The Chamber Music junkies who were forced to go cold turkey when the Library of Congress closed up its concert series for the season in April are getting a repreive this weekend, as violinist Robert Mann and pianist Emanuel Ax perform all the Beethoven Violin Sonatas there.
Last night's three, programmed chronologically, climaxed with a performance of the "Kreutzer" Sonata that demonstrated that the two artists have as great an affinity for each other's as they do for Beethoven's music.
Mann's opening chords set a mood of expectation and Ax, with enormous concentration, gave this expectation an exquisite tension. From there, energy, power, and lyricism carried the music to heights of splendor and beauty.
Earlier in the evening, the more naive G major Sonata Opus 30 No. 3 chugged along with a fine sense of purpose and almost classical restraint. Only the opening Sonata in A Major, Opus 12 No. 2 was less than totally satisfying. This is only a couple of years removed from the others; chronologically, but, stylistically, it belongs to an entirely different period. It needed a degree of lyricism and a breadth of phrasing that was never present. The performance seemed geared up for what's to come rather than for this particular sonata.
For the audience, this was all like a welcome shot in the arm.