Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic brought a celebratory mood to the Kennedy Center last night. Extending the spirit of the new year, they made merry with an ebullient program of froth and fun that included some delectable music making.
The tone was set as the orchestra opened with the sparkling Overture from Mozart's bit of comic fluff, "The Impresario." It got a crisp and polished reading, even if some of its wit did fall by the wayside.
Philip Smith made an agile and exceptionally sensitive soloist in one of the most popular works for any instrument, Hadyn's "Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E-flat." From the first trumpet entry Smith, who joined the Philharmonic as trumpet co-principal in 1978, showed the high caliber of his musicianship. The smoothness of his attack and his fine shading of the melody were an immediate delight, sustained throughout the concerto. The first movement cadenza, which Smith unfolded in tones of singing clarity, and the sustained line in the slow movement proved particular pleasures.
Piling up one treat after another, Mehta then led the ensemble in Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto" with Cho Liang Lin, making his Philharmonic debut, as soloist. A youthful-looking musicians who already has a number of achievements to his credit, Lin displayed an agile grace in his handling of the concerto. The gentle lyricism of his approach gave a distinctive quality to his playing, though there were times when greater projection as well as a contrasting brilliance would have been welcome.
For the second half of the program Mehta and the orchestra indulged in a Strauss feast, serving up some of the most beloved of the family's multitudinous offerings. Among the more delectable moments could be counted the lovely oboe solos in the Overture to "The Gypsy Baron" and the delicate precision of the strings in the "Pizzicato" Polka. The "Wiener Blut" Waltz and the "Emperor" Waltz were treated with slender elegance, particularly from the strings. While admirable, these quintessential Viennese desserts could have used a little more whipped cream.