The National Symphony Chamber Orchestra's concert at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall was a rather stodgy affair last night. On paper, the music looked sprightly enough. Haydn's Symphony No. 96, a Mozart Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn's cheery "Italian Symphony" and a Rossini Overture are all lighthearted and bouncy pieces. But somehow, they never got off the ground.
Joseph Silverstein, who has been the concertmaster of the Boston Symphony for a score of years, and assistant conductor for the last 10 of those, was on the podium.
His is a basic nuts-and-bolts style of conducting. It conveys tempi and attacks admirably, but in the heat of a Haydn vivace or a Mozart cantabile or a Mendelssohn presto, it simply hasn't the subtlety needed to spark the final degree of energy and clarity that makes music soar.
Timothy Baker was the solist in the Mozart. The young violinist, winner of the 1978 Bach Competition, has a small, silvery tone that produced an accurate account of the concerto, but that was about all. There was little evident sense of pleasure in the musical line, or of interest in the interplay between solo and tutti in the performance.