The Virginia Chamber Orchestra, under Andrew Litton's baton, played a program of chamber orchestra favorites at the Barns of Wolf Trap Sunday night.
Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" are the sort of old reliable friends that are welcome on any program. Familiarity, however, invites comparisons and brings to mind other memorable performances, and in this company, Litton's reading of these pieces was remarkably pedestrian.
The Mozart serenade was proclaimed rather than sung by this orchestra, whose strength is in the gloss of its tone rather than in the bite of its precision. Litton bounced with engaging but inelegant ebullience through the first and last movements and made the concluding rondo sound like a march. The second movement, "Romance," was done with a good feeling of ensemble and pacing.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the violin soloist in the Vivaldi, brought to the ensemble a marvelous intensity and a sense of rhythmic drive. She has both the silken tone and the clear precision that this piece requires, and she led the orchestra with a sure sense of what she wanted. The orchestra was considerably more incisive in the quiet driving passages than in the noisy ones, where energy seemed to get the better of precision, but, surprisingly, the soft calm passages lacked resonance and focus.
A Handel concerto grosso in B flat, nicely and solemnly played, rounded out the program.