The string that broke in the Phillips Collection's piano midway through the Liszt B-Minor Sonata yesterday afternoon was a benevolent disaster, as natural disasters go. Margarita Hohenrieder, who studied with Leon Fleisher, had been making heavy weather of the piece, and there didn't seem to be any reason to expect things to improve measurably, since she had also bullied her way through the preceding Schubert A-Major Sonata.
But after a short break to remove the wire, Hohenrieder began again--this time, apparently, with a new lease on life. It had been clear at the outset that she was a strong pianist and that she had lots of technical facility, but with this second chance, she suddenly seemed to begin listening to herself. Her playing took on an intensity and a rhythmic inevitability that had been nowhere in evidence previously. She began to sound in control of the music's motion and there were long stretches of sensitive music-making. She did not sustain this concentration to the end, so what was heard was more a promise of an artist than a finished product.
It is unfortunate that Hohenrieder chose to play the Schubert Sonata. In fact, it is unfortunate that so many young and developing pianists are seduced into playing his sonatas. These are pieces that require the most mature artistic imagination and poetic sensitivity, virtues that come, if one is very lucky, only with experience. These are not her strengths, at the moment, and the Schubert, in consequence, was a struggle.
The concert opened with a big, frank, contrapuntally attractive sonata by Harald Genzmer.