Beethoven's sonatas get power and glory

March 14, 1995|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The cycle of Beethoven's 10 sonatas for piano and violin, which pianist Amy Lin inaugurated Sunday in Peabody's Leakin Hall with violinist Lei Hou, gave us these works as they were meant to be heard. That is to say Lin collaborated with, rather than accompanied, Hou as an equal partner, and that the conversations and, occasionally, the fierce conflicts that take place between these instruments in Beethoven's music were not shortchanged.

The cycle will continue on successive Sundays with other violinists.

In the Sonata in D Major (opus 12, No. 1), which opened the program, Lin was sometimes a more-than-equal partner. This was not really the pianist's fault. In many respects, the composer's great works are about power, and the first movement of the D Major Sonata is a contest of sorts: more than 220 measures, with only one rest, in which the forward motion is continually tossed back and forth between the two instruments.

Lin is a willful and headstrong player to whom Beethoven's generous invitations for changes in volume and in attack -- crescendo, decrescendo, fortepiano, sforzando and (seven times!) fortissimo -- was something on the order of tossing a piece of red meat to a hungry tigress. This movement may have made for the weakest moments of ensemble on the program, but it was very exciting indeed.

The playing throughout the rest of the concert displayed quite wonderful ensemble and generated just as much excitement. The dangerous slow movement of the Sonata in G (opus 30, No. 3), for example, created a trance-like atmosphere. Lin and Hou made the sonata's perpetual-motion finale, which has produced its share of train wrecks in the past, a graceful, as well as stunning, conclusion.

But the best performance came in the program's greatest work -- the composer's ferocious C Minor Sonata (opus 30, No. 2). This piece makes its intentions known immediately: an ominous rumble in the bass that grows into a series of snarls and culminates in one of the composer's greatest explosions. The first movement's peroration could not have been handled better. The players exercised just enough restraint to keep the music's sustained roar from becoming incoherent.

Chamber music performances can be relaxing occasions, but Beethoven's C Minor Sonata does not provide one of them. Most musicians need to wind down afterward; this splendid performance made it necessary for a listener to do the same.

BEETHOVEN SONATAS

What: Amy Lin will perform Beethoven's 10 sonatas for piano and violin, with Qian Zhou, at 4 p.m. March 19; and Je Youn Park at 5 p.m. March 26

Where: Leakin Hall, Peabody Conservatory.

Cost: Concerts are free; donations to the Peabody Preparatory Scholarship Fund are encouraged; $25 for reception March 26

Call: 659-8125

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