National Symphony’s Kennedy Center return: Beethoven, Boyer, Hanson, Wilkins, Lang Lang—and health protocols

Posted on: September 24, 2021

The crowd on September 18 at the National Symphony Orchestra’s concert at the Kennedy Center, led by Thomas Wilkins and featuring pianist Lang Lang. Photo: Dan Chung

“It was the moment 2,278 people had waited more than a year for: a legit superstar, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, joining a complete orchestra in an actual concert hall with a real live audience. So what’s another half-hour or so?” writes Michael Andor Brodeur in Sunday’s (9/19) Washington Post. At the Kennedy Center on Saturday, long lines formed as “staff members rushed to check vaccine cards and photo IDs … scan tickets and apply wristbands—to every single attendee…. An all-hands mission broke out to accelerate the process. National Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Gary Ginstling hustled past holding a bouquet of purple wristbands…. The recruitment of the B squad worked, and within 15 minutes, a storm of enthusiastic applause greeted the appearance onstage of guest conductor Thomas Wilkins…. Onstage, the NSO sounded both full and hungry…. The orchestra launched right into ‘Balance of Power’—a world premiere [by] Peter Boyer…. [In] Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 [Lang Lang’s] agility was on display throughout…. [In] Howard Hanson’s second symphony … the symphony swelled and soared … a welcome salvo against the numbness that contemporary life seems to demand between disasters (of whatever era) and a sorely missed sound that was well worth the wait.”