Finely matched violinist, pianist return volley for volley


February 10, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

Chamber music can be an occasion for relaxation -- both for players and listeners -- but Beethoven's Sonata in C Minor for Violin and Piano should leave players and listeners as exhilarated and as wiped out as 30 minutes on a dance floor. It's nice to report that the performance of violinist Maria Bachmann and pianist Jon Klibonoff Saturday night in the Shriver Hall series had exactly that effect.

From the opening measures of the piece, with its ominous and foreboding beginning, one knew that he was in the presence of first-class artists. Bachmann -- a young player about whom I have been hearing wonderful things for years and whose recording with Klibonoff of the same composer's "Kreutzer" Sonata has much impressed me -- was able to dig into her instrument vigorously, letting the chords ring out without any barking or scraping. There was also power, warmth of tone and clarity of articulation from the pianist. The two instruments matched explosion for explosion. Even in the seething currents of the finale's coda -- in which the pianist pursues the violinist in continual flight -- the two young musicians successfully rode the storm together.

Most of the rest of the concert was just as impressive. Brahms' early Sonatensatz was played with passion and drive, and Saint-Saens' difficult Sonata in D Minor had both of those qualities as well as a good deal of elegance. The virtuoso abandon the two players achieved in the work's closing minutes was breathtaking.

Also on the program was an interesting 1989 piece called "Clockwork," by Sebastian Currier. It consists of seven connected moods in about 13 minutes. It is attractive for a virtuoso to play -- the sections marked "turbulent" and "restless" suggest the kind of motoric excitement one finds in Prokofiev or Bartok -- and it also contains a good deal of old-fashioned and dreamy violinistic lyricism. Bachmann and Klibonoff played it beautifully.

Bachmann, who has won several prizes in important international contests, should have a bright future. She has a big and varied tone and a temperament to match. The only disappointment for this listener came in Ysaye's unaccompanied Sonata No. 3. The violinist had the technique to play this piece -- her double and triple stops could not have been more assured -- but because she was not able to master the piece's passionate and rhapsodic curve it was not as achingly effective as it has been in other hands.

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