The sound of the mixed consort, a chamber ensemble that combines strings and winds, which was the preferred sonority in the medieval period, is having a renaissance in this decade. The Aeolian Chamber Players is one such ensemble, and the repertoire for various combinations of their instruments -- piano, violin, clarinet and cello -- is surprisingly large and of considerable interest.
They brought a splendid program to the Library of Congress on Friday and played it with muscularity and an all-pervading sense of control. The control was felt immediately in the pianissimo opening notes of Debussy's "Premiere Rhapsodie" for clarinet and piano. And as the pace and the power of the piece unfolded, the muscularity also asserted itself.
They had a fine time with Schuller's "Sonata Serenata," which was written for them a couple of years ago. Occasionally, echoes of Brahms and Mahler flew by, and a veil of self-consciousness lay over the performance, but it is a pleasant piece and was fun to listen to.
Clearly the Chamber Players were more attuned to the rhythmic intricacies of Bartok's "Contrasts" than to the legato flow of the Brahms C Minor Trio, which bumped along with earnest but ineffectual good will. The Bartok ended the evening delightfully.