The program of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle‘s final concert of the season was typical of Music Director Lorenzo Muti’s substantive musical menus. The orchestra is made up of some of the finest free-lance and orchestra members from across the state, and their solid musicianship and technical finesse are evident in every concert. Muti’s enterprising programming from the Baroque through current compositions as well as his selection of rising talents as soloists have made the orchestra an underappreciated treasure. This concert’s works stood in welcome contrast to the mix of insipid transcriptions presented recently by a well-known visiting British chamber orchestra.

Two brief extra unadvertised selections opened each half of the concert in the Carolina Theatre of Durham. COT Board member Dr. Michael Hamilton had won a contest to conduct the ensemble. The retired physician had once been a member of the President’s Orchestra in the White House. He led a fine performance of Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” (from Solomon) to open the concert. The oboe playing of Bo Newsome and Anna Lampidis was outstanding as was the sectional discipline of the string sections.

Before the Romantic Period, composers were not at all fastidious about reusing their own works (or even heisting a bit from another composer). Bach, Handel, and certainly Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) did not hesitate to do so! For the Overture to his opera La Cenerentola, Rossini raided the overture from his earlier opera La Gazetta as well as elements from Il Turco in Italia and La Pietra del Paragone. The composer, being a true Italian, makes the villain an evil stepfather, not a stepmother! Muti directed a standard and stylish performance with a carefully prepared slow introduction, a lively allegro, and a carefully graduated crescendo. Balances among sections were excellent and the phrasing was very fine. The playing of both the horns and trumpets was especially subtle during the introduction.

Muti made some brief, germane comments from the podium about the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828). He said the composer’s seemingly limitless fount of melody was sometimes hampered by “long-windedness” and too much repetition as well as a certain “mechanical” quality to the structure. A few more strings might have been desirable, but Muti’s direction of Schubert’s Symphony No. 6 in C (the “Little C Major”) was exceptional. Many famous conductors can make “lead” out of this gem! Muti minimized the work’s shortcomings by giving full reign to the melodic line while not allowing the music to drag. The horn playing of Todd Dimsdale and Mary Burroughs was outstanding throughout as was the detailed playing of the woodwinds. Muti’s pacing of the slow second movement – he called it a “Lied” – was superb. The last two movements received a lively and vivid performance.

Baton winner Hamilton opened the post-intermission concert with a carefully delineated performance of a Leopold Stokowski transcription (for strings alone) of the famous Air from J.S. Bach’s Overture (Suite) No. 3, in D. The balances were excellent, and each section played as one player as each thread of the piece was woven. Rebecca Marland’s steady pizzicato double-bass supported the interlacing musical lines. The singing of the cello section was austerely expressive.

Muti closed the concert with an immaculate and stylish performance of the somber Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K.550, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). His choice of dynamics was subtle and well-chosen, and his standard classical phrasing was just right, eschewing any hint of sentimentality. The slow second movement received an especially elegant treatment. The horns’ prominent playing and their pairing with bassoonist Christopher Ulffers in the third movement were outstanding. The rousing finale led to a hearty standing ovation from the appreciate audience.

Board chairman David Lindquist announced welcome fiscal news in this era of tight money for non-profits. Not only will the budget end the year with a surplus but conditions of the $100,000 goal of the Charles and Shirley Weiss Young Soloists Endowment have been met.