The virtuoso baton of Rafael Fru hbeck de Burgos has seldom led a more varied or charming program than the one he conducted last night at the Kennedy Center. From the slow, gentle woodwind melody that opens Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess" to the final crashing, dissonant chords and savage motor rhythms of Barto'k's suite from "The Miraculous Mandarin," the concert explored in opulent variety the colors available to a 20th-century orchestra.
The effect was splendid -- as it always is when Fruhbeck brings along the Philadelphia Orchestra to follow his baton. The playing was at that level where one is actually relieved to hear an isolated bad note lurching out from the winds -- reassuring evidence that this was a live concert with a real, flesh-and-blood orchestra on stage.
The novelty of the evening was Boris Blacher's Concertante Musik, Op. 10 -- a "first performance at these concerts," as the program noted, though the music is nearly 50 years old. Also played here for the first time by the Philadelphians was Ravel's "Alborada del gracioso," music enormously more familiar than Blacher's but, remarkably, no more attractive. The Concertante Musik is a bright, bouncy, winsome little work, cleverly designed to extract the maximum effect from its slight but attractive thematic material. It is a fine showpiece, with motifs blithely tossed from one section of the orchestra to another. It is hard to understand why it has not become a standard pops item -- and sad to reflect that this was also its last performance "on these programs," since the Philadelphia Orchestra is about to abandon Washington, where it has been performing regularly for most of this century. Perhaps Fru hbeck, who fortunately remains a substantial part of Washington's musical life, will schedule it with the National Symphony.
If anything was missing in this concert, it was a touch of profundity. The closest the music came to that may have been in the slow movement of Edouard Lalo's gently lyric Cello Concerto in D, which featured the orchestra's principal cellist, William Stokking, as soloist. He sounded ideally suited to this music, with a tone that was not large but wonderfully refined and a technique that focused on perfect control of the instrument rather than bold virtuoso tricks.