If Saturday’s Tacoma concert was a taste of the rest of the Northwest Sinfonietta’s season, then audiences are in for a treat. It was a sophisticated, thoughtful, yet ultimately passionate treat. To a well-constructed program of Stravinsky, Schumann and double violin concertos by Bach and Ysaÿe, conductor David Lockington brought first precision, then passion, guiding a responsive orchestra and helping the co-concertmaster soloists Brittany Boulding and Denise Dillenbeck shine.
Lockington didn’t choose an easy program. The British-American conductor, now in his second year as one of the Sinfonietta’s three artistic partners, began with Stravinsky’s evocative chamber concerto “Dumbarton Oaks” — an extremely difficult piece to hold together, with highly exposed parts. There were a few edgy moments in the swiftly-changing meters, but mostly the three violins, three violas, two cellos, two basses and single woodwinds dovetailed neatly under Lockington’s ultra-precise beat, with light texture and luminous tone. Though the horns were weak, the bassoon gave a witty staccato, and the strings a chiffy articulation that perfectly suited this piece that begins like a Copland countryside and soon dives into complexities.
Boulding and Dillenbeck then took the solo spotlight, amicable rather than diva-ish. Perfectly unified in lyrical phrasing, they soared through Ysaÿe’s double concerto “Amitié” with a tone that grew more golden (but which could have been stronger). Lush harmonies, swift turns, perfect handoffs — the one big thing missing was a sense of rubato, as Lockington still seemed in precise Stravinsky-mode.
Following that was Bach’s famous double violin concerto, and here came the only real worry of the evening as the orchestra, Lockington and the soloists had three different ideas of the opening tempo. Luckily nothing fell apart, but an extra rehearsal was clearly needed. After things settled, Boulding (with a darker tone) and Dillenbeck (more silvery) danced and shone their way through the arpeggios and suspensions. And while the accompanying harpsichord was continuously late and heavy, and solo cello rather too lugubrious, guest principal bass Todd Gowers gave a real musicality to the continuo line.
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After intermission came Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony No. 3. Here Lockington brought out the big gestures and emotions, eliciting long phrases and dynamic details that brought the classical forms to life. (If only that passion had been there for the Ysaÿe.) Here the stars were the horns — fine calls in the first movement and that solo moment in the fifth that was just thrilling. Rustic second-beats in the country dance, solemn trombones ushering in the funereal fourth movement and a big overall resonance carried this symphony into an almost Elgar-like dimension, sweeping and nostalgic and finally triumphant with brass. An intelligent program exploring post-classical, pre-classical and neo-classical, played with finesse and style — exactly what the Sinfonietta is striving to achieve.
The Northwest Sinfonietta’s next concert is “Barber and Mozart” Nov. 11-13. northwestsinfonietta.org.