A new chamber group with the somewhat formidable title National Musical Arts made a promising local debut Saturday afternoon in an auditorium at the National Academy of Sciences at the National Academy of Sciences that has an invigorating Star Wars design and perfect acoustics.
Highlighting the program was the Sonata for Violin Alone (1964) by British composer Richard Rodney Bennett. It is an ingenious blend of romantic and contemporary idioms, its arching phrases and incisive rhythms making telling use of the instrument's possibilities. Sylvia Rosenberg delivered the work most expressively, reaching particular heights in the eerie Dolce scherzando.
Preceding the Bennett were Bach's unaccompanied suite in C major, played rather painfully by violist Karen Tuttle, and Mozart's Quartet for Oboe and Strings. The latter featured the National Symphony's former principal oboist, Sara Watkins, whose singing tone and expert phrasing were not always matched by her colleagues.
Rosenberg, cellist Jack Kirstein and pianist Patricia Gray (founder of NMA closed the concert with Brahms' B major Piano Trio, and although the account was occasionally marred by uncertain string attacks and uneven ensemble work, the players managed to bring out much of the music's compelling lyricism, especially in the Adagio.