Three young conductors made very favorable impressions in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center last night. And with dozens of orchestra managers in the audience, there's no question they impressed the right people.
Not that Kenneth Kiesler, George Manahan or Kirk Trevor is looking for a job. All three have conducting assignments elsewhere and are hopefully happy with them. But last night's concert, part of a joint program of the NSO and the American Symphony Orchestra League, was designed to showcase the talents of conductors who, despite their youth, have already had a significant impact on the orchestras they conduct and the communities they serve.
It was a showcase with a competitive edge.
First onstage was Kiesler, who led the NSO in a steadfast if not overly ambitious performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92.
Kiesler has a good eye for detail and a solid conducting technique. Despite attention-grabbing tempos (he took everything a little fast), he was at his best in the slower second movement, where sensitive dovetailing in the fugal section made for an exquisite performance.
Manahan was next, conducting Stravinsky's Suite from "Petrouchka." Like Kiesler, Manahan was good at detail work and further blessed with a remarkably light and fluid baton technique. Everything he touched had verve, and the NSO was simply outstanding both within instrumental sections and in ensemble.
Kirk Trevor's direction of Strauss's Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier" closed the program. One would be hard pressed to remember a time when the NSO played fortissimos with such force or the undulating lines of this piece with such grace. But here, as throughout the program, the NSO played its heart out for audience and conductor alike.