Conductor Heinz Wallberg made his long-awaited U.S. debut with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall last night, bringing to a program of well-worn favorites a refreshing authority and energy. He worked like a painter, urging the orchestra on with broad strokes, but he made his point with details and with the precision of his demands. The orchestra responded with incisive rhythmic clarity and with wonderfully balanced textures.
Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 unfolded with majestic deliberation, and when it did begin to move, it did so lightly and crisply.
Violinist Young Uck Kim played the Mendelssohn Concerto as one who has passed through all the adolescent stages of passion, virtuosity and display with the music and finally has made his peace with it. His performance wasn't full of seamless or ethereal effects. It was, however, lucid and respectful and searching and unusually intellectually honest.
It is good to hear this piece pared down to size and to have it done with such affection and common sense.
Wallberg closed the concert with a powerful reading of the Strauss tone poem "Thus Spake Zarathrustra" that preserved its vast arrogance while keeping the sprawling score under tight rein.