As the National Symphony Orchestra closes out its Kennedy Center season this weekend — with a well-played, easy-listening program of Berlioz, Lalo and Tchaikovsky — music director Christoph Eschenbach and his NSO have taken full measure of each other by now, with the music-making having become more efficient and natural.
Most gratifying is the tempering of the winds and brass, which for far too long have routinely drowned out the NSO strings. Balances on Thursday night were better, even in the bombastic Fifth Symphony of Tchaikovsky. In familiar repertoire such as this, the orchestra plays with strength and confidence and can sound terrific.
Precision of ensemble remains a problem at times, as it has often been with this band. Eschenbach, with his fluttery gestures, doesn’t place a premium on this aspect, but he should. Occasionally an excellent guest conductor — Lorin Maazel, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos and Manfred Honeck come to mind — has shown that the NSO can achieve attacks and releases comparable to any of the country’s top orchestras.