Inaugurating a new piano recital series sponsored by the National Chamber Orchestra Saturday at Rockville's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Brian Ganz played like a kid delighted to discover what sounds he can make hammering away at a box of wood.

Ganz, who teaches at St. Mary's College and Catholic University, did not limit his expressiveness to his fingertips. Performing Beethoven's Sonata No. 30, Ganz "conducted" himself with his left hand, nodded and squinted and hunched his shoulders, and smiled broadly during a rapid-fire Allegro variation toward the close of the composition.

He made playful passages of the Beethoven that are normally essayed in a more stately fashion and, in Ravel's Sonatine, left you with an impression of speed rather than the sense of languor sometimes associated with the piece. Yet for all of his physical restlessness, Ganz's playing was bright and delicate, each note clearly articulated.

Ravel's "Jeux d'eau" is, as its title suggests, a playful evocation of running water, and here Ganz was at his bubbliest. Like water itself, the quick chords of the piece cover up some dark passages, and Ganz successfully suggested the melancholy that lay beneath the busy surface.

Ganz's exuberant yet intelligent style was particularly well suited to Chopin's 24 Preludes, which bounce in mood and sound quality from bluesy to fluttery, from somber to mad-scientist agitated.