Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The celebrated Russian cellist Daniel Shafran, with Anton Ginzburg at the piano, played Beethoven's five sonatas for cello and piano to a full house at Lisner Auditorium Monday night.
These are from all three periods of Beethoven's creation: the first two dating from the composer's period as an active pianist, the third a brilliant place from the period that gave us the Kreutzer Sonata, and the last two full of the deep insights of the last quartets and the last piano sonatas. Monday night's performance was an exciting one.
The 20th century has finally produced the combination of great players, appreciative audiences and suitable music to make the cello recital no longer a rarity.
To be sure, there have been great players for a long time, many in our own century. The earlier generation is now gone: Casals, Schultz, Feuermann, Cassado, Piatigorsky and others, but we still have Leonard Rose, Navarra, Rostropovich, Fournier, Tortelier, Starker (in no particular order) and our soloist of the evening, Shafran, besides a wealth of younger giants.
The cello's literature has always been lavish in quantity, sparse in excellence. There are show pieces and concertos, mostly written by cellists of impressive technique with little to say as composers. The heart of the literature, for recital purposes, consists of the suites of Bach, the sonatas of Beethoven, Brahms and their successors.
There is no question of Sharan's skill as a cellist. His shifts are unobtrusive; his command of fingering is impressive; his tone; at its best, is luminous and singing. Some things can be called into question: the fragmentation of the melodic line; the harsh and bleating quality of some of the loud tones, particularly the open A string; the arbitrary freedoms of rhytm - in short, the tendency of substitutehis own rhetoric for Beethoven's. He understood the third sonata best, and played it best.
Ginzburg, besides being a fine pianist and a remarkable ensemble player, has solved the problem of balance admirably. The modern concert grand piano (a far cry from Beethoven's Broadwood) can cover the sound of the cello, especially in the middle range, and it takes almost a miracle of touch to support the cello without defeating it.
In its way, it was a great recital, with moments of rare beauty.