Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
At the Kennedy Center it was a salute to Howard Mitchell, for 20 years the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and back in town this week as part of the NSO's 50th anniversary year. A few blocks away at Lisner Auditorium yet another salute was going on, this one to Mstislav Rostropovich, the symphony's current music director celebrating the 25th anniversary of his first performance here.
That was Washington Tuesday night, an embarrassment of musical riches for a town once considered a cultural backwater. And the coincidence of dates seemed even more striking as the State Department disclosed it was working to grant asylum to Soviet conductor Maxim Shostakovich.
"We'll get them all over here pretty soon," said Mitchell, when told of the negotiations during a post-concert party at the National Academy of Sciences.
William Middendorf, ambassador-designate to the Organization of American States, said it was "another example of the decadent system in Russia if they can't keep a great conductor like Shostakovich from leaving. It'll be a tremendous lift to the music world here."
Only officials had known that Shostakovich was trying to come to the United States. For the rest of the 130 at the post-concert supper, it was primarily Howard Mitchell's evening.
"It's glorious to be back. I'm so grateful for what this country means," Mitchell told the black-tie crowd dining on roast lamb and rice with appropriate wines.
As it happened, few of the people who run the National Symphony could make Mitchell's party because of the Rostropovich fete at the Lisner.
But there were some high-powered Reagan Cabinet officers on hand as well as plenty of old friends of the former maestro from those other years when Mitchell was the crown prince of culture in Washington. Some, like Ethel Garrett, even flew in by private jet just to be on hand for the festivities.
It was she, according to Rietzke, who came up with the added reason to celebrate; the recovery of President Reagan from his gunshot wound.
Mitchell received tributes from the Washington Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs for his efforts to familiarize young audiences with symphony music. And Nancy Thurmond, whose husband Strom is president pro tem of the U.S. Senate, offered still another salute. For his "candor, courage, charisma, character and compassion" in bringing music to all ages, he has become "a national treasure," she said.