The Northern Sinfonia, Friday night at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, presented a program so persistently light and sugary one might have called it "Mostly Marzipan."
The chamber orchestra began with a tired rendition of the Nocturne from Mendelssohn's incidental music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Op. 61. It was an unfelicitous opening choice, with Peter Francomb doing a serviceable if somewhat anemic job in the horn solo. In the Puckish Scherzo, the violins picked up steam and the spirited flute playing of David Haslam seemed to get the Sinfonia rolling, but it sank into a romantic bog with Schumann's Introduction and Allegro Appassionato in G Major, Op. 92. Conductor Jean-Bernard Pommier played the piano solo; his indisputable virtuosity would have been better served in something more substantial.
After intermission came Faure's "Ballade" for piano and orchestra, another bagatelle. Pommier played this beautifully; the strings, however, were none too fascinating. The interchanging parts among winds, strings and piano in the Allegro were clean and balanced.
The last piece, Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 ("Italian"), opened brightly with its exhilarating Allegro Vivace. The strings sizzled in the final Saltarello movement, showing that small orchestras can have tightly wired excitement.