For its annual New Year's celebration the National Gallery Orchestra last night served up a Viennese treat. Choosing his ingredients with care, conductor Richard Bales concocted a delectable program, delightful and satisfying without being overly rich.
A crisp performance of Mozart's Overture to "The Impresario" started the evening off on a festive note and led quite naturally into Schubert's Second Symphony, with its Mozartean echoes. Despite youthful bows to the past, Schubert speaks in the symphony with an appealing and individual voice. The decorative lines in the second movement variations, played with particular grace by the strings, could have been written by no one else. Oboist Donald Heffner contributed a lovely solo in that same movement.
In the second half of the program Bales turned to the lighthearted grace of the Strausses. The rapid pace and snappy sound of Josef's "The Jockey" polka contrasted with the tender melodies and courtly style of Johann Jr.'s "A Woman's Heart" mazurka. And to end, what else, but Johann Jr's. "On the Beautiful Danube" waltz, whose infectious rhythms set the audience -- younb and old -- swaying as always.
A nice touch in the encores, Bales brought in the rest of the Strauss family, playing brother Eduard's "Clear Track" polka and then father Johann's "Redetzky March."