To open the Philadelphia Orchestra's Kennedy Center season last night, Eugene Ormandy chose one of music's great sagas, Glie re's heroic symphony "Ilya Murometz."
There is no other piece of music quite like it and there is no other orchestra and conductor today who can convey so fully both the notes and the shifting moods from brooding melancholy to romantic sighing and shattering heroism. In Chicago, where this music was introduced to the United States by Frederick Stock, they said it was the loudest piece of orchestral music extant. (Stock wrote in an organ part to make it still louder.)
It takes a super orchestra to play the long work, even with cuts that are both customary and desirable. The score is a wash of colors as rich as Kandinsky or Bakst, and the Philadelphians were in glorious, pliant form.
Among the familiar miracles Ormandy continues to achieve were the even distribution of weight in the golden brasses, the rich sonority of the woodwinds and the luster of those matchless strings. Along with all this sound, there was a supple feeling for rhythmic pulses that never permitted the music to languish.
With his longstanding championing of outstanding young talent, Ormandy presented violinist Peter Zazofsky in Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole. The Boston-born musician has, in recent years, taken 12 of the world's most valued prizes. His playing showed how and why.
He has technique to burn and flair in showing it. Included in that technique is dead-on intonation. More importantly, he has style and taste and an appropriate sense of sweetness and grace, qualities that cannot be taught but that mark the true artist. It will be a pleasure to hear him again both with orchestras and in recitals.