A photo caption in the July 10 Style section identified Swedish pianist Per Tengstrand as Emil de Cou, associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Beethoven wouldn't have been surprised to see his "Wellington's Victory" included on a program of his "greatest hits." Hugely successful at its premiere in 1813, the piece with its cannons, trumpets and drums appealed to a public immersed in the war between England and France. Later, however, the piece was deservedly relegated to obscurity, so its appearance on the National Symphony Orchestra's program at Wolf Trap on Saturday must have been part nod to history and part good-natured summer fun.
Associate Conductor Emil de Cou highlighted the tongue-in-cheek aspects of its performance of "Victory" with an "English" duo of trumpet and drum on one side of the stage trying to outplay a similar "French" duo on the other side, flanked by "soldiers" dressed in what might have been Napoleonic-period uniforms.
The rest of the evening was devoted to snatches of more obvious Beethoven works: the first movements of the Fifth Symphony and the Piano Concerto No. 5 ("The Emperor"); the "Egmont" Overture; and the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony.
Pianist Per Tengstrand's reading of the concerto emphasized well the piece's lyricism. His tempo, particularly at the beginning, was slow, so it took a while for the music's momentum to gear up. The finale of the Ninth felt less like what the program describes as the "eventual blaze of glory" after "a musical journey from darkness," and more like a rather loud cantata with a very peculiar instrumental introduction. Soprano Elza van den Heever, mezzo Leslie Mutchler, tenor Richard Cox and bass Obed Ure?a were not well served by what sounded like uneven amplification, but handled their roles capably, and Donald McCullough's Master Chorale of Washington kept pace with de Cou's brisk tempos with considerable energy and assurance.
-- Joan Reinthaler
NSO and Leonard Nimoy
Gustav Holst grew to hate his symphonic poem "The Planets," for its fame threw his other compositions into near-total eclipse. On Friday night at Wolf Trap, Leonard Nimoy handled his own most renowned creation far more graciously.
The National Symphony Orchestra inaugurated its summer pops season with "To Boldly Go . . . ," a program that culminated with a performance of Holst's seven-part suite about the solar system, resequenced on this occasion to close not with mystical "Neptune" but jolly "Jupiter." Although many concertgoers were drawn by the promise of celestial music unfolding under the sky, just about everybody -- particularly if attired in Starfleet regalia -- was thrilled to witness Mr. Spock.
Puckishly flashing the split-fingered Vulcan salute, Nimoy quickly settled into his role as narrator, introducing each movement with an amiable blend of planetary trivia and "Star Trek"-inspired corn. As the NSO played, images from NASA unspooled above the stage and lawn of the Filene Center.
Screens were dark the first half of the evening. An audience perhaps better versed in John Williams than in Holst was encouraged to listen anew to familiar soundtrack selections from sci-fi and fantasy classics such as "Superman" and "The Bride of Frankenstein." Conductor Emil de Cou delivered his brisk remarks with the charm and wit of a seasoned comic.
But the standing ovation that capped the night was less a measure of the orchestra's performance (or even Nimoy's own) than a lifetime achievement award for an actor whose most popular character has, for nearly 40 years, inspired people to imagine worlds better than the one into which they were born.
-- Glenn Dixon
'Celebrating the Tudor Legacy'
The 350th anniversary of the death of English composer Thomas Tomkins has not sparked quite the same flood of concerts this year as the large-number birth anniversaries of Mozart and Shostakovich. It did, however, inspire tenor Philip Cave, founder and director of the early-music vocal ensemble Magnificat, to organize a workshop called "Celebrating the Tudor Legacy," which ran Wednesday through Sunday and explored the works of Tomkins and his contemporaries. At St. Matthew's Cathedral on Friday night, Cave led performances of Tomkins's music that revealed a composer who chose expressive texts and used imaginative effects to highlight their emotions.