Violinist Frank fearless in Beethoven

March 18, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata not only inspired the great piece of short fiction by Tolstoy that bears its name, but also a countless number of sexy perfume ads. The first movement, particularly, reaches an extraordinary (even for Beethoven) peak passion and fury. The way that violinist Pamela Frank and pianist Claude Frank performed this work Saturday night in the Shriver Hall Concert Series made it easy to understand why the deranged narrator of Tolstoy's novella says this music is dangerous and irrational and that it leads inevitably to adultery and murder.

Miss Frank is not one of those clinically perfect and musically dead musicians who frequent the music scene nowadays. She made this clear early in the first movement when she cheered on her father's torrent of eighth notes with her raucous chords. This is not to say that she is a careless or sloppy musician, merely a fearless one. Those chords were not merely stabs of sound, but part of the music's grand line. This gigantically scaled performance never approached incoherence, not even at top climaxes.

This young violinist is, of course, also capable of delicacy. In the -- second movement, she was able to negotiate successfully the tightrope of 32nd notes in the second variation and the lengthy trills and pianissimos in the fourth.

She was fortunate in a partner whose Beethoven playing on this occasion was, along with that of Maurizio Pollini in the latter's Beethoven sonata cycle in New York, the most beautiful this listener has heard this year.

Mr. Frank wisely played with the lid up a decision that enabled him to control his sound and to supply a range of dynamics that would have been impossible with the lid down. His textures in this formidably difficult piece were wonderfully clear, whether exquisitely soft or thunderously loud; his trills could not have been more expressive or less mechanical; and his sense of the music's architecture, whether in taking the lead or in following, was the sort that brings out the best in any collaboration.

The two Beethoven works the Sonata in E-flat (op. 12, no. 3) and A major (op. 30, no. 1) that opened the program were just as impressive.

The first and third movements of the E-flat sonata took the listener on a roller coaster ride. In the second movement both artists were able to sustain phrases even at a heroically and dangerously (especially to the violinist) slow pace so that the music seemed to step outside time.

Such playing made the even greater slow movement of the A major sonata particularly memorable.

This was one of those rare performances that made one realize that Beethoven is capable of vocalizing of the most ecstatic variety that he not only looks backward to Mozart, but also forward to Verdi.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.