It was just about a year ago, at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium, that the New World Players completed its first full season. Under the direction of Stephen Robert Kleiman, the chamber orchestra had made a strong impression for its imaginative programming and for its artistic merit.
Last night's performance in the same hall brought the orchestra's second season to an end. Again, the program was an unusually interesting one, less adventurous than the contemporary fare of a year ago, but varied and skillfully selected. The performances, however, did not begin to live up to the promise of that first season. The problems that were immediately evident in the opening Schubert Symphony No. 5 remained an irritation throughout the evening: strings that were out of tune and unfocused, a lack of sense of ensemble, and rhythmic flabbiness that at times bordered on carelessness.
The best music-making of the evening came in the Copland Clarinet Concerto where soloist Stephen Bates found a deliciously deliberate tempo for the rondo theme. He managed this even against a backdrop of wispy strings andsome uncertainty on the podium during tempo changes.
The Stravinsky Octet for Winds brought with it a welcome rhythmic intergity and some of the humor that had helped make last year's efforts such a delight.
The rest was best forgotten: a performance of the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony that had no flow and, seemingly, nowhere to go, and the Schubert, unsubtle and almost entirely without grace.