Miles Hoffman alone on a concert stage is an imposing spectacle, towering in height, luxuriantly bearded and wielding an enormous viola with a vigor that might lead one to expect crackles of musical lightning.
What he produced instead, Saturday night at the Corcoran Gallery, was pure romanticism: a rich, creamy tone like maple ice cream, little touches of portamento on some of the notes, gentlyric or intensely expressive phrasing as demanded by the music, and occasionally a touch of virtuoso fireworks -- just to show that he could do it.
This style, applied to Hindemith's intricate, vigorous and wistful Sonata for Solo Viola, Op. 25, No. 1, was not the only way the music can be played, but an interpretation well calculated to win new fans for this underrated composer. This unaccompanied work was the highlight of a program which also included Schumann's "Maerchenbilder" ("Scenes from Fairy Tales") and Weber's Andante and Hungarian Rondo, with pianist Maureen Wallis providing able partnership, and two song cycles in which mezzo-soprano Constance Beavon participated.
Charles Martin Loeffler's "Quatre Poemes," to texts by Baudelaire and Verlaine, are exquisite examples of the French chanson, comparable in quality to the work of Faure, and Beavon showed a mastery of the style. Bruce Saylor's well-crafted "Songs from Wafer Street" (a Washington premeire) rounded out a splendidly varied and impressively performed program.