There it was: all of it. The Capitol of the United States, the dome lighted and everyone singing "O say, can you see?" And the National Symphany Orchestra conducted by the son of one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, a man who only a few weeks ago left the Soviet Union and turned in his passport and said he wanted to be a free man.
There he was -- Maxim Shostovich -- conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in the Memorial Day concert on the lawn of the Capitol. It should have been a concert of American music. It should have been an evening of Ives and Copland and Harris and Bernstein and Gould and Harris and Piston and all the other great American composers. But somehow it worked because there was Shostakovich conducting music that had the ring of freedom in it and there he was, a symbol of determination to be free. And the thousands -- there may have been 60,000 or more -- stood and cheered and thundered for his conducting of his father's music and that of George Gershwin and Tchaikovsky.
At the intermission, when emcee Henry Tenebaum thanked the government officials who made the concert possible, he mentioned Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt.The crowd broke into loud and long booing.
But it was a golden afternoon and evening with lovers nestling on the velvety green lawn below the Capitol and the National Sympathy playing its heart our for its already famous guest conductor.
Bradford Gowen, who seems able to take on any of the most demanding works in the repertoire and turn them in fresh and brilliant, made George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" sound all new and jazzy and wonderful. Earlier, Shostakovich's father's Festive Overture came off sounding as brash and commemorative as it means to be. The Fifth Symphony of Tchaikovsky closed the program, with a "Russlan and Ludmila" Overture for an encore. This is not quite what seems intended by the Congress of the United States in giving the people a free concert on a national holiday. Another time, perhaps, there might be a bit more American music.