Ned Rorem's "Winter Pages" just missed receiving the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award a few years ago, but it is likely to be remembered longer than many winners of that prize. To put it succinctly, this is one of the finest pieces of music composed in the 1980s -- emotive, rich in communication, able to shift easily from nostalgic melody to hard-edged modernism.
It demands brilliance, at one time or another, from all five players, and its eloquence ranges through every nuance from the grandiloquent to the simply understated. Monday night at the Woman's National Democratic Club, the Columbia Players, with guest violinist Elizabeth Adkins, gave a performance that explored all the music's dimensions.
It was the highlight of an imaginative program that opened with Mozart's flavorful Sonata for Cello and Bassoon, K. 292, and closed with the trio arrangements of Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat." The balance of flavors was delicate and precise, with the abstractly witty Mozart and the energetic, astringent Stravinsky neatly setting off Rorem's more personal statements.
All the musicians involved performed commendably. Besides Adkins (who did some downright diabolical fiddling in the Stravinsky), special mention should be given to cellist David Premo and clarinetist David Hugh Thomas.