Sarah Caldwell, who is a woman of many facets, brought several of them to Wolf Trap last night in a program billed as "Bach, Schubert and All That Jazz."
Facet number one was not Caldwell at her best, as she led a sticky National Symphony in a performance of the Bach Third Brandenburg Concerto that was both stodgy and inadequately rehearsed, and in a dutiful and plodding performance of Schubert's Sixth Symphony.
Having disposed unlovingly of the Bach Schubert half, however, Caldwell produced a new and more representative facet of her music making. Seated this time at the podium, Caldwell took on an air of control and assurance that had been lacking previously. With a laid-back insoucinance, she focused on the sardonic aspects of Milhaud's "Le Boeuf sur le toit."
She collaborated with pianist Ivan Davis in a rollicking account of the Gershwin variation on "I Got Rhythm" and finished off the evening in fine style with the Ravel "Bolero." Clearly these three represented the jazz portion of the program, and clearly Caldwell felt relaxed about them.
Caldwell's problems on the podium, when she has them seemed to stem from a tendency to overconduct, to give too large a beat or one that is too fussy. Fussiness defeated her in the Bach where the ends of phases sounded too uncertain and confused. The almost inaudible opening of the Ravel was treated to an enormous display of fancy baton work. As the music gathered momentum, however, it grew to fit the large beat and took on some of the considerable personality that Caldwell has to offer.