The Handel Festival Orchestra might want to consider shortening its name to the Festival Orchestra. Aside from a brisk Overture to "Agrippina" in an imaginative program Thursday night at the Terrace Theater, the Handel was nonexistent, and the only other full-fledged baroque piece was a Bach encore.
This chamber orchestra boldly opens the door to music from other periods, even centuries. The adagio movement of Ezra Laderman's 1975 creation "Celestial Bodies," for flute and string orchestra, may have been a stylistic non sequitur, but both strings and soloist Susan Deaver took immediately to the composer's blend of Debussy and minimalism. Conductor Stephen Simon jokingly warned the audience that the work lasts 7 1/2 minutes. It seemed closer to four, and not a clock watcher could be spotted.
Simon, who knows exactly what he wants and isn't the least bit bashful about drawing it out of the players, transfused his own energy into William Boyce's overture-length Symphony No. 4 and Mozart's first violin concerto, with Sung-Ju Lee in the spotlight role. Both Simon and the orchestra outdid themselves in the "Symphonie Periodique" No. 6 by Ignace Pleyel, a Mozart contemporary today remembered more for the pianos he manufactured than for the colorful works bearing his name.