Violinist Elisabeth Small, indeed diminutive in physical size -- she looks barely five feet tall -- revealed a large talent in her recital at the Phillips Collection yesterday afternoon. A native of Bethesda and a graduate of Julliard, the 24-year-old artist generated considerable excitement, playing with a confidence born of fine musical instincts wedded to strong technique.
The almost breathless speed of the opening movement of Beethoven's G-Major Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 30, No. 3, immediately demonstrated Small's immense rhythmic vitality and dramatic flair. She knows how to make the most of strong contrasts and dig for expressive intensity, as both the Beethoven and the following Brahms D-Minor Sonata, Op. 108, showed. Her appealing tendency to go for broke was, with a few exceptions, accompanied by the ability to do so. She should become an even more interesting performer as she explores further the intensity within restraint, carrying greater energy into softer passages and exploiting wider tonal possibilities. A nicely colored treatment of Ravel's Sonata pointed to some highly individual interpretations in the future.
The recital included the premiere of Serenade, an exceptionally coherent and flowing statement by a Julliard composition student, Joseph Tamosaitis, who accompanied Small on that one piece. Otherwise the pianist was Frank Conlon, admirably handling the hefty program as a last-minute substitute for an indisposed Daniel Schene.