No orchestra has proprietary rights to the works of a composer. However, so strong a bond may develop between an ensemble and an artist that it becomes part of the orchestra's tradition. Such is the relationship between the Philadelphia Symphony and Rachmaninoff, who might have granted the symphony exclusive performing rights to his pieces 60-odd years ago had legal sharpies been able to work out a contract. Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra premiered Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 44, in 1936; Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia kept the legacy alive Monday night at the Kennedy Center with a reading rich in finely etched details.
Guest conductor Dutoit paced the work thoughtfully, and needed little coaxing to bring out the best each section had to offer. Exemplary string play, a longtime Philadelphia specialty, started from the top. Concertmaster Norman Carol's vital contributions in the middle movement and the finale's seamless canon -- passed from violins to violas to cellos -- numbered among the highlights. The winds' perfectly executed fadeout in the middle-movement coda showed impressive control and quietly touched off the fiery conclusion.
Dutoit and the Philadelphia began the evening on a lilting note with the Berlioz-orchestrated version of Weber's popular "Invitation to the Dance." Featured soloist Cho-Liang Lin then stepped into the spotlight for Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63. Lin proved technically adept and emotionally attuned throughout, and excelled as well in the steady singing tone he brought to the central movement. His only weakness was a periodic lack of volume, which seemed strange since the orchestra's reduced numbers spoke more quietly than in many of the "big" concertos.