Looking very much at home on the podium, a confident Hugh Wolff returned to the Kennedy Center last night to take over a second week of concerts with the National Symphony for the indisposed Antal Dorati. In a program of Berlioz, Mozart and Strauss, this immensely likable young man maintained a solid grasp of the orchestra, confirming the promise of his debut appearance.
Wolff is, of course, a conductor in the process of development but certain characteristics stand out. Technically, his heat is strong and clear and he has a keen ear for orchestral balance, Though he was generally rather cautious on the interpretive side, he showed, particularly in Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben," a capacity to shape intense, exciting passages. He also posess an incisive mind, which seems to keep the total structure always at hand.
He opened the evening with a splendidly paced performance of Berlioz'. "Roman Carnival Overture," defily handling the contrasting sections and building to a fine peak of excitment at the end.
His handling of Mozart's "Symphony No. 38" was vigorous, even muscular, and creditable though not particularly individual. Many a conductor has been confounded by Mozart, however, because so much of his art is bound in details which Wolff could scarcely be expected to have had time to explore with the orchestra. When he does, we may be in for some interestingly forceful Mozart.
"Ein Heldenleben" moved well, at times achieving a real sweep of sound and feeling.Miran Kojian brought a particularly lovely tone to his solo passages.