Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joint Recital – Pinchas Zukerman, Violin; Yefim Bronfman, Piano. November 15, 2010.

Matthews Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton University (Front Balcony, Seat AA104, $58).

Sonata for Violin & Piano in B-flat Major, K. 454 by Mozart (1756-1791)
Sonata No. 5 in F major, Op. 24 (“Spring”) by Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata in E-flat major for Viola and Piano, Op. 120, No. 2 by Brahms (1822-1897)

I am not a big fan of recitals, even though the violin is the instrument I play. To me recitals (and to a great extent chamber concerts) are too “simple;” they lack the more complex coordination required with a larger group. On the other hand, recitals are occasions the listener can simply sit back and enjoy without taxing one’s faculties. Tonight’s concert falls neatly into that category.

We got to Princeton at around 7 pm, enough time to have a couple of noodle dishes at Tiger Noodles. Anne wanted a spring roll also, which I thought would cut things a bit close. We made it to the Theatre in good time, though. The hall is quite nice, although our seats did not have that much leg room, being set against the “bulkhead.”

The violin sonatas are familiar to any violin student. Technically they are not demanding, and Zukerman certainly played well. Up close, his violin didn’t sound as smooth as I expected. On the other hand, he played with great confidence and authority. With Mozart and Beethoven violin sonatas, the pianist gets the bulk of the work out. Bronfman tackled the part with ease, but his part was played too softly for my taste. Also, the two musicians were too close to each other, with Zukerman standing in front of Bronfman. We were on the center right part of the theatre, and had a reasonable view, but I am sure people on the left of the theatre had their view of Bronfman blocked.

Interesting fact about the Mozart piece: Mozart was playing the piano with a lady playing the violin (usually the woman plays the piano.) Also, the score wasn’t ready yet so Mozart had blank sheets in front of him during the performance. Afterwards, Emperor Joseph II - who was in the audience - asked (playfully) to see the music.

The viola sonata sounded much more balanced in comparison. Perhaps it’s the natural timbre of the instrument that makes the sound less “shrill.” And the lower pitch of the viola certainly helped. As the Program Notes indicates, the virtuoso part of the relatively short piece.

The three movements of the Mazart sonata are Largo – Allegro, Andante, and Allegretto. Beethoven’s sonata has four (i) Allegro; (ii) Adagio molto espressivo; (iii) Scherzo: Allegro molto; and (iv) Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo. Brahms’s has three: (i) Allegro amabile; (ii) Allegro appassionato; and (iii) Andante con moto; Allegro.

This time Zukerman played a real encore – a piece by Schumann. It is rather simple, but as with the rest of the program, quite delightful.

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