The best music on last night's program at the National Academy of Sciences was undoubtedly the most familiar -- Mozart's delectable Quintet in E Flat Major, K. 452, for piano and winds. It is vintage Mozart, almost a preliminary sketch for his final, great piano concertos, and it was performed with exemplary lyric grace by members of the National Musical Arts ensemble: pianist-founder Patricia Gray and four National Symphony members, clarinetist Loren Kitt, oboist Rudolph Vrbsky, horn player Laurel Bennert Ohlson and bassoonist Truman Harris.
The program's chief revelation came in Wallingford Riegger's Concerto for Piano and Woodwind Quintet, Op. 53, for which the players were joined by flutist Alice Weinreb. Whether or not this work was directly inspired by Mozart's model, it embodies much of his vitality, his blend of seriousness and lightness. Part of its charm is undoubtedly based on the special flavor of the woodwind instruments, each totally individual in tone and technique but capable of blending into the smoothest and sweetest sounds this side of paradise.
Alexander von Zemlinsky was Arnold Schoenberg's teacher, but remained essentially a late romantic. His mellow, Brahms-like Trio in D Minor for Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano, Op. 3 is an appealing, solidly constructed work -- perhaps a shade too long, but easy to enjoy. The performance (with David Hardy of the NSO playing violoncello) was excellent.
Alexander Heller's 1977-'78 "Winter Composition" for piano and four winds -- another rarity on this imaginative program -- is intricately constructed and full of striking thematic ideas that might profit from more extended development. In its Washington premiere, this brief, eventful work made a good impression but seemed rather slight compared to the rest of the program.