Violinist tackles challenging pieces

January 17, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Annaliesa Place went for broke in her violin recital for the "Music in the Great Hall" series, gambling on two virtuoso, emotion-packed works that can test the greatest of fiddlers. The young player didn't exactly hit the jackpot, but she didn't lose her shirt, either.

This recent degree-earner at Peabody Conservatory, where she won the Yale Gordon Concerto Competition, demonstrated poise and preparation during Sunday's concert. Her tone, given a resonant lift by the acoustics at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, had a burnished quality, and her technique was up to most of the challenges. At her best, Place's sense of how to shape a phrase for expressive effect came through strongly in both of the daunting challenges on the program, Schubert's C major Fantasie and Franck's A major Sonata.

The Schubert work, with its contrasting episodes of aching lyricism, drama and bravura, started promisingly. Pianist Christie Julien, currently studying at Peabody, set the score in motion with beautifully controlled articulation; Place's entrance had considerable warmth and character.

Subsequently, the violinist encountered problems. In heated passages, there was intonation slippage and a loss of tonal evenness. And instead of holding the piece together with one long, overriding line of musical thought, the performance seemed disjointed.

Things were more cohesive in Franck's passionate sonata. Here, Place maintained a consistently vibrant sound (though the edges still got frayed when the volume intensified), and put a powerful spin on the composer's most fervid ideas. There were moments when the violinist could have allowed more time for a melodic line to blossom, and moments when greater technical command was needed, but, overall, Place left a serious and effective impression.

As she had in the Schubert item, Julien was a full-fledged partner and not a mere accompanist at the keyboard; her playing had admirable sweep and polish.

At the start of the recital, the elegant contours of Mozart's delicious G major Sonata, K. 301 were outlined by both musicians with care.

Like a lot of young soloists these days, Place kept the scores on a music stand in front of her. It would be interesting to hear what she could do with this material when it is more deeply imbedded in her mind, fingers and heart.

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