At the White House

As one hand of the Reagan administration cuts federal appropriations for the arts, the other hand strokes the arts and encourages increased sponsoring of the nation's cultural activities by private corporations. The White House itself is setting the example by accepting corporate funding for its own cultural series of four executive mansion concerts, ''Young Artists in Performance at the White House,'' the premiere of which aired last Sunday on PBS.

Performing were Rudolf Serkin with his protegee, young violinist Ida Levin. Both the President and Mrs. Reagan attended the concert, which was staged like a private soiree in the East Room, decorated with plants, fresh flowers, and exquisite Oriental rugs. About 65 invited guests, including some of the Washington intelligentsia establishment, sat in comfortable, homey-type chairs. The recital was staged at 4:30 p.m. and then, at 10 p.m., it was aired on tape for a few million TV guests.

The live concert was taped with great delicacy - TV cameras were carefully hidden behind potted plants. Later in the evening, watching the same concert on TV, I was struck by the excellent sound (it was simultaneously available on stereo radio) and by my ability to watch close-ups of the hands of both artists as they performed their magic, something I had missed at the White House.

As if to prove the eclecticism of the current presidency, one of the upcoming concerts will include country singer Merle Haggard and his protege.

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