Kennedy Center Chamber Players
It's probably not fair to hold year-long celebrations of any composer, no matter how great. Poor Mozart -- he's been on so many programs this year that concertgoers are starting to cringe at the sight of his name, muttering: "Oh -- you again."
But in their last concert of the season Sunday, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players put any Mozart fatigue to rest with the Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478. It's an astoundingly beautiful and complex work, and pianist Lambert Orkis, with Marissa Regni on violin, Daniel Foster on viola and David Hardy on cello, gave it an engaging, well-crafted reading. The work's stormy emotions felt a bit pallid, as if the musicians were unwilling to give offense, but it was a treat to hear nonetheless.
Clarinetist Loren Kitt gave a similarly thoughtful reading to Paul Hindemith's Clarinet Sonata in B-flat. It's a warm but dry work, full of wistfulness and restrained ardor, and Kitt played it with immaculate taste.
The quiet, however, was about to explode. Richard Strauss's youthful Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 13, was next on the program, and Nurit Bar-Josef -- the National Symphony Orchestra's formidable concertmaster -- took the stage, decked out, Gypsylike, in fringes and sashes and glittering whatnots as far as the eye could see. And from the moment she put bow to strings, the entire Terrace Theater came alive.
Bar-Josef plays with white-hot ferocity, and she unleashed this exuberant work -- written when Strauss was not yet 20 -- like a thunderbolt. And what more could you wish for on a pleasant Sunday afternoon in June?
-- Stephen Brookes
American Youth Philharmonic
Talk about a two-for-one special: Two American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras brought top-notch end-of-season programs to George Mason University's Center for the Arts on Sunday.
The American Youth Symphonic Orchestra, formerly called the Junior Orchestra, had nothing junior in its program or its playing.
Conductor Carl J. Bianchi started with two encores: The Prelude to Act III of Wagner's "Lohengrin" was a field day for the trombones, and the Turkish March from Beethoven's "Ruins of Athens" was a showcase for the triangle.