Beethoven didn't write more bombs than any other composer, but they certainly seem to be performed more often. Cellist Jonathan Spitz asked for trouble when he opened his recital at the Phillips Collection yesterday with Beethoven's G Minor Sonata, Op. 5, No. 2. Much of the music is awkward, both musically and instrumentally, and some of it is pretentious. Although a great cellist might have been able to pull it off gracefully, Spitz, solid and good, is not yet great.
He won first prize in the Friday Morning Music Club's Competition a year ago and currently is playing a lot of chamber music with some fine musicians. This experience shows in his sweet tone and his intelligent approach to music. What he has yet to perfect is the complete concentration needed to attend to details and the niceties of pitch.
His finest playing came in the challenges of the Bach E Flat Major Suite No. 4 for unaccompanied cello, where he found a stylistic lilt for the Bourees and a dependable rhythmic drive for the Gigue.
His performance of the Debussy Sonata reflected a well-thought-out sense of structure and a nice palette of tone colors. The concert ended with the Bartok "Rhapsodie" No. 1. Spitz has the piece well under his fingers but has not yet internalized Bartok's rhythms.
Pianist Catherine Kautsky was a helpful and sympathetic partner.