Tonight's concert in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater is almost a family occasion. Under the sponsorship of the National Capital Cello Club, students and friends of Leonard Rose will be gathering to give tribute to the Washington-born cellist who died of leukemia Nov. 15. Besides spoken tributes by several colleagues, the program will include performances of Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata, David Popper's Elegy for three cellos and the "Bachianas Brasileiras" No. 5 of Heitor Villa-Lobos for soprano and 11 cellos. The most dramatic event of the evening, however, will be a taped performance by Rose himself -- with a surprise accompanist.

The performance was taped several years ago, during Rose's recital at the First American Cello Congress, held at the University of Maryland. After a standing ovation, Rose said that he would give an encore if Mstislav Rostropovich (who was in the audience and had been the first on his feet applauding) would play the accompaniment. So Rostropovich (an accomplished pianist as well as cellist and conductor) joined him in Faure''s "Ele'gie." It is hard to imagine a more appropriate conclusion for a tribute to Rose than a replaying of this moment.

For more than 30 years, Leonard Rose was the dominant figure among American cellists, and taught most of the leading cellists in the country -- soloists, orchestra members and teachers. He had so many former students in the cello section of the Boston Symphony that Erich Leinsdorf used to call it "the Rose section." The National Capital Cello Club was founded a year ago and in 1988 will be the host of the First World Cello Congress, under the direction of Rostropovich. Proceeds of the concert will be divided between the club's scholarship fund and the Juilliard School's Leonard Rose Memorial Fund.