Leaving vocal soloists aside for a change, the Handel Festival Orchestra gave a chamber concert in the Terrace Theater Saturday evening. They also combined Handel with other Baroque composers and Mozart. The results proved, on the whole, successful, though a few problems arose as a result of the space and the musical direction.
Without question violinist Jody Gatwood provided the highlight of the program with his thrilling juxtaposition of sensitivity and virtuosity in Tartini's Concerto for Violin and Strings in G minor. To the work's considerable demands Gatwood brought a pure, singing tone, unfaltering grace and the requisite amount of fire, especially in the final movement. He also inspired a more expressive shaping of the string lines than conductor Stephen Simon managed to achieve in any other piece.
Simon's greatest assets remain his energy and enthusiasm. As in previous performances he gave clear signals and kept a strong pulse going. However, once things were in motion, he tended to do little to achieve more subtle effects. The music had a lively bounce but phrases frequently lacked polish. The opening Handel overture had some noticeably rough edges as well as a muddy sound. It may simply have contained too much brass and timpani for the small hall.