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Fine Mozinsky from the NSO Players

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • January 29, 2008

Nurit Bar-Josef
It was Mozart's birthday this past weekend (he's 252, if you're keeping track), and though they hadn't planned it as such, more than a dozen virtuosos from the NSO gave him a rousing party at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Sunday night. In fact, it was really more of a tribute to the classical ideal itself -- the precisely calibrated balance of idea, expression and structure that Mozart brought to perfection. And as if to make the point, the players paired Mozart with works by that progenitor and high priest of 20th-century neoclassicism, Igor Stravinsky.

It was an intriguing idea, and illustrated once again that when you catch the NSO players in chamber settings, they're usually up to something remarkable. The evening opened with Mozart's Sonata in G, K. 379, played by the orchestra's concertmaster, Nurit Bar-Josef, and pianist Lambert Orkis. These sonatas are sometimes dismissed as lesser works, but there's always a lot of "there" there when Bar-Josef picks up her fiddle; from the stormy Allegro to the infinitely shaded pizzicatos of the final variations, she played it with a slow-burning intensity that was never less than riveting.

Stravinsky's wildly colorful "Histoire du Soldat" Suite followed, with clarinetist Loren Kitt joining the fray. It's a rambunctious piece -- proof that the term "neoclassical" has little to do with minuets and powdered wigs -- and Kitt and Bar-Josef tore into it with satisfying bite. More Stravinsky followed, but his Octet for Winds (with its Haydn-inspired opening and variations that include everything from a cancan to a fugue) was marred, unfortunately, by overly enthusiastic brass players; the winds were often blown away.

But the evening closed with a sublime -- there is no other word -- account of Mozart's Serenade for Winds in C Minor, K. 388. Full of floating beauty and delicately nuanced pathos, it's a paragon of the classical ideal: mysteries wrapped not in enigmas but in utter transparency and grace.

Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 09:37PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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