version of the 1812 Overture left nothing to be desired. As the cannon flashed in the darkness, extra brass players sounded forth from the upper wings on either side, filling the huge theater with waves of sound. It was glorious, like a dozen Fourth of Julys rolled up in one.
Prior to the Overture, Rostropovich led the orchestra in a well-paced performance of "Swan Lake" excerpts, evoking rich colors and warmly expressively playing from the orchestra. The violin-cello exchange between Miran Kojian and John Martin was particularly lovely.
Least satisfying was the opening selection Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. There were passages of exceptional beauty, particularly some quiet moments when Rostropovich achieved an extraordinary inner stillness in the orchestra's playing. He also captured the bustling vitality of the fourth movement with a marvelous headlong quality, but he failed to sustain and project the interior flow of the first two movements. The pizzicato third movement, if not entirely a sweeping, tiptoe delight, was nonetheless a sprightly surge.
The program will be repeated tomorrow at 8 p.m.