Paul Tobias, a young American cellist already established as a soloist gave a recital yesterday at the Phillips Collection, accompanied by Elizabeth Moschetti.
The most interesting performance was the set of six pieces for solo cello played in honor of the recent 80th birthday of the composer. Roger Sessions. These pieces follow the tradition of the solo suites; of Bach and Roger, but are imbued with Sessions' marvelous command and his power to develop emotional and structural values within the 12-tone idiom. The set was written for the composer's son John, a cellist who played in a service band in Washington not long ago.
In general, the musicians were on firmer ground with 20th-century music than with the Valentini sonata and the monumental C-major sonata of Beethoven. Especially in the Beethoven, stylistic uncertainty made the piece a showcase of little tricks of phrasing that gave us detail in place of line and structure.
Tobias is a well-schooled player with uncommon command of the bow. His tone is not large, but is well-controlled and pure. Occasionally, as in the harmonics in the Debussy, he ran into problems of intonation.
It was a good recital, and well received. Moschetti proved to be a sensitive collaborator, with an especially fine tone in the Debussy.