Hearing Charles Ives' "Three Places in New England' in the chamber version is a revelation.

James Sinclair led with the famous pieces last night as he conducted the Chamber Orchestra of New England in its Washington debut in Lisner Auditorium. In the smaller ensemble, every strand of the often disparate melodies Ives wove together was clearly audible, while the whole had a transparency in sound and thought that came across in wonderful fashion.

Sinclair conducted the Ives with immense verve, impeccable clarity and a special sympathy that made it, with the preceding Bach, the outstanding moment of an absorbing evening. Fir many, the Ives has a singular fascination that time only enhances. It is both historic and full of an uncanny beauty.

The Bach was the Third Brandenburg Concerto, with one instrument to a part, played in elegant style, though the harpsichord was audible only in its two prolonged chords between movements. Concertmaster Davis Brooks set a standard in playing that each of his colleagues matched remarkably well.

Earlier Sharon Isbin played Joaquin's Concierto de Aranjuez with amirable mastery. Over an accompaniment of exquisite sophistication. Had the opening Rossini overture the kind of bite and enthusiasm desplayed in Ives -- they are both rowdy pieces -- there would be little but praise for the orchestra's fine beginning.