National Chamber Orchestra There was a strong emphasis on local musicians in Friday night's National Chamber Orchestra program at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville. The soloist was violinist Jody Gatwood, one of Washington's finest freelance musicians, and a highlight of the program was the Concerto for Violin and Strings by Andreas Makris, a Washington composer and retired National Symphony Orchestra violinist.

The program was entrusted entirely to the orchestra's string section, with the exception of a continuo harpsichord in Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1, which began the evening. Gatwood, the orchestra's concertmaster, soloed brilliantly and elegantly in both the Bach and the Makris concertos. Associate Concertmaster Claudia Chudacoff took the concertmaster position flawlessly.

The Makris concerto was composed in 1996 for Gatwood and the NCO, and they played it with a proud, easy awareness of their proprietary rights. Sharing the program with two established masterpieces, the Bach concerto and Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, it proved fully worthy of such distinguished company. In an evening devoted to the exploration of string textures and expressive possibilities, it did the most intrepid exploring.

The first movement of Makris's concerto introduces motifs prominent in all four of its movements: contrast of textures and dialogue between soloist and orchestra in a style sometimes reminiscent of late Beethoven. Frenzied virtuosity (solo and ensemble), lilting melody and deeply expressive episodes made one wonder why this composer is not heard more often in his home town. The Bach and Tchaikovsky were played with exemplary balance and light, transparent textures.

-- Joseph McLellan

Raphael Padron and Troy King The third installment of the John E. Marlow Guitar Series at Bethesda's Westmoreland Congregational Church on Saturday was a double bill: Raphael Padron and Troy King. Both guitarists share an assured command of the classical guitar's technical capabilities, matched with a genial stage presence that easily won over the audience of about 300. Both Padron and King focused on music from the first two-thirds of the 20th century, idealizing all things Iberian in works of Moreno Torroba, Asencio, Brouwer, Tarrega, Morel and Lauro.

Yet this event offered a stark contrast to the numerous recitals at Washington's Lisner Auditorium given by that father of all guitarists, Andres Segovia, who died at age 94 in 1987. In no way amped, his artistry and elegant classical repertoire resounded distinctly throughout the concert hall. Saturday's placid retro-music has undeniable therapeutic value as comfort fare. But a music series that promises to deliver the "finest" should do so, especially one publicized to bring "diversity" to the public perception of guitar literature.

-- Cecelia Porter Evensong Concert at St. Paul's A glorious evensong concert at St. Paul's Parish on Friday offered true sanctuary from K Street's rush hour clamor and a rare chance to be transported along the timeless byways of Olivier Messiaen's musical mysticism. The church's Romanesque ambiance was perfect for "La Nativite{acute} du Seigneur" (1935), the longtime Parisian composer's nine-part organ meditation on the Incarnation portion of the Christmas. Organist Jeffrey Smith imaginatively plumbed the resources of his U.S.-made Schoenstein instrument, equipped with four keyboards and a plenitude of stops offering infinite possibilities for sonic colors: from the bell-like peeping of the highest audible overtones to the rumbling depths of 32-foot pipes, their throbbing more felt than heard. All in all, the organ as synthesizer.

The composer boiled down his musical style to many influences: oscillating waves of melody drawn from chant; asymmetrically fluctuating time values echoing those of ancient Greek poetry, Hindu ragas, the pulsing subtleties of Debussy's music, and the cellular rhythms of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." For each stage of the musical narrative, Ann Martin read eloquently from C.S. Lewis, Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and others. A choir of four intoned rapturous Gregorian Nativity chants, giving voice to the long-ago of Christianity.

-- Cecelia Porter