Yesterday's Theater Chamber Players concert got off to a bad start. Thanks to an overlapping schedule by the Kennedy Center, the stage wasn't ready until five minutes after the music was to start, the audience was left standing outside in line, and the ceiling of the Terrace Theater music shell was never put into place.
But if the Chamber Players didn't get their money's worth from the Center, the audience certainly go multiple rewards from the performers. One hopes tonight's repeat will be trouble-free.
The most remarkable performance was of the most famous work, Schoenberg's tone poem "Verklarte Nacht." This sensuous, impassioned work is so familiar in its expanded version for string orchestra that many don't know that it was originally chamber music, a sextet for pairs of violins, violas and cellos.
Lush as it may be in the larger form, much is lost there in refined detail, sharp attack and luminous lyricism. These were the qualities particularlyq apparent in yesterday's performance led by violinist Jaime Laredo, with cellist Sharon Robinson and the members of the Washington String Quartet.
On the other hand, proof that a piece must not be big to be lush came earlier in Barbara Kolb's two-year-old "Musique pour un Vernissage." This is one of those works now so much in fashion in which the passing textures from a group of instruments (in this case, flute, violin, viola and guitar) define the shape more than any exterior form imposed upon them. Often such compositions seem to meander, but (with Leon Fleisher conducting) this one radiant.
Less satisfying were sets of French songs by Debussy and Ravel. Soprano Jeannette Walters sang forcefully but seemed uncomfortable in the musical idiom, and unidiomatic in the French language (for example, the "r's" were English not French-a particularly important element in the sound).