In his classic essay "High Brow, Middle Brow and Low Brow," Russell Lynes laid down dicta on matters of taste, even those musical. Those rules, though over a quarter of a century old, still serve well.
Well enough, in fact, to proclaim that the Polish Chamber Orchestra, which played Saturday night in the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center under its founder-conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk, did so in a noble, patrician manner.
The program itself did not have a hint of the commonplace: Handel's Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 6 No. 10, the D Minor Clavier Concerto of Bach B.W.V. 1052, Haydn's "La Passione" Symphony and a Concerto for Strings by Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz.
If Saturday night's concert was any indication, this body of 32 musicians, brought together less than a decade ago, is now one of Europe's foremost chamber ensembles.
The strings have a purity of tone and a quiescent pianissimo that reminds one of Walter Pater's description of "a certain absolute and unique manner of expressing a thing, in all its intensity and color."
The celebrated harpsichordist Igor Kipnis was the soloist in the Bach work. His collaboration with Maksymiuk brought plenty of bounce and good humor to the outer movements, which contrasted well with the more meditative adagio, played almost as an andante, and rightly so. There was no Teutonic didacticism, only felicity, distinction, proportion and euphony.