THE CHAMBER Orchestra of Europe has been in existence for only a few years but is already recognized as one of the world's best.

This orchestra was founded by its players as much for the joy of playing as for the business of giving concerts and selling tickets. The founding members were among the best young musicians in the world, and their skill, their youth and their enthusiasm can be heard clearly in their recordings.

A good example is their performance of Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat, which was recently issued by Deutsche Grammophon along with Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony, No. 96. The conductor is Claudio Abbado, who will also be conducting Sunday's performance at the Kennedy Center.

The Sinfonia Concertante features four soloists (violin, cello, oboe and bassoon) drawn from the orchestra. The texture varies from orchestral to chamber music, and the qualities most needed are not the speed, power and precision for which young players are notable but subtlety of inflection, conversational tone and a sense of dialogue -- virtues that usually come with long experience. It may look like easy music to play in terms of pure technique, but it severely tests the players' musicianship, and the members of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe come through with flying colors. Judging by this and their many other records, their Washington debut Sunday should be a memorable event.


"Haydn: Symphony No. 96" and "Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat" (DG 423 105-2). Appearing 3 p.m. Sunday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.