Either half of last night's National Symphony program could have stood alone as an evening unto itself. Together, the Botticellian grace of violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the raw power of Prokofiev's second symphony offered an abundance that almost dazed the listener.
The program began modestly enough with a trifle entitled, appropriately, "Les Petits Riens," which scholars say may or may not have been entirely composed by Mozart. It was pleasant music, but the performance needed greater precision of ensemble and a more transparent sound to sparkle.
Then Anne-Sophie Mutter appeared in a white dress to play Mozart's third violin concerto. She signaled to Rostropovich with a slight smile, looking calmly unaware of the audience intent on discovering whether she was just a prodigious 16-year-old or really something special. It took only a few bars to realize that she possesses a rare talent. sShe is unquestionably an artist rather than a prodigy.
Her playing at the moment reflects all the virtures of youth. The suppleness of her line is enchanting.Her tone is sweet and pure, pouring forth in effortless song. She has a habit of holding a note to the last possible minute and then pushing on with the melody, which injects a delightfully precipitous quality into her style. She turns dissonant ornamental notes, technically known as appoggiaturas, into delicate sighs.
With youthful genius -- and one suspects that word is apt here -- she conveyed the youthful genius that Mozart poured into his concerto.
After intermission Rostropovich took on Prokofiev's seldom heard second symphony, which is as turbulent as Mother Russia herself. Its challenges spurred Rostropovich to one of his finest performances to date. There was never an uncertain moment as he balanced the work's disparate material, which ranges from the most raucous to the mystical. It is a colorful, even terrible universe, and few understand it as well as Rostropovich.