Last night Malcolm Frager concluded the Terrace Theater's Beethoven piano sonata series, applying his distinctive buoyance to the four remaining works, Sonatas No. 5, 11, 24 and 28. The widely contrasting material of the four, sharply projected by Frager, produced a highly satisfying program.
Frager showed a particular flair for underlining the vividness of Beethoven's ideas, especially his fondness for keeping the listener off balance and dipping into unexpected explorations. Many moments of humor and playfulness surfaced under Frager's skillful touch, to serve as a welcome reminder of Beethoven's humanity. Frager had a delicious time with the tiny two-note motif in the second movement of No. 24, the Op. 78 in F-sharp major, and he left no doubt that Beethoven must have enjoyed himself when he wrote it. The sheer zest of Frager's approach was often infectious, especially in No. 11, the Op. 22 in B-flat major, which moved along with an extroverted bounce.
Even if he preferred to stress the accessibility of Beethoven, Frager also did some fine probing of the composer's more introspective side, especially in No. 28, the Op. 101 in A major. He allowed the opening statement to unfold in song-like simplicity and then pursued with sure insight and strong inner reserves its many transformations. The profound tenderness of certain passages came through with unusual clarity, as well as the underlying unity of Beethoven's concept.