I missed the Elysian Camerata's January 13 program at St. Asaph's, Bala Cynwyd. Somehow I got it into my head the concert was scheduled for January 27, the same day I was planning to attend Fine Art Music Company's second event in its "War of the Romantics" series.

Fortunately. the Elysians repeated the program last night at the First Presbyterian Church in Ambler, which is convenient to my new office in Fort Washington. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision late Friday head afternoon to stick around after work and head on over.

And it (the program, not my office) was a stunner.

The evening  began with  the charming but forgettable sonata for two cellos by Boccherini and ended with  the charming but unforgettable Sextet Op. 39  by Brahms. In between was the evening's real highlight, the String Quartet No. 1 by Bartok, who at age of 27 had already come into his own as a composer. It's an astonishingly mature, confident piece, and the women of the Camerata matched that confidence note for note. The performance was  extraordinary in itself, but all the more so for being so rare in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Talia Schiff, the group's regular cellist and one of its guiding lights, as well as  a friend of mine, told me during the reception that while a complete Bartok cycle would be a daunting task, she would like to program the Fourth Quartet at least. Apparently, that's  the one students spend the most time with, since it is the most exhaustively analyzed.

At last, a reason to live.   

In retrospect, I'm glad I went to the Ambler performance. It was the first time I've heard music at that First Pres, which had comfortable, padded pews and bright, lively acoustics.  Not to dis St. Asaph's, but at First Pres on can hear every note without sitting in the performers' laps. Ambler also has many fine restaurants.  I won't need to eat again for a couple of days.

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