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-- Cecelia Porter
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Two quintessential works plus one nonessential one added up to a National Philharmonic Orchestra concert of considerable charm Saturday night at the Music Center at Strathmore. This was music of three intertwined lives: Haydn's, Mozart's and Antonio Salieri's.
Haydn's Symphony No. 88 encapsulates his mature style perfectly: poise and balance, unfailing good humor, dips into lyricism, surprising silences, striking contrasts of loud and soft, and a peppy mono-thematic finale. With fewer than 40 players, the orchestra is the right size for this piece, and it played enthusiastically under Music Director Piotr Gajewski. In the Largo, Gajewski stepped over the fine line between expansive and plodding. But the festive, rustic Minuet -- no court dance here! -- was brightly bouncy, and the Finale percolated along merrily.
Mozart was at his peak in his final symphony, No. 41 ("Jupiter"). He and Haydn respected and borrowed from each other: The famous fugal theme of this work's finale had been used by Haydn in his Symphony No. 13. The orchestra played this masterpiece with precision, enthusiasm and fine balance.
Played between the great works was the far lesser Piano Concerto No. 1 by Salieri, Mozart's colleague and sometime rival (though not the bitter one of popular imagination). Written in stile galant, the concerto tosses themes back and forth with minimal piano-orchestra interplay. Pianist Philip Hosford gave the work its full due, and the Larghetto's pretty pizzicato strings were charming. Gajewksi and Hosford's well-intentioned but overlong introductions to the works proved that they should spend more time making music, which they do so skillfully.
-- Mark J. Estren