There is more to great art than good technique. Yet since we cannot not always take craft for granted, we might be thankful for Erich Leinsdorf's firm direction of the National Symphony Saturday night in the continuing Beethoven festival at the Kennedy Center. Following his orders to the letter, the orchestra came up with beautifully executed black and white reproductions of what should have been colorful scores.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F Major, the "Pastoral," might as well have been called the "Hectic." The deceptively simple musical development of the first movement depends for its effect on thematic repetition to be savored until the music becomes as familiar as the sounds of the countryside.There was no charm in Leinsdorf's reading, no time to taste the joy. The sweetly falling thirds that open the show movement also rushed by, depriving the ear of what should have been the thematic base. Only the ravishing playing of the oboe, cello and viola as they volleyed the melody succeeded in creating anything near a pastoral atmosphere.
The music surrounding the storm was more rough than rustic, and the storm itself crept up so fast that there was little mystery or fear at its arrival. Even the angelic strings, given no space to flap their wings, became less than unanimous in their bowing.