NOI's National Festival Orchestra reviewed in DMV Classical.
By Andrew Lindemann Malone, DMV Classical
From the opening bars of Leopold Stokowski’s transcription of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for organ, it was clear: Leonard Slatkin had the National Orchestral Institute‘s National Festival Orchestra playing extremely well. As noted previously on this blog appliance, the NOI brings talented young musicians to the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center for a month of high-level instrumental tutelage, leading to four Saturdays of orchestral concerts and some other fun sprinkled throughout the month of June. In years past, the students came together to form the NOI Philharmonic, which is now called the National Festival Orchestra for some reason.
In years past, imperfect string ensemble has been a reliable telltale that they do not play together all the time. Under Slatkin’s baton, though, the lower strings united impressively to state the passacaglia theme, and more impressively they maintained their concentration as they played it over and over and over again until Stokowski’s transcription finally handed it to the brass. Especially in this transcription, the passacaglia and fugue burns slow, and Slatkin kept it on a long trajectory, the violin figurations steadily becoming busier and then approaching a frenzy, until the final moments of the fugue, when the French horns came in blasting the subject like a howitzer.