Last night the National Symphony once again offered a strong double bill, rich in contrasts. The French trumpet virtuoso, Maurice Andre, applied his magic to concertos by Haydn and the Venetian Baroque composer, Albinoni, and Rostropovch generated a high-voltage version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In both efforts the vision was vital, intensely personal and charged with humanity, though in entirely different ways.
Even before he began to play, the gray-haried Andre seemed an appealing figure as his expressive eyebrows moved upward or his slightly portly shape bent in response to the music. The warmth of his tone belied its metallic origin.He developed melodic lines in a broad, spacious manner, seemingly impervious to constraints of the barline or such practical problems as running out of breath. His first movement cadenza in the Haydn concerto opened out with the spontaneity of a jazz solo. The theme of the Albinoni slow movement rose and fell in a profoundly moving arch of beauty.
With Beethoven's Fifth, power replaced beauty. Rostropovich made a unified journey of the music's passage from struggle to triumph, reflecting a growing mastery of form, particularly in his capacity to subordinate details to the larger structure. If he continues to grow apace, the unduly raw force, exemplified by some of the harsh brass sounds he sought, should give way to more subtle goals.
In addition to sheer drive there were some wondrous passages, such as his delicate shaping of the transition to the finale. The bass section particularly distinguished itself, both in the trio's fugue, and in an accompanying line of the second movement which Rostropovich highlighted to splendid effect.