Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

"How is it going . . . at Camp David?" Zubin Mehta asked Henry Kissinger, and he was answered with the familiar, bland smile.

"I don't know," Kissinger shrugged, apparently unconcerned at this transformation from participant to spectator in the complex shifting of Arab-Israeli relationships.

Kissinger arrived at Tuesday night's concert by the Israel Philharmonic, the first of two to be given here marking the 30th anniversary of Israel, but at the reception afterward, sponsored by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation in the Kennedy Center's atrium, he had a summit meeting of his own with the evening's two star musician, conductor Mehta and pianists Daniel Barenboim.

Along with the evening's music, a major topic of conversation in the large, packed room was the current negotiations at Camp David ("Camp David and Goliath," one partygoer suggested). There had been hopes that Menachem Begin would attend the concert and reception, but his absence caused little concern. "At least it means he hasn't walked out," said someone in the crowd.

Kissinger and Barenboim (whose performance of Beethoven's Third Concerto Kissinger had missed because of a late plane) settled on a conversational topic of equal interest to a jet-set diplomat and a traveling virtnoso: Jerusalem hotel. Kissinger recalled the manager of the King David telling him that if he moved to another hotel "it would be not a simple choice of hotel but an act of aggression." Barenboim observed that "Teddy (Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kolleck) has decreed that dignitaries must stay at the Hilton because it's near the freeway. When they stay at the King David, they tie up the traffic.

Kissinger, no longer a menace to traffic, insisted that he will remain loyal to the King David.

Musicians from the orchestra seemed delighted about the reception they had received in Washington. "It was an exceptionally warm audience," said Avraham Bornstein of the viola section, and orchestra manager Abe Cohen echoed the sentiment: "An enthusiastic and very knowledgeable audience. It is remarkable how the musical life in this city has grown and flourished in the last few years."

Vera Stern, whose husband, violinist Isaac, is currently in Jerusalem, came down from New York to hear the concert and found it "very exciting." A friend of many musicians in the orchestra, she recalled that it was originally made up almost entirely of refugees from Europe. "Now, there is a younger generation," she said, "but there is still a fine sense of continuity. And of course right now there is a tremendous influx of new talent from Russia. The foundation is helping these musicians to integrate themselves into the concert life of Israel and to find teaching positions."

The orchestra, which is somewhat older than the state of Israel, is a basic part of its cultural life, she said. "With a 2,800-seat auditorium, they have to give each concert eight or nine times to fill the demand for tickets. For Israelis, to go to a concert is as important as daily bread."

The special place of music in Israel's life wil be symbolized again on Saturday night when Leonard Bernstein conducts the orchestra in his own Chichester Psalms and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Once again, Menachem Begin will be invited, and some of the guests at the reception were conjecturing that he might even bring Anwar Sadat with him.

Jerome Barry, a Washington baritone who lived in Israel for several years and sang many concerts with the philharmonic there, avoided political speculation but found a musical expression for one of the undercurrents in the evening's conversations. "Saturday night," he said, "they will be singing Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy.' Let's hope that by then they will have a special reason for it."