Violinist Stefani Collins is still a grad student at Juilliard, but as she showed at her recital at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, she is a nearly finished concert artist. From the opening phrases of the Beethoven A-minor Sonata, one heard temperament and clear musical purpose.
Her mechanics are exemplary as well; a natural posture, precise intonation (but for a few forgivable slips in the most acrobatic spots), scrupulous attention to dynamics, an effortless flying staccato and great digital clarity. In short, she has the goods to be a successful performing artist.
Collins’s sound contains countless shades of gray, but little actual color. The vibrato, while fast and clean, stops on too many notes. Her well-groomed playing has resulted in some major competition victories, but she still needs to learn what to say with her admirable musical diction. The long string of trills which closed the Chausson “Poeme” was otherworldly, but the rest of the piece — which limns the soul of the violin like no other — came off as slightly dutiful. The pyrotechnics in Henryk Wieniawski’s “Variations on an Original Theme” were admirably handled, but the piece is supposed to look and sound like fun, rather than a series of hurdles.
The main offering of the recital, John Corigliano’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, was a success, though pianist Nelson Padgett sometimes overpowered his young partner. Both artists delivered their cadenzas with panache, and the manic finale was effectively played.
With Collins’s mother a proud, beaming presence as page-turner, it was a charming afternoon.
Battey is a freelance writer.