To err is human, but to bore is unforgivable.
Violinist Pinchas Zuckerman appeared in concert with pianist Marc Neikrug at the Kennedy Center Saturday night, playing works by Beethoven, Bartok, Dvorak and Schubert. Save for a few shy pitches here and there, it was a performance remarkably free of errors and technically just fine. Yet one would be hard pressed to find vestiges of feeling -- or even a willingness to communicate with his audience -- in Zuckerman's playing. The results made for a boring evening.
Beethoven's Sonata No. 4 in A Minor was sensibly rushed, with some nice dynamic shadings at the close of the middle movement -- where, incidentally, the ebb and flow of the melody was mirrored by wavering pitch. Here and in Schubert's Fantasy in C Major, at least the music occasionally was allowed to speak for itself.
Bartok's Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano is boring in its own right, and Zuckerman's icy approach simply exposed its dull pretensions. Even the adagio, with its melodic aspirations to Bergian beauty, was like a nice smile on a blank face.
Saddest of the evening, however, was the cold impression one took away from Dvorak's Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75. Surely a touch of romance could not have hurt here, if for no other reason than to make Zuckerman's flat playing in the opening forgivable.
All through the night it appeared that he played out of not love but duty. Which, come to think of it, was the only reason I stayed until the end.