who founded the world's most celebrated chamber orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and who directed the unimpeachable soundtrack of "Amadeus" -- should have concentrated on the refulgent 19th-century riches of Dvorak and Elgar at the Kennedy Center last night.
He was conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra -- traditionally the world's most opulent one -- and, given that opportunity, who wouldn't go for a program of rich-blooded music.
The high point came in Elgar's "Enigma" Variations, that magical set of musical sketches based on the personalities of the composer's friends (including his dog) that is the epitome of late Victorian esthetic sensibilities. Only the truly great orchestras are fully up to it. The Philadelphia has done it so well so often that one wondered last night which made the greater contribution, the players or the conductor -- and decided on the former.
Regardless, it was a thrill to hear this great string section, from which some conductors have lately been seeking a lean sound, soar fortissimo in all its fabled splendor. There certainly have been interpretations both more refined and more intense than Marriner's, but for sheer sound the performance was a marvel.
Some of the same characteristics were apparent in the passionate, often dark Dvorak Seventh Symphony. Once again, the players were creating gorgeous sonorities, though Marriner failed to adjust some bad balances.
Throughout the concert Marriner showed greater facility for rhythmic momentum than for subtleties of phrasing.
Also, there was the obligatory Mozart -- in this case the "Haffner" Symphony, done in super-polished, Apollonian and somewhat detached style -- the Marriner style.