George Washington lived in an age rich in the music it engendered, and the Smithsonian is celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth, this year, with a series of concerts reflecting the musical life of Europe and the United States during his time. Last night, it was Vienna's turn, and the Smithsonian Chamber Players outdid themselves in presenting a panoramic look at the wealth just represented by the music of Haydn, Mozart and the young Beethoven.
James Weaver, who directs the Chamber Players, is noted for his thoughtful programming, but for this occasion, he had the added help of H.C. Robbins Landon, the foremost Haydn scholar, who planned the program and introduced it briefly but pungently.
The concert, and the period, opened with early Haydn, a string trio that predated all his symphonies, quartets and piano sonatas. It was delightful, mannered, and hard to play well. This was balanced by a nicely ornamented performance of his late D Major Trio for flute, piano and cello, and, in between, as if to acknowledge that lesser lights were also on the scene, they played a Pleyel piano trio.
The period's full maturity was represented by Mozart's big E FLat Major Divertimento K. 563 for string trio, clearly more idiomatic for the instruments than the earlier works, and consequently played with more polish.
The program ended as it began, youthful and looking to the future with Beethoven's String Trio Op. 1 No.3.