A notable combination of music and artists is making this week's National Symphony concerts affairs of special moment. Tokyo-born conductor Kazuyoshi Akiyama is making his debut with the orchestra, his quest soloist is Lilli Kraus playing Mozart, and the evening includes the grandeur of the Nielsen Fourth Symphony.
And there is more, for Akiyama is giving the first National Symphony performances of an exquiste brief sketch called "Green," by his fellow countryman, Toru Takemitsu.
Highly compressed in form, "Green" is an original, an impressionist Japanese portrait of the utmost delicacy, set out in chordal sequences more reminiscent of Olivier Messiaen than of any other composer. The playing was sensitively perfumed.
There is a a particular radiance that surrounds a Mozart piano concerto when Lili Kraus plays it. It is more than the sum of the sum of the minute breathing spaces she miraculously gives in the midst of the subtlest phrasing; more than the incredible feeling of vitiality that never leaves the music, even in its most intimate moments. For over all that she does, her patrician sense of style informs the whole. Last night's concerto was the E Flat, K. 271.
Her interplay with the orchestra in the slow movement was done with the mastery of one who knows Mozart recitatives in depth. That final trill in the first movement, high up on the keyboard, taken with the left hand, was only one of numbers of magic moments. Her enunciation of the menuet in the midst of the turbulence of the finale was another.
There was wit in those grace notes, and brilliant power in Mozart's cadenzas, played in the soloist's edition. She Akiyama and the orchestra deserved the ovation that followed the concerto, with special praise for the solo oboe in the andantino.
Akiyama delivered Nielsen's triumphant paean to the inextinguishable will to life in broad, thrilling terms. Individual players in the orchestra, timpani, cello, bassoon and the solo string quartet were all in top form. The music has an assertiveness that, as the composer says, is possible only in music, as it declares that nature determinedly renews itself. The symphony is one of the musical glories of this century and Akiyama conducted it accordingly.