- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

An invitation to the British Embassy is always a major draw for the Washington social set. What aside from a very important state dinner could match the snob appeal of rubbing elbows with Prince Charles and Camilla (now the Duchess of Cornwall) last November or the ever-raffish Prince Andrew, who visited just three weeks ago?

No royal highnesses were on display at this week’s festivities, although British Ambassador Sir David and Lady Manning welcomed other very special guests.

On Monday, a who’s who of American architects came to mark the 75th anniversary of the ambassadorial residence, designed by the eminent Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), and to celebrate the donation of a complete set of his architectural drawings of the structure to the Royal Institute of British Architects Library at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

“The house is absolutely perfect,” Hugh Newell Jacobsen exclaimed as he admired the long corridors, pools and pavilions meticulously rendered on original plans displayed for his delectation and that of other architectural eminences, including Robert A.M. Stern, Warren Cox, Leo A. Daly III, Alan M. Hantman and Robert Venturi.

Mr. Venturi, who designed the modern addition to Dumbarton Oaks, marveled at the inclusion of an art-deco stairway in a traditionalist edifice as much Colonial Williamsburg in style as it is Sir Christopher Wren. “You know the rules, but you break them,” he noted before joining guests in the august grand ballroom to dine on sea bass, lacquered duck breast and Rococoa cake.

On Tuesday, the lights were burning brightly once more for the music crowd flocking in for the Young Concert Artists of Washington gala, featuring a performance by piano virtuoso Graham Scott (who just happens to be British).

Mr. Scott’s “fantastic interpretation” (according to benefit co-chairwoman Didi Cutler) of a medley of songs from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” kept the audience buzzing during the post-concert dinner portion of the event, which sold out at a minimum $500 a pop.

“We had half as many guests as last year and raised more money,” trilled co-chairwoman Aniko Gaal Schott as she surveyed the scene along with other prominent music lovers, including actor Robert Duvall, Jane and Calvin Cafritz, Bitsey Folger, Mandy and Mary Ourisman, Gerson Nordlinger, Irene Danilovich, Susan Eisenhower, LaSalle and Ruthie Leffall, Gilan Tocco Corn, Mary Mochary and Jim Kimsey.

Since 1961, Young Concert Artists has sponsored a steady stream of remarkable young musicians from throughout the world, helping to arrange their debuts and manage their later careers. Among the group’s most notable discoveries are pianists Emanuel Ax and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, soprano Dawn Upshaw and violinist-conductor Pinchas Zuckerman.

Kevin Chaffee

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