"The Elgar Concerto is a fine piece because you can really hear the cello," Janos Starker remarked after his masterly performance with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra Saturday.

Starker's cello was the undisputed focal point of the program at Fairfax High School. As Starker strode center stage to solo in Edward Elgar's introspective Violincello Concerto in E Minor, the air of expectancy hung over the packed auditorium like a great balloon, growing fuller and fuller until it seemed it surely would explode.

Conductor William Hudson suddenly thrust his baton skyward; a thunderous sonic hiss sounded, and Starker was in complete control.

This introspective work, despite its innate sadness, seemed, in Starker's interpretation, to put the audience at ease. The overall effect of the performance was not unlike watching a baptism by the river; Starker's cello was the voice crying in the wilderness, asking for the listeners' participation in their own salvation.

Two works of swirling orchestral color rounded out the evening's program. Jumping aboard the Brahms bandwagon, Hudson and company performed exquisitely the Variations on a Theme by Haydn. The short variations were heartfelt tidbits, some to be tasted, some to be swallowed, and others to be devoured with gusto.

Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol was a model of form and control under Hudson's direction and the orchestra's skilled musicianship. The combined players, however, often overwhelmed concertmaster Margaret Thomas' solo violin. Her playing was a whisper, contrasted with the sonic boom of the orchestra's fullness.