The National Philharmonic brought another solidly played but unadventurous program to Strathmore on Saturday — favorites by Haydn and Mozart — that delighted the audience, particularly the many children scattered around who visibly recognized and reacted to the "surprise" second movement of Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony. The Philharmonic's admirable policy of admitting children free (would that more performing organizations did this) gives kids a jump-start on enjoying the world of classical music, but I wish that the orchestra, which has matured over the past decade, would occasionally challenge its audience, particularly the children, (and its players) with some music written in the past 100 years. Next month it will play the "Strathmore Overture," the last piece Andreas Makris wrote before he died in 2005, but, looking over the season, that's about it.
Cellist Zuill Bailey offered a strangely uneven solo performance in the Haydn D Major Cello Concerto No. 2. He could float long melodies out over the orchestra with ease but struggled with fast chases up the keyboard that too often missed his target and tended to end harshly instead of with the light harmonics that might have been more satisfying. Bailey came back with an encore, however, that almost made up for the Haydn — a lovely, relaxed and thoughtful reading of the Prelude to the Bach unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1.
The orchestra was in good shape, well balanced and alert. Conductor Piotr Gajewski presided over a sympathetic ensemble with Bailey in the concerto and an elegantly shaped and graceful performance of the Mozart "Prague" Symphony No. 38 to end the evening.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.