Last night's Library of Congress concert observing the 244th anniversary of Antonio Stradivari's death was not your average chamber music event. It lasted almost 2 1/2 hours, almost unthinkably long for such a concert. Furthermore, the climactic piece was a violin concerto, with the string quartet and piano accompanying. Imagine that! But the thing that kept sticking in my mind as the evening proceeded was a line in yesterday's review of Baryshnikov in Stravinsky's and Balanchine's "Apollo," which was called "worth the whole season." That was the kind of concert we heard last night.
Chausson's violin concerto for soloist, quartet and piano is almost never heard these days, even though it is considerably finer than almost any other French concerto. And the only happy lesson we can draw from that is when you hear it as it was played last night by Itzhak Perlman, the Juilliard Quartet and Jorge Bolet, the experience is further sweetened by its rarity. Something like the bleak melancholy of the lyric third movement makes the sentimental goo of most other concerto slow movements that were contemporary with it sound even more cliche'd than usual.
The Debussy Quartet opened the evening, with its cascading current of transparent impressionist textures flowing with an ease that can be expected only from ensembles of the Juilliard's authority.
All the music was late 19th-century French, but the gulf seemed particularly wide between Debussy and the richer emotionalism of Franck's Piano Quintet.
The normally ever-so-reserved Coolidge Auditorium audience actually rose after the Chausson with a standing ovation.
There is at least some good news for those who have no seats for tonight's repeat -- WETA-FM will broadcast it live at 8 p.m. Cancel your plans to a seated embassy dinner or give away your tickets to "Evita" and stay home and hear it.