Violinist Ida Levin has a remarkable pair of hands--perhaps the best I have seen on a new violinist since Eugene Fodor made his debut. Last night at the Terrace Theater, in virtuoso material such as Stravinsky's Duo Concertante and Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Piano, she made the most fiendishly difficult passages seem as simple as scales.
Levin also has a finely calibrated sense of style--at least in some music. The Ravel Sonata, with its jazzy rhythms and erratically bouncy melodies, was followed by the pure schmaltz of Fritz Kreisler--notably by those two ultra-familiar and neatly contrasting bits of Viennese pastry, Liebesleid and Liebesfreud. It would be hard to imagine a more drastic shifting of stylistic gears, but Levin negotiated it beautifully. The Ravel was crisp, deadpan and brilliant; the Kreisler sentimental and bittersweet, and both were flawlessly played. Particularly impressive, in the Viennese material, was her mastery of the agogic accents--subtle adjustments of tempo, little pauses and hesitations, a fond lingering on one note quickly compensated by a quick pirouette through the next phrase. And it was all delivered in a tone of the purest honey.
What Levin has yet to develop, on the evidence of last night's recital, is a sense of the larger structures and emotional dynamics of truly great music. In what could have been a serious tactical error, she opened the program with the Brahms Sonata in G, in a performance that never really came to grips with the music's meaning though the notes were played correctly. Fortunately, the Ravel, which works if you simply get the notes right, saved the program from banality. But Levin (who is still very young) has some growing to do before her musicianship matches her technique.
At the piano, Sandra Rivers matched her playing neatly to her partner's strengths and limitations.