Summer String Institute

This is the second year that conductor Piotr Gajewski and his National Chamber Orchestra have run a week-long Summer String Institute for players of high school age. Fifty local music students admitted on the recommendations of their teachers are given the opportunity to prepare an orchestra program and some chamber music under the guidance of NCO members. Friday night's concert at Rockville's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater showcased what they have accomplished.

Gajewski chose the program well, a Mozart divertimento, the A Minor Bach Violin Concerto, the Grieg "Holberg" Suite and Britten's "Simple Symphony." Everything on it was a stretch but within the reach of kids whose techniques are still works in progress but who have good musical instincts and have been well coached.

What they did best was make sense of the music. The Mozart sounded like Mozart, the Bach sounded like Bach, and lines emerged with purpose and were shaped knowledgeably. The ensemble was well balanced and, if some sections played with more poise than others, most of the time those differences were not glaring.

Predictably, it was details that needed the most work, and details are not in the job description of most 16-year-olds. There was ambiguity in the rhythmic pattern of the Bach second movement (was it really a 16th note/two 32nd note pattern or was it a triplet?), and the Playful Pizzicato movement of the Britten symphony was, perhaps, more playful than intended.

The "Holberg" Suite gave each section a chance to shine, and the concert mistress did a smashing job as soloist in the final movement's raucous dance.

Violinist Olga Yanovich, one of the institute's mentors, was a fine soloist in the Bach.

Violinist Hilary Hahn

Karl Goldmark's Violin Concerto is one of the more demanding pieces in the romantic-era repertoire, and Hilary Hahn shimmered through it Saturday night at Broad Run High School in Ashburn. From the measured martial opening to the showy third movement, the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra kept up with her, but just barely, as she swept through the virtuoso passages and a difficult cadenza with aplomb.

The 19-year-old violinist, who has been playing professionally with orchestras in the United States and abroad since she was 10, is a force to be reckoned with. Her technique is polished and athletic, clean and brisk. One wants her to stretch for deeper emotional nuance, something that surely will come with time. The Goldmark concerto and the Allegro from Bach's Sonata No. 2, which Hahn played as an encore, showcased her technical command rather than her passion.

After an extended intermission, the Loudoun Symphony, led by Mark Allen McCoy, presented Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88. The wind section lacked a few voices--and on the crowded high school stage it would be difficult to squeeze them in--but the flutes and oboes distinguished themselves, especially in the plaintive Orientalist melodies in the second movement, as did the cellos in the fourth. Because of the far-from-ideal acoustical environment--tile walls, cement floors, loud air conditioner--the orchestra produced a shallow, tinny tone, which is a shame. Its musicians deserve better.