Saturday night's United Nations concert at the Kennedy Center produced one of those glamorous occasions when more black ties and long gowns turn up in the concert hall than on the stage. Playing before an international audience that included numerous diplomats, the American Symphony Orchestra under Morton Gould presented an appropriately brilliant program to honor the 35th anniversary of the founding of the U.N.
Preceded by a series of speakers -- Deputy secretary of State Warren Christopher, among others -- praising the activities of the U.N., the evening began splendidly with Gould's own "Festive Music" for Orchestra. A piece with lots of dash and brass, it also has an attractive offstage trumpet part, which was handsomely projected.
The following piano concerto by Khachaturian, a colorful, unabashedly romantic work, kept the emotional level high. Soloist Antonio Bujanda Octavio of Venezuela gave a strong performance, displaying agility and a big sound, as well as a sensitive line in the more introspective passages.
Gould took the final Symphony in D Minor by Franck at an upbeat pace, reducing much of the work's richness. However, his insistent forward motion did recature the interest of a distracted audience, returning late after intermission and possibly thinking ahead to the gala dinner at the Hilton.