Billing itself as "a gift to lovers of fine music," the National Musical Arts opened its season Saturday afternoon with a concert which indeed fulfilled that promise. Presented at no charge in the pleasantly futuristic auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences, the program featured an appealing mix of music for wind instruments played by some of the area's best instrumentalists.
Interest was immediately stirred by the opening work of a friend of Beethoven's, Anton Reicha, whom all wind players hold in high esteem as one of the earliest advocates of the woodwind quintet form. Though the writing has its naive side, Reicha's Quintet No. 2 from the Op. 88 set moved with an appealing bounce in a lively performance by flutist Alice Weinreb, clarinetist Loren Kitt, oboist Rudolph Vrbsky, bassoonist Truman Harris and Laurel Ohlson on horn.
The five musicians, all of whom are associated with the National Symphony, were joined by pianist Patricia Gray -- the founder of this series -- in the closing selection, Poulenc's "Sextet for Piano and Winds." A sophisticated transformation of materials, often quite raucous, from the popular vein Poulenc frequently tapped, the piece received a spirited and stylish interpretation. In between came an early, unnumbered Beethoven Trio, less than satisfactory in terms both of content and performance, and Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6," which received a capable, though insufficiently intense reading from flutist Weinreb and bassoonist Harris.
Next concert in this free chamber series is a program of Mozart, Kodaly, Stravinsky and Faure' on Jan. 23 at 4 p.m.