Things didn't work out as planned at the local debut of the American Chamber Players, a group affiliated with the Library of Congress Summer Chamber Music Festival.
The group's cellist having been taking ill at the eleventh hour, drastic program revamping resulted. What one heard, then, at Wednesday's concert in Bing Theater at the County Museum of Art largely negated the notion of ensemble.
Remaining from the original agenda were the charming little "Villanelle" of Paul Dukas, heroically, virtuosically performed by hornist Anthony Cecere and pianist Ann Schein, and John Harbison's 1984 "Twilight Music" for horn (Cecere), violin (Alexis Galperine) and piano (Schein).
"Twilight Music" is characteristically strong, atmospheric and readily assimilable on first hearing, its prevailing air of lamentation giving way to improvisatory-sounding, jazzy animation in the second of its four movements, whereupon dark pensiveness regains sway. The horn writing is particularly flavorful, in a way that harks back to its autumnal voice in the works of Brahms.
For the rest, three of the artists present took the stage as solo acts. Miles Hoffman, otherwise unemployed, played--neatly and on the viola--J.S. Bach's D-minor Suite for Unaccompanied Cello; violinist Galperine presented a stately Sarabande from Bach's B-minor Partita and, with becoming zest and dexterity, the dazzling lunacy of Paganini's variations on "Nel cor piu non mi sento." And this was topped by pianist Schein thundering her way through four of Chopin's Etudes and his F-minor Ballade with technique to burn and sentiment in abeyance.