IT IS NOT LIKELY that Benny Goodman will play anything from his latest album when he performs Saturday night at the Kennedy Center. The agenda for the concert is jazz. The album, "Benny Goodman: Private Collection," contains quintets for clarinet and strings by Johannes Brahms and Carl Maria von Weber and trios for clarinet, piano and cello by Brahms and Beethoven.
This crossover act is not a gimmick or something new. Goodman's recording of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, made with the Budapest Quartet back before World War II, is still treasured by collectors, and he has about a dozen other classical recordings to his credit.
The music he commissioned from modern composers is the cornerstone of the mid- 20th-century repertoire for classical clarinet. The list includes the "Contrasts" for clarinet, violin and piano by Bela Bartok and the clarinet concertos of Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith.
As a classical performer, Goodman is technically excellent and obviously well-acquainted with the repertoire. These performances (with the Berkshire String Quartet, cellist Fritz Maag and pianist Leon Pommers) are solid as a rock. He certainly does not eclipse the work of such classical clarinetists as Richard Stoltzman (or Washington's Loren Kitt and Charles Stier), but it is obvious that he could have built a substantial career as a classical musician.
The two Brahms works are the most substantial music in this collection, composed at the end of his career and embodying a whole universe of wistful, autumnal wisdom. The Beethoven and Weber works are slighter but charming, and in combination with the Brahms they make a fine, well-balanced set.