Looking at the list of romantic goodies that graced last night's National Symphony program at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, one might have expected that voluptuous tone and sensuous pleasures would have been the evening's focus. But in fact, the symphony, in fine form under the leadership of Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, did not let out all the stops or even really heat up the air waves until the last couple of minutes of the concluding music from Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe" Suite No. 2.
Instead, details, inner voices and splendid solo turns proved to be the order of the day. Fru hbeck created excitement through motion and through spotlighting, in the midst of the densest orchestral textures, small solo phrases, ornamental figures and seldom-heard lines.
Oboe and horns were the stars of a fine reading of the Strauss tone poem, "Don Juan." The orchestra moved from incident to incident smoothly but with stark character changes that served to underscore the nature of the famous tale. In the Ravel, it was the supple flute-playing of Toshiko Kohno, prevailing over the shifting colors of the orchestra, that gave the piece both shape and direction.
Music of Schumann filled the first half of the program. Acting, perhaps, on the supposition that almost anything a famous composer writes is worth playing at least once, the orchestra unearthed and performed his overture to "Hermann und Dorothea," a work full of Schumann's favorite cliche's and laced with bits of the "Marseillaise." Had the Sullivan half of the G & S team been German, he might have written something like it. The orchestra, keeping a rather tight lid on any urge to emote its members might have felt, did a nice job with this and with the "Rhenish" Symphony that followed.