Miles Hoffman brought a short but exquisitely balanced program of chamber music to The Barns at Wolf Trap last night. It began small, with 12 duos for two violins by Bartok, gained in depth with the Sonata in Three Movements for violin and piano by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (who won a Pulitzer Prize in music this year) and ended with a brilliant Schumann Piano Quintet.
But brilliant or not, the Schumann came off third best. Pianist Hugh Wolff, violinists Alexis Galperine and Junko Ohtsu, violist Hoffman and cellist Carter Brey seemed to come to the music with their own uncompromising ideas. They should have listened more closely to Ohtsu. She was the one who found the heart of the beat in the otherwise flabby second movement. She was the one who's bowing had just the right biting touch in the third, and her fourth movement ornaments were a model of sensitivity. First violinist Galperine needs to do something about his nervous sounding vibrato that became as annoying here as it did during his performance last week at the Library of Congress.
The first half of the program was a different story, however. Ohtsu and violinist Richard Young gave vivid readings of Bartok's energetic and expressive duos.
Teamed with pianist Maureen Wallis, Young performed the Zwilich sonata eloquently. This is a moving piece. It's overriding effect is one of almost vocal lyricism, in spite of lines that leaped in wide skips and that move with bursts of energy. Zwilich does not seem wedded to a formula or to a compositional school. Her textures are uncluttered, and her idiom, while clearly contemporary, does not go out of its way to avoid consonances.
This program, with the addition of a Beethoven serenade, will be repeated at the Library of Congress tonight.