Last night the National Gallery Orchestra's feast of American music continued with a duo of world premieres. Both works were quite successful.
Most handsome was Richard Franco's Concerto Lirico No. 5 for guitar and Chamber orchestra. Unassuming and attractive, the concerto is built along traditional tonal and rhythmic lines, with memories of Bernard Herrmann scattered here and there. A waddling, low beat precedes the entrance of the guitar, and the simple solo melodies are mirrored with impish charm by the flute and pizzicato violins. An air of expectation leads only to a soft, surprising close, as the rise and fall of the cellos open the second movement with a sevennote motif that is singable indeed. This movement's lovely melodies develop into a powerful orchestral swell from which the guitar emerges with a shy, elusive song. The third and final movement contains the best integration of guitar and orchestra, with sounds woven in the shape of a sweet smile.
The soloist was Jeffrey Van, making his Washinton debut. Van, no stranger to the squeek, gave a sensitive performance of this concerto which really requires more style than virtuosity. He also wrote the cadenzas, an indication of the traditional nature of the concerto.The first was not memorable, but the third-movement cadenza had the serene intensity of Ralph Towner's quieter works.
A second premiere was more modest in scope, and very attractive. Genevieve Davisson Fritter composed her Poem for Flute and Chamber Orchestra for her daughter Priscilla Fritter, who performed the work here. It is a rhapsody in a single movement, beginning with a lonely flute line written under the shadow of Debussy's Faun. After that there are several other echoes, notably of Henze's "L'Usignolo," yet the eclecticism was convincing and this Poem made beautiful sense. Priscilla Fritter's flute displayed clarity and commitment.
The concert opened with William Bergsma's tone poem "Serenade to Await the Moon," a lush piece of kitsch which premiered at the Gallery 11 years ago. It remains a showpiece for the string section, which was in fine shape. At the close there was the Memorial Day Suite by Kapellmeister Richard Bales.