Because the Phillips Collection is closed for renovation, its 44th season of free Sunday late afternoon concerts opened elsewhere last night--around the corner at the John Wesley Powell Auditorium on Florida Avenue.
It's not quite the same as the Phillips' music room, with some of the world's most wonderful paintings staring down at you, but it will certainly do until the Phillips reopens early next year.
On yesterday's program clarinetist Larry Guy played four works and then pianist Madeline Bruser played a solo work--in this case the Bach French Suite in G, performed with uncommon evenness, tone and lyric poise.
She played the Bach with soft, silken shading. The hard edge that one heard in this music from Gould was missing. It was a measured performance, beautifully balanced. The high point came in the saraband movement, a model of serenity.
Another fine moment was the Poulenc 1962 clarinet sonata, one of those late Poulenc works that positively lilts with the ripe worldliness of the boulevard. This music is all urbanity and insouciance, skimming the edge of sentimentality without crossing it.
Guy plays the clarinet with a dry tone, which denied the Brahms E-flat sonata the caressing richness that is characteristic of late Brahms. He showed good rhythm and agility.
The Phillips has moved its grand piano to the Powell Auditorium, which has mellow acoustics, a little less close than the sound of the Collection's music room.