The National Symphony Orchestra, led by Leslie B. Dunner, music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, swept through a program of familiar orchestral pieces Saturday evening at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, the final concert in the free "NSO in Your Neighborhood" series. Dunner previewed the evening's pace with Rossini's "William Tell" Overture, which caromed out of the instruments, delighting the many children in the audience who recognized this staple of cowboy film scoring.
Doppler's "Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise," Op. 26, followed. Soloist Julietta Curenton, recent winner of a slew of local student competitions, offered a warm vibrato flute managing the subtle transitions from alto melody lines to treble crescendos with the orchestra. By the third piece, Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 1, it was clear that the conductor was urging the orchestra at a stepped-up pace, though pushing the tempo during a hot summer concert before a family audience seems a gift, not an artistic error.
Dunner pulled an almost Latin nuance from the rolling violins with reeds arching over, the energy always pushing forward as a dance should. The intermission foregone because of the heat, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, pulsed forth. The third movement featured a sinuous blending of the string parts with the wind section rapidly flowing through, then the cellos crowded forward briskly before the trombone surprise. Owing to the dense air, the violin section sounded a tad off during the plucked passage.
The musicians, too, were victims of the pervasive humidity, for this vigorous, tension-filled symphony can leave an orchestra disheveled even inside the concert hall. It was touch and go whether Dunner could drive the musicians through the four movements before the humidity flagged them. Finishing in one hour flat, the entire concert was on fast forward, probably the right choice, given the climate.