It was an all-Beethoven concert again last night at the Terrace Theater, but it was not all sublime. In an evening of music for cello and piano, David Soyer and Peter Serkin displayed impeccable musicianship yet different sensibilities. The results were varied.
While his musical diction is not always clear, Peter Serkin is a pianist of true romantic inspiration. His is a fluid style, with love of melody and trust in silence giving his playing an air of the patience and ardor of love. David Soyer proved the stronger of the pair, but if his playing always rang true, it was often unattractive. His tone is large but rough, and in the intimate acoustics of the house, the edges of his sound seemed palpable.
The program opened with the Sonata in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2, followed by two sets of variations. The first, seven variations on "Bei Maennern Welche Liebe fuehlen" from Mozart's "The Magic Flute," found the cello unable to summon the necessary sweetness. But 12 variations on Handel's "See, the conquering hero comes" were both majestic and playful, bringing out the salon pathos of the score.
At the end there was the Sonata in D major, Op. 102, No. 2. Its beauty remained veiled, but its strength was revealed to heroic proportions -- even if here the cello stumbled into tonal uncertainty. In the adagio, the players allowed the melody to rise from a whispered memory to a melancholy smile, the music remained unforced and lovely.