The sonata for viola and piano is a bit of a musical rara avis. Unlike its string brethren the violin and cello, the viola, because of its comparatively limited expressive range, has taken a back seat in the chamber music omnibus, at least within a duet format. Yesterday afternoon at the Phillips Collection, violist Paul Neubauer and pianist Margo Garrett made a strong case for reinvestigating this overlooked genre.
Neubauer, in his Washington debut, exhibited a somewhat dry tone in Marin Marais' Variations on "La Folia" and Georges Enesco's Concertpiece, works that possess more flash than real substance. Adopting a more robust sound, both he and Garrett smoothly exchanged roles as melodist and accompanist in Brahms' Sonata in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1, though their observance of the second movement's concluding diminuendo was careless, at best.
As a bravura showpiece, Jeno Hubay's "Hejre Kati" from the Csa'rda's No. 4, Op. 132, permitted Neubauer the opportunity to unveil a flawlessly executed barrage of pyrotechnics, wholly in keeping with the Hungarian dance. Their rendition of Mendelssohn's Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 58, (originally written for piano and cello) dazzled in a subtler fashion; sonorous effects assumed a subsidiary role to the ebb and flow of the lyrical thematic aspects.