Pianist Donna Turner-Smith and violinist Pieere d'Archambeau, who have each given solo recitals at the Phillips Collection in other years, returned as duo yesterday. They brought the sort of nice, easygoing program that presented no challenge to the audience but still contained music of considerable interest.
The Sonata by Albert Huybrechts, for instance, which received the Coolidge Prize in 1926, surely makes quite a fidderent impression when heard in 1979. Steeped in a French tradition, its circular phrases sounded pleasantly innocuous but led nowhere, and at the end, a work that was considered audacious in its day left an impression of aimless prettiness.
Mendelssohn's delightfully youthful Sonata is rarely heard, as are the two pieces of Smetana's "From My Homeland." Only the opening Bach E Major Sonata could be considered standard fare.
Throughout, Turner-Smith played with a marvelous combination of discretion, clarity and solidity.
The same, however, could not be said for d'Archambeau. Though facile enough with his left hand, his right arm allowed the bow to wander over the strings. It slid over the strings instead of digging into them, and produced wisps and fuzziness when definition was needed, and sweetness where one would have liked strength and breadth.
Consequently, most of the time, it sounded as if he was playing exercises instead of music.