The combined careers of conductor Max Rudolf and pianist Rudolf Firkusny equal a century of music making. Last night at the Kennedy Center these two respected artists joined forces with the National Symphony for an all-Beethoven program that drew a capacity audience to the concert hall.
In their collaboration on the Fifth Piano Concerto (the "Emperor"), they were clearly at home with the music and each other.Firkusny's fingers may have occasionally failed to do what he asked, but that caused no real distress -- except in the final measures when they suddenly bounced out of control, causing him to finish too soon. With sure intent both men put themselves at the service of the notes, offering a solid, finely proportioned interpretation. There were some moments of quiet beauty, such as the bridge passage that leads to the final rondo, when Firkusny's tone assumed a glowing intimacy.
Throughout the evening Max Rudolf paid particular attention to the orchestral balance, creating textures of notable clarity and delicacy. His lyrical approach to the Sixth Symphony (the "Pastoral") earned extended applause from both the musicians and the audience. The woodwind section contributed several particularly lovely solos, including a few measures of rippling joy from clarinetist Loren Kitt at the end of the first movement. The evening opened with a well-paced reading of the "Egmont" Overture.