December 18 is a special day in the yearly calendar of the Library of Congress its the day when several of the rare stringed instruments in the Librarys collection are taken from their display cases and handed to the members of a talented string quartet. The collection was assembled with the intention that it be used and these incomparable Strads couldn’t find a better place to strut their stuff than the Coolidge Auditorium stage, built for chamber music.
The instruments are played yearly in honor of their creator, Antonio Stradivari, who died on Dec. 18, 1737.
This year, the musicians on stage will be the Parker Quartet (external link), which originated in Boston a youthful group with classical chops and a fresh attitude. They offer a broad classical repertoire, but theyre equally at home with jazz and folk; the Dec. 18 program includes pieces by Beethoven, Haydn and Dutilleux (a piece commissioned by the Librarys Koussevitsky program). Before the concert, at 6:15 p.m. in the adjacent Whittall Pavilion, expert bowmaker Yung Chin will talk about the endangered Pernambuco tree, which provides wood for the finest string bows.
Considering that access to this 8 p.m. concert is free (tickets must be obtained through Ticketmaster, (301) 808-6900, where theres a $2.75 per ticket charge to use the service), whats not to like? You’ll get a chance to see some of the worlds rarest instruments in actual use, hear sublime music and enjoy the acoustics of a world-famous auditorium designed to deliver this exact experience. What’s more, theres a whole season of these free concerts to enjoy.
Heres a tip sometimes there are unoccupied seats at concert time. If you come to the Librarys Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E. shortly before showtime, there are often standby seats at the will-call desk starting at 6:30 p.m.
For a sneak preview of the Parker Quartet, click here (external link).
For a video of Bachs Chaconne being played by virtuoso Nicholas Kitchen on one of the Librarys Strads the Castelbarco — click here and then click play RealMedia.