The Handel Festival Orchestra was at its best Saturday night at the Terrace Theater. It was a night of Torelli, Bach, Haydn and, of course, Handel. And it was also a night of so many beautiful details that the total absence of a musical point of view hardly mattered. After seven years the orchestra has developed into an extremely fine group with often exquisite solo work. What it lacks is the ensemble polish and direction that a great conductor might inspire.
Thread after lovely thread shone without ever being woven into a whole cloth. The honor of playing the first organ concerto ever in the Terrace Theater fell to J. Reilly Lewis with Handel's Concerto No. 4 in F Major. The modest registering was handled with delicacy and intelligence, and while the concerto's four movements seemed more like shapeless rambles, Lewis' phrasing was a model of Handelian charm. Handel's Concerto Grosso in C Major offered the endless pleasures of violinists Jody Gatwood and Stanley Curtis, and cellist Evelyn Elsing, as well as some lovely orchestral textures.
In Bach's Cantata No. 51, "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen," soprano Linda Mabbs sang with enthusiasm and accuracy. The concert closed in C Major with Haydn's "Le Midi" Symphony No. 7. Stephen Simon conducted.