Violinist Stefan Jackiw is no stranger to the Washington area, having played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra several times since his debut there in 2002, when he was just a teenager. The solo recital presented by Washington Performing Arts Society on Saturday afternoon, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, followed one in 2010 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.
Now in his late 20s, Jackiw has released his first solo recording, on the Sony label, and his sweet tone, intense presence and savvy programming make his performances worthwhile listening. Jackiw and his capable accompanist, Anna Polonsky, brought particular verve and style to Stravinsky’s neoclassical jewel “Suite Italienne,” a modern updating of 18th-century music originally adapted for the composer’s ballet “Pulcinella.” There’s also nothing to complain about in their world premiere of David Fulmer’s “Arc de suspension,” an etude on modern compositional techniques that burned vividly and instantly disappeared. Richard Strauss’s Violin Sonata in E-flat tested the limits of Polonsky’s strength at the keyboard, especially in the fourth movement, but the middle movement had an affecting simplicity.
Of the three Brahms sonatas on his debut disc, Jackiw chose to play No. 1 here, sharing with the audience some thoughts about this bittersweet work he had expressed in an earnest essay in the CD booklet. The finish to Jackiw’s sound and interpretation is not without shortcomings — scratches and squeals here and there, ragged beginnings and ends of notes, some shallowness of sound and predictable turns of phrasing — but he has time to make good on the promise he has shown.
A delicious encore, the “Dithyramb” movement from Stravinsky’s “Duo Concertante,” gave another reason to hope that Jackiw’s next recording project will be focused on the Russian composer.
Downey is a freelance writer.