Camerata Nordica may hail from Sweden, but the chamber orchestra's Tuesday evening concert at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater pointed toward more cosmopolitan affiliations. While it did wonders in works of Scandinavian composers, the group brought an idiomatic sound to music from Britain, Germany and beyond. The Washington Performing Arts Society-sponsored performance showed that music speaks beyond questions of national affiliation to more universal sounds and emotions.
Swift tempos, minimal vibrato and -- most noticeably -- excellent ensemble went into a warm, sweeping and well-appointed reading of Handel's Concerto Grosso in G, Op. 6, No. 1, which spiritedly went through tender, adamant and more lyrical moods.
The orchestra's playing of the 17th-century composer Heinrich Biber's Sonata Jucunda in D was alive to the score's bright details and rich layers of sound, providing a glimpse of a composer far ahead of his time. The wonderful reading sounded like something out of the 20th-century avant-garde, at times presaging the atmospherics of Debussy and the bird-inspired sounds of Messiaen.
A brilliant rendition of Britten's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge," Op. 10, highlighted the then 23-year-old composer's stunning ability to manipulate tempo and texture to conjure up any musical style.
Camerata Nordica sounded full and fleet in Sibelius's Suite for Violin and String Orchestra, Op. 117, in which the group's leader and soloist Terje Tonneson infused equal doses of precision and songfulness. An elegant version of Grieg's "Holberg Suite," Op. 40, closed this memorable evening.
-- Daniel Ginsberg