Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eclipse Chamber Orchestra

Joseph Silverstein, the distinguished former concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and an experienced conductor, did a nice job of opening the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra's 15th anniversary season Sunday at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria. The ensemble, drawn from the National Symphony Orchestra, kept everything within a well-defined musical comfort zone, favoring time-tested masterworks over edgy contemporary fare.

Eclipse hung the program on the rondo, the popular 18th-century musical form that continually departs from and returns to an initial baseline theme.

A fine if not sizzling account of Schubert's Rondo in A for Violin and Strings, D. 438, began the concert with Silverstein as the deft violin soloist. Silverstein and the players warmed up in Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218, which was alternately dramatic and detailed.

Particularly in the finale (no shock here: a rondo), the reading never lost the forest for the trees and moved along at a good clip.

The unique find of the day was Stravinsky's Concerto in D, a propulsive string essay straight out of the composer's neoclassical period. Yet it took Haydn's Symphony No. 95 in C Minor to bring the afternoon in focus.

All those rondos, it turns out, were a buildup to the finale. Here, the rondo arrived at something of an apotheosis with beautifully intricate and strong themes going off in unexpected directions.

-- Daniel Ginsberg


Kem is a soft-spoken wisp of a man who specializes in sensitive love songs, but Lalah Hathaway, who opened for the singer at Constitution Hall on Sunday, said her family had reservations about her being on the same bill as the crooner. Hathaway shared that her uncle remarked of the concert, "She's doin' a show with Lil' Kim? I'm concerned for her safety!"

The diminutive plastic surgery enthusiast-rapper and the chilled-out, quiet-storm singer couldn't be more different, but they do have something in common aside from similar names: jail time. Kem discussed his past struggles with addiction and brief stints in the slammer as his band played an instrumental loop of "I Can't Stop Loving You," the sentimental track of mushy keyboard chords and bar chimes from 2005's "Album II."

Downer? A little -- nothing changes the mood of a concert more quickly than hearing the headliner drop the term "crack house." Kem kept his confessions from becoming totally depressing, though, by focusing on his salvation and sobriety, and talking about how wonderful it has been to turn his life around.

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