The National Chamber Orchestra is a young group, full of enthusiasm. It sparkles, but that is nearly all it does: Conductor Piotr Gajewski's thralldom to the "bright attack" and clockwork timing renders a correct but uninteresting performance.
The orchestra opened its concert at Montgomery College Saturday night with Corelli's familiar Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 8. The violins were a bit edgy on their entrances, though the balance among the strings was good. The cellos did a thoroughly respectable job with the continuo part. The Adagio sections were pleasant but lacked the pastoral holiness that makes this concerto a "Christmas Concerto." Dynamic contrast was largely missing throughout.
In J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 in E, soloist Jody Gatwood's playing was passable but uninspired, especially in the opening of the Adagio. This famous crescendo should have an "out of the clouds" effect; instead, it was barely audible. The chordal repetition in the orchestra's opening Allegro was tiresome, building into nothing, and its interpretation of the Adagio was moribund rather than profound. Gatwood did show some oomph in the final Allegro Assai.
The third selection, Elgar's Serenade for Strings, Op. 20, was the most enjoyable. Gajewski displayed more lift and movement in the Allegro Piacevole, and the ensemble played a truly rhapsodic Larghetto, with lovely choral harmonies.
The concluding Mozart Divertimento in D, K. 136, once again fell victim to "bright attacks," often strident in the upper strings. The National Chamber Orchestra has the necessary talent; it needs to develop its musicality and style. The concert will be repeated Friday.