About 6,000 persons turned out to hear the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta last night in the autumnal weather at Wolf Trap. It was not a record but twice as many people attended as had bought tickets a week ago.
The program lacked the depth of the previous night, but instead there was often intoxicating dazzle.
The evening's greatest sensation was that consummate showpiece, the Mussorgsky-Ravel "Pictures at an Exhibition." The Philharmonic's brass choir was at its best; somehow it managed to be impeccably precise but rich and full-bodied at the same time, and the high-frequency shrill sound cultivated by some of the best orchestras was missing.
"Pictures" is also a vehicle for solo virtuosity. It is strung together like a picaresque novel, allowing a maximum of voices to be heard. Last night's champion of champions was the tuba player, Warren Deck, in the section describing a slow-moving oxcart. How anyone can make that unwieldy instrument sing as he did is beyond me. Mehta seemed to feel the same way, as he pointed to Deck to take the first solo bow.
That was supposed to be the concert's end. But then came the first encore, a fine run-through of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" overture. And then came part of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," a showpiece in which the strings and flutes had their solo turns.
The evening began with a stylish rendering of Beethoven's gallant Second Symphony. It sounded at first like Mehta was taking the body of the first movement too slowly, but his expert pointing of accents took care of that.
Finally, there was Donizetti's Concertino for English Horn and Orchestra. Perhaps very few in the audience had ever heard an English horn concertino, much less Donizetti's student work. What emerged was like an operatic aria with a slow opening and a longer allegro. It might just as well have been sung by a bel canto mezzo like Marilyn Horne as played on the English horn, except that even she could not have matched the philharmonic's Thomas Stacy in agility.