Evelyn Elsing created quite a bit of excitement at the Philips Collection yesterday afternoon. With cello playing that was often reckless but always quite thrilling, Elsing elicited extended bravos from the usually restrained chamber music audience. The beginning did not prepare us for all the fun, as she launced into Beethoven's Sonata in D Major, Opus 102, No. 2.
There were rough attacks, unsteady tone, and in the adagio our thoughts wandered when our hearts should have been touched. Still, like the advances of an inexperienced lover, her approach was refreshing and her intentions were surprisingly welcome.
A more mature love was displayed in Crumb's Sonata for Solo Cello. In spite of its threats to turn the cello into a jazz guitar, Crumb's is a traditional piece for a virtuoso player. Elsing was clearly at home in the idiom.
There were echoes of Stravinsky and Chavez, and the improvisatory flavor of the cellists's rhythmic execution in the toccata section was a delight.
Violinst Jody Gatwood stole the show next in the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia for violin and cello. His seamless, exquisite phrasing was a good foil for Elsing's abandon, and this musical flirtation brought no fewer than five curtain calls.
Franck's Sonata in A Major for cello and piano again exposed Elsing's vibrato to disadvantage, but her carless playing must be fast forgiven when the result is so enjoyable; the daring of her allegretto saved the piece, along with Stephen Swedish's musicality at the piano. Martinu's playful variations on a Theme by Rossini were followed by an encore which displayed the concert's only touch of restraint: the Pastorale taken from Bach's Toccata in F Major for organ.