The National Gallery Orchestra has long since proven itself one of D.C.'s most reliable musical charmers. But even by its own standards, the ensemble's performance Sunday night in the museum's East Garden Court was an exceptionally enjoyable evening.
Two popular 20th-century works opened and closed the concert. And in both Respighi's "The Birds" and Prokofiev's Second Suite from the ballet "Romeo and Juliet," conductor George Manos drew elegant, clean playing from the group, with particularly well played solo passages from the principal oboe and principal violin.
The centerpiece of the program was American composer Daniel Pinkham's Symphony No. 4. This is the first of five works the National Gallery has commissioned to mark its 50th birthday and received its world premiere in this concert. It's an appealing piece of music, divided into three compact, rhythmically decisive movements. Particularly engaging on first hearing was the third movement, labeled "Prancing," full of waltz rhythms and capped with a cheerful musical explosion. Despite an occasional sloppy entrance, the group played with a lot of power and commitment and received a warm acknowledgment from composer Pinkham, who was on hand to receive a well-deserved ovation of his own.