It took Mexican violinist Manuel Ramos a while to loosen up during his recital last evening at the Organization of American States. Once he hit his stride after intermission, Ramos' playing was both provocative and warmly communicative.
The opening Beethoven Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 12, No. 3, suffered on several counts. Pianist Jeffrey Chappell was far too loud, creating an awkward sound balance; his playing competed with, rather than complemented, the violin part. To compound matters, Ramos' tentative approach to the broadly lyrical phrases cast an uneasiness over the work as a whole.
Left to his own devices, Ramos displayed a dry, uneven tone in J.S. Bach's Sonata in C Major for unaccompanied violin. He was most convincing in the fast movements, especially in his articulation of the extended linear passages in the concluding Presto.
Ramos came out bowing with authority in the second half of the program, a collection of musical miniatures. Polish violinist-composer Henryk Wieniawski's Polonaise de Concert, Op. 4, served as a showy aside for Ramos' impressive speed and dexterity. He lent a touching, nostalgic air to Mexican composer Jose' Sabre Marroqui'n's "De mi Patria (From My Homeland)," a terse piece laden with charming melodies. Saving his cache of virtuosic tricks till the end, Ramos took Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" at a comfortable pace, providing plenty of breathing space for the rhapsodic interludes and volatile effects.