The horns and brass were the heroes of the National Symphony concert last night as Max Rudolf opened and closed the evening with music that asked everything of them.
The entire second half of the program went to familiar music by Wagner: the usual three excerpts from the final act of "Die Meistersinger," and the "Flying Dutchman" Overture. The horns played the "Wach auf!" chorale with easy beauty and made a grand impression at the outset of the overture.
The first test for the brass and horns came at the beginning of the evening, in "Helios Kinetic," by Gene Gutche. Commissioned by the Florida Philharmonic, the music is in praise of Helios the Sun-God.
The addition of the term "kinetic" suggests the energy of Helios driving the chariot of the sun across the skies. Certainly Gutche has written music of enormous energy. It is loud, strident, brassy sound, with the four trumpets making their initial appearance from the front boxes on either side of the hall nearest the stage. A massive slowdown toward the end unduly delays the final pages without contributing anything of special value.
In spite of a performance that Rudolf leads with assurance and a clear endeavor to persuade on behalf of the music, it adds up to very little.
There was another hero in last night's concert. The Argentine pianist Bruno Leonardo Gelber played the First Concerto of Beethoven in a way that won him the prolonged, insisted enthusiastic applause of the audience. And the audience was right.
His playing is of the utmost refinement in tone, perfectly animated by impulses that are an ideal balance of musicianship and sheer delight in the music at hand. There was flawless articulation, beauty in poetry, and when appropriate, the grand sound.