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.