The McLean Symphony's concert Saturday night at the Alden Theater was billed as a symphonic potpourri, and by any definition, it qualified.
Aided by the NOVA Community Chorus and young violinist Nicolas Krauze, conductor Dingwall Fleary charted a path through folk, classic and to contemporary styles, and composers as diverse as Beethoven and Stravinsky.
Although the performances were far from perfect, the diversity was pleasing and some moments stood out.
One of them was 16-year-old Krauze's performance of Beethoven's Romance in F Major (Op. 50) for Violin and Orchestra. His is still a young talent, in need of more experience to draw more from the phrasing, but he played with sensitivity, clean lines and good intonation.
Another high point was the Suite of Old Latvian Dances by Andrejs Jansons, transcribed for full orchestra by Davyd Breeskin. Written in 1976, it is made up of five short, contrasting sections.
The woodwinds had the lion's share of interesting material (the original was for woodwind quintet and tambourine) and they played very well, with exceptionally fine oboe work from Kenneth Cameron in the opening "Ball Dance."
The chorus joined the orchestra to perform Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms." The difficulties in this subtle, complex and moving work stretched the capabilities of both groups, but the overall effects -- the strong rhythmic "Exaudi orationem meam," the intricate "Expectans" and the passionate and lyrical "Alleluia" -- were present.
The "Symphony of Psalms" is scored for an unusual combination of instruments: lots of winds, brass and percussion with two pianos and harp, but no violins or violas.
The pianos, cleanly played by Dianne Shupp and Gloria Terwilliger, were both of the new synthesizer variety, which provided an adequate sound, better than uprights but nowhere nearly as satisfying as a pair of grands.
The chorus sang with enthusiasm but with not much in the way of diction, and it was sometimes drowned out by the orchestra.
Regardless of problems, it was good to hear a work that is much too rarely played.
The chorus was also featured in "Chansons D'Amour" by composer Michael Blakeslee, who was at the performance.
Written in 1986, it is a set of four songs, each in a different language: Spanish, French, Chaucerian English and Yeats's English.
The songs were interesting, written in a dense, expressive style that combined Romantic phrasing with more modern dissonances.
Unlike the Stravinsky, this work seemed to avoid dynamic and textural extremes, which sometimes made it hard to stay involved. And the performance itself was quite uneven.
In the final "Faireste of Faire" (Chaucer), it became hard to discern whether the sense of confusion was intended or accidental.
Even a suite by Tchaikovsky qualified as unusual on this unusual program.
It was Suite No. 4 in G (Op. 61), subtitled "Mozartiana," which was written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opera "Don Giovanni" and sounded as close to Mozart as Tchaikovsky possibly could.
Mozart themes abound, from well-known Minuets and Variations, Leporello's "Catalogue Aria" and the transcendent "Ave Verum Corpus."
The performance was uneven, with some good work from the winds but weak strings.
Eve Adamopoulos also appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable during her extended violin solos in the final Theme and Variations.
The program closed with Bernstein's Overture to "Candide." Fleary led a fast, exciting, if a little sloppy, performance distinguished by some good playing in the percussion section.