Saturday night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, everything worked together to show Seiji Ozawa at his considerable best. The program was all Stravinsky -- a composer akin to Ozawa's bright and brittle temperaturament; the soloist was violinist Itzhak Perlman, who can make almost anything sound good and who made Stravinsky's Violin Concerto sound like one of the century's finest works in that form.
But the conductor's chief ally was the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and ensemble powerful and precise under almost any baton but almost telepathically attuned to its music director. Technically, the evening was a triumph. And Stravinsky is one composer who can usually be done complete justice with pure technique and little else -- one reason why his music is such a good vehicle for Ozawa.
The program opened with medium-rare Stravinsky -- the Ode, which he began as the soundtrack for a film that never materialized and later transformed into a posthumous tribute to Natalie Koussevitzky. It is superbly crafted music and probably should be heard more often than it is, but on Saturday night it was heavily overshadowed by two masterpieces: the Violin Concerto and the "Rite of Spring." With considerable aid from Perlman, the concerto achieved some fine heights of lyricism, hinting occasionally at Stravinsky's affinity to Tchaikovsky.
But it was the "Rite of Spring" that showed Ozawa in his element, his left hand giving cues and controlling dynamics with awesome accuracy, the baton in his right moving with the agility and some of the gestures of a rapier but also giving firm, eloquent musical guidance. The "Rite" has a few peaceful moments in which Ozawa seems slightly uncertain about what, if anything, he wants -- but when the order of the day is frenzy, complexity or sheer brilliance, he is complete master of the situation.