There is a curious sort of substratum of musical works that have all the poetry and panache to be big hits but don't get programmed enough to reach a wide audience. Who knows why? Maybe it's just habit.
For this week's National Symphony Orchestra concerts, conductor Rafael Fru hbeck de Burgos resurrects two such compositions, and they make up the whole program -- Walter Piston's witty, winning suite of dances for his ballet "The Incredible Flutist," and the majestic Bruckner Third Symphony, which is the first of his monolithic symphonic creations in which the Wagnerian scale of his ambitions and the quality of his material come together.
In character, the works share little except for their relative obscurity and the fact that each is orchestrated masterfully. Last night's performances, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, were finely finished.
It is hard to put the lengthy Bruckner on a program without its dominating the evening. The symphony follows the formula that the composer would use in each of the six symphonies to come (except that the unfinished Ninth has no fourth movement). There is a long opening movement rich in stark juxtapositions of brass and strings that is cosmic in import. Then follows an almost prayerful slow movement, rapt and mysterious. Third comes a scherzo full of Austrian dance material (last night's performance of the simple La ndler that is the central trio had a wonderful lilt). And the finale marks a return to the opening grandeur.
This is difficult music to play, especially for the brass, and the NSO was well prepared. The interpretation was not as spiritual as some I have heard, but the scale was grand.
The right piece to pair with the Bruckner would be something lighter, and that is what the Piston is, with its crazy circus march, lovely waltz and the captivating tango.
The concert was shorter than usual, but the music was so fine that one didn't feel cheated.