The Beethoven Piano Sonata Series continued last night at the Terrace Theater with a recital by Claude Frank. Coarse but never dull, his approach to these master works was fuller of the music's brawn than of its poetry. His enthusiasm and spontaneity worked fine for much of the evening, tiring to a halt in the C-Minor Sonata, Op. 111, Beethoven's last completed work.
The usual grace of the Sonata No. 10 in G Major was replaced by a rushed fervor in its opening allegro. The andante shone with the martial splendor of a military band in peacetime, deliberately surprising in the violent chord that closes the work. The Sonata No. 13 in E-Flat Major was frankly messy and sported some odd musical choices. The gentle rise and fall of the bass line in the first movement, for example, was rushed and returned not in the same tempo, as indicated, but faster still. Frank did find the Rossinian charm of the Sonata No. 16 in G Major, its lovely trills strung together like pearls of uneven color but equal splendor.
After intermission, the entire second part of the concert was devoted to the great Sonata No. 32 in C Minor. It is a ferocious and brilliant work, and a very demanding one. All the notes were there in Frank's hands, but few of the phrases made any sense. The pianist somehow managed to draw the ear away from the opening maestoso, about which no memories remain. The thrilling freedom of the rhythms of the allegro was felled by careless, illogical phrasing. And the serenity of the C-major finale was close to the score but far from its meaning.