Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Richard Bales is a conductor who knows himself very well. Sunday night after intermission in the opening concert of this year's National Gallery season, he introduced a short piece he had composed just a week ago - "In Memory of Leopold Stokowski," who died earlier this month.
"He was the last of the golden age of great romantic conductors," Bales said, and went on to comment that he himself had been profoundly influenced by Stokowski. Nothing could have exemplified this influence more clearly than the program that Bales and the National Gallery Orchestra presented.
It was a 20th-century program, selected with an eye (or an ear) to both variety and appeal. But above all, it was romantic.
It opened with the Shostakovitch Chamber Symphony, an introspective, sonorous five-movement work that dwells on gloomy and pessimistic sounding musical ideas. There are hints of the dies iae chant and a rhapsodic section for solo cello.
It closed with Ernst Toch's marvelous "The Chinese Flute" for orchestra with soprano and flute solo, a work whose romantic exoticisms manage to stay on the honest side of taste, technical tricks and stylisitc integrity. Soprano Martha Steiger and flutist William Montgomery collaborated with artistic distinction in this performance.
In between, there was a concerto for brass quintet, percussion and strings, composed for this concert by Randall E. Faust, who is on the faculty of Shenandoah College and its Conservatory of Music. The concerto has an engaging energy and a nice directness about it. Although its three movements are subtitled "Rhythms", "Textures" and "Intersecting Lines," (a fugue), noen of these features was particularly imaginative, although they were pronounced. The first movement rhythms were surprisingly predictable, the second movement textures unrelentingly dense, and the final figure exciting but academic.
Bales' brief musical tribute to Stokowski was lovely and fittingly unresolved.
The orchestra sounded solid and assured.