Virginia Chamber Orchestra, Off to a Fine Start

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra opened its 37th season on Sunday before a packed and friendly audience at the Ernst Cultural Center of Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. The music was familiar and friendly, too, although not without melancholy: Conductor Luis Haza opened with an episodic but emotionally charged rendition of Sibelius's "Valse Triste."

Steven Hendrickson, principal trumpet of the National Symphony Orchestra, was featured in Hummel's splendidly superficial Trumpet Concerto, transposed from its original E Major to E-flat. Haza and the orchestra delivered bright, strongly rhythmic accompaniment as Hendrickson tossed off most of the turns and trills in the first movement with such verve that it was easy to forgive him a wrong note or two. The Andante was a pleasant interlude, featuring the trumpet's warm side. And Hendrickson made the finale a delight, enthusiastically handling its difficult leaps and ornamentation and contrasts between staccato and legato. The only oddity was taking the middle of the movement at a slower tempo than the bouncy start and brilliant finish.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 concluded the program by showcasing the energy and fine balance of the entire ensemble. There is plenty of power in this symphony, which Beethoven wrote after the "Eroica," but there is also considerable delicacy. Haza skillfully brought out the bassoon line in the first movement, the middle voices in the second and the rhythmic vitality of the third. And the orchestra excelled in the finale's striking contrast of strong chords and lighter, scurrying passages -- proffering top-notch and genuinely cooperative musicmaking.

-- Mark J. Estren

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