It was a nearly-full house at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater on Saturday night, there to see the Northwest Sinfonietta perform with the second of its three new rotating artistic partners. David Lockington, a Brit with a long American conducting career, took the ensemble through Copland and Beethoven with professional detail and real commitment to the music, with pianist Gabriela Martinez adding feathery flair to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor.
After some academic but interesting verbal concert notes, Lockington swept into Copland’s “Music for the Theatre,” bringing out a warmly blended string texture (he began his music life as a professional cellist) while giving space to some skillful solos that anticipated the composer’s later, quintessentially American voice. Two stellar trumpets went from cutting to raunchy, while other movements featured incisive snare, bouncy E-flat clarinet, and a cor anglais as dreamy as a sunset over lullaby strings and xylophone stars.
Martinez picked up the energy in the Mozart, with a feathery-light touch and an attack as high as her stilettos. Sadly the lightness was drowned in some orchestral fortes, but Martinez — a young Venezuelan pianist who’s making it big in the competition and concert world — made up for volume with unexpected phrasings that lifted accurate passages out of the formulaic and into something romantic and new.
Lockington, meanwhile, headed into Beethoven’s 8th Symphony with an attention to musical detail that was refreshingly professional, rather than personality-based. Clearly a fan of this lesser-played jewel of a symphony, he swept through each movement with driving energy, enabling multi-measure pulses and a very Beethoven-esque enthusiasm from a responsive, committed orchestra. Toss-off motifs, a dancing second theme, and exquisite flute and oboe work marked the first movement; an 18th-century wind-band sound for the “metronome” second; a minuet both rustic and pompous; and a finale that galloped along with fine horn playing and excellent call-and-response from the strings to a joyful finish.
The Sinfonietta’s next concert is Nov. 13-15, directed by Eric Jacobsen.