The Dresden State Orchestra, famous for decades as one of Europe's leading orchestras, is now making its first United States tour. Last night it followed the Vienna Philharmonic into the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center.
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor of the Dresden musicians, offered very solid fare: the Prelude to Wagner's "Die Meistersinger"; the Eighth Symphony of Beethoven, and the Fourth Symphony by Brahms. Delayed by their Viennese colleagues, the Dresdeners could not begin playing until 9:45, and there was, more than once during the concert, an uneasiness in the playing that may have been due to some sense of being rushed. u
For whatever reason, the concert offered little that rose above the routine.
Celebrated for their glorious sound in a recent complete recording of "Meistersinger," the musicians last night were imprecise and at times in the prelude sounded rather thin. There was some admirable woodwind playing in the trio of the Beethoven minuet and some handsome horn playing, both solo and chorus in the Brahms. And toward the end of the Brahms slow movement, the string choir took on the luster for which they are famous.
The basic problem in the music lay in Blomstedt's conducting, which often plods. When phrases in the Beethoven sounded lumpy, they were simply a clear reflection of his often ungainly gestures. His musicians played very much as he conducted them.
The Brahms Fourth suffered seriously from the conductor's habit of slowing down every time he saw a cadence coming. He paid inordinate attention to details in a fussy manner that gradually succeeded in obscuring most of the vital long lines upon which this symphony depends for its very life, while unexpected rough notes continued to intrude stangely through the evening.
Knowing this orchestra to be capable of far finer results, we have to hope to hear them under a more inspiring leader and without the fatigue of a tour.