Stravinsky's "Petrushka" is a virtuoso piece with a propensity for raucousness. At the Kennedy Center Concert Hall last night, it was an ideal vehicle for the Philadelphia Orchestra, which painted its bizarre scenes with ironic suaveness instead. Under the graphic baton of Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit, all of the orchestra's considerable forces collaborated in the brilliant but controlled orgy of color and texture that is the context of this magical tale of the puppet smitten with love.
It is always the winds, and in particular the trumpets, that command attention in this music, and, indeed, they did so last night. But the strings provide the undercurrent of tension throughout, and in this performance they did so admirably. Dutoit's beat can differentiate among a myriad of different sorts of string attacks, pizzicati and cutoffs, and he must have called for every one of these here.
In a more restrained vein, the orchestra gave a graceful performance of the Mozart G Major Flute Concerto, K. 313. Jean-Pierre Rampal was the soloist, and he can be counted upon for the sort of delicious details that, on the flute at least, add up to something memorable. Here it was the marvelous three-note ornamental figure that ends so many phrases in the second movement. Rampal was not exactly flippant with these, but he did throw them off with a certain delightful pleasure in mocking its formal elegance.
Rampal was also the soloist for Frank Martin's lovely "Ballade" for string orchestra, flute and piano, a small impressionistic gem that features close attention to exquisitely calculated textures.
The concert opened with a lively and alert performance of the Weber Overture to "Oberon."