Is there anyone out there who can hear the lumbering bass notes and splashy, high metallic percussion of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" without thinking of Mickey Mouse or seeing hundreds of little brooms carrying overfilled buckets of water? The descriptive masterpiece by Paul Dukas is stamped with the Disney image for as long as his classic "Fantasia" remains in circulation. The movie has enormously enlarged the audience for this work, the only one by Dukas that is heard with any frequency 50 years after his death.
Last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, the broomsticks and splashing water were evoked in sounds as vivid as Disney's technicolor images, and Mstislav Rostropovich, waving his baton like a sorcerer, showed that he is long past the apprentice stage as a conductor.
The intensely descriptive, highly spiced account of Dukas' tone poem nearly overshadowed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, which preceded it. But this is a much greater work of art, and it received a technically brilliant, emotionally sensitive performance from 22-year-old soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter.
In her last appearance with the NSO, performing a dazzling, extroverted Prokofiev concerto, Mutter seemed slightly ill at ease -- not because of technical difficulties but perhaps because she could not wholeheartedly endorse some of the violent things the music was saying. There was no such problem with Mendelssohn, or with Glazunov's gently lyric Concerto in A minor, which she also performed. Clearly these works suit her temperament; she phrased them with loving care and evoked rarely experienced emotional depths with a little crescendo here, a split-second pause there that brought the notes fully to life. This is particularly useful in the Glazunov, a shapely work but one that usually generates little energy or tension. Rostropovich was a considerate partner in both concertos, at home with Glazunov and inspired by Mendelssohn.
If the Dukas was brilliant and the concertos were sweetly lyric, the opening work on the program was both. It was William Schuman's "Credendum," given an exhilarating performance in honor of the composer's 75th birthday. He was in the Concert Hall and received lengthy applause, earned not only by this superbly crafted work but by a long, dedicated life that has enhanced greatly the stature of American music.