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Capturing Mozart's Sunny Spirit

There is intricate Mozart, dramatic Mozart and even bombastic Mozart (think Don Giovanni’s descent into hell), but the Mozart that Piotr Gajewski and his National Philharmonic — or a chamber-size subset thereof — brought to Strathmore on Saturday was Mozart at his sunniest, full of grace and youthful spirits. That the orchestra captured these spirits so happily was testimony to both Gajewski’s light touch and sense of line and to a string section that, for the most part, seemed to delight in scurrying around busily. Only the horns had a rather off-night.

The Symphony No. 29 in A went quite well, the Minuetto’s da capo repeat significantly cleaner, rhythmically, than the first time through, and the fiery ascending scale (known in the day as a “Manheim Rocket”) closer and closer to unison as its several iterations played out. The understated ending of the second-movement Andante was pulled off with masterful subtlety.

Violinist Nurit Bar-Josef, the National Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster and the evening’s soloist, offered a gorgeous reading of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5. Everything about her performance was carefully thought out, from the quickening velocity of each trill and the weighting of each ornament to the carefully scaffolded dynamics in the cadenzas, but what gave the performance its magic is that none of this sounded premeditated. Her quietly singing legato lines, unhurried florid passages and interplay with the orchestra were all spun out with warmth, grace and a sense of pleasurable discovery. Gajewski and his forces were fine collaborators here and managed comfortable balances.

The Dvorak Serenade for String Orchestra, a gently lush and romantic companion to the Mozart, closed out the evening with suitable gentility.

Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post
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