A great many of the late H. Stevens Brewster Jr.'s friends gathered together for an evening of music's pleasures at Georgetown's Dumbarton United Methodist Church Saturday. Brewster was principal contrabassist of the National Symphony until he was killed in an automobile accident in 1984, and the performance, by members of the symphony, was to benefit the Dumbarton Avenue Concert Series and establish a scholarship fund in Brewster's name.
Billed as the evening's main attraction, Stravinsky's "l'Histoire du soldat" was sparkling and witty, but the Mozart and Puccini quartets that were "also rans" for this event added immeasurably to the delights of the evening. Performed with an unhurried serenity by the Manchester String Quartet, the Mozart B Flat Major Quartet, K. 589, seemed bathed in a glow of gentility, while Puccini's "Crisantemi," with its impressionistic colors, profited from a lovely warm and ideally balanced ensemble.
This performance of Stravinsky's spare score brought together a delightful trio of actors. Henry Fogel, formerly the executive director of the National Symphony who now holds that same position with the Chicago Symphony, was the omniscient narrator whose rhythmic story of the soldier home from the war who is enticed by the devil to trade his soul for wealth, was told with an unassuming simplicity that befitted the story's folk origins. Paul Teare, program director of radio station WGMS, was the naive but convincing soldier, and Edward Skidmore, who plays the bass in the symphony and, it sometimes seems, everywhere else in town also, was a marvelously persistent devil, with just enough malevolence showing to seem nasty.
The seven instrumentalists were under the firm baton of William Wright (who is seen more frequently in the NSO clarinet section). The performance was first-rate and special plaudits are due violinist Elisabeth Adkins, who carried out the evening's biggest assignment with style and virtuosity.