A fine mix of serious and not-so-serious music marked the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra's Saturday night concert at the George Mason University Center for the Arts. The program, conducted by the ensemble's music director, William Hudson, included selections ranging from late Beethoven to Kurt Weill, as well as particularly winning performances of American composer Michael Colgrass's "As Quiet as ...," and Tchaikovsky's beloved Fifth Symphony.
The Colgrass piece dates from 1966 and draws the titles for each of its seven sections from fourth-graders' responses to the simile "as quiet as ..." Some of the answers -- "... As an Ant Walking" or "... As a Leaf Turning Colors," for example -- inspired Colgrass to give a brief emotional picture of these effects. In another part, "... As Time Passing," Colgrass takes a scrap of a Beethoven Sonatina and weaves it through musical styles from Haydn to Count Basie, making for a particularly whimsical musical clock. The overall effect is one of gentleness and longing, and the players caught the quiet mood of this beautiful music perfectly, meeting its untraditional technical demands with ease.
Jerome Barry's pleasant renditions of six theater songs by Kurt Weill provided a more conventional close to the first half of the program. And Hudson filled out the evening with a well-proportioned, rhythmically decisive performance of the Tchaikovsky. The playing did lack some of the impulsive character called for in this music. But the familiar melodies were always well turned, and several players provided exceptionally fine solo work in the Andante second movement.