A young violinist named Stephanie Chase made her Washington recital debut at the Phillips Collection yesterday in a particularly demanding and lengthy program.
Her artistic pedigree is impressive -- a bronze medal in the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition, the Stillman Kelley Award of the National Federation of Music Clubs, a first place in the Chicago Symphony Youth Competition, the Artist's Awards of the Buffalo Philharmonic and Dallas' G.B. Dealey Competition.
Her playing is also impressive. She showed a particular boldness of manner and a gift for articulation in rapid passages.
But in the first half of the program, where she took on two of the violin's mightiest masterpieces, Bach's unaccompanied A-minor Sonata and Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata, Chase seemed able but a little constrained.
The Beethoven didn't quite have the slashing attack that can make it its most vivid. Though in the Bach, a work in which tonal refinement is not as crucial as in romantic works for the violin, Chase's intent concentration on the work's elusive harmonies seemed appropriate -- give or take a tentative note here or there.
As the recital proceeded, her tonal command seemed to grow, reaching its most lustrous sounds in all those doubled notes of the encore, Fritz Kreisler's delectable "Caprice viennois."
Her instrument obviously is a special one, a Petrus Guarnerius, and the rich sounds she played on the G string resonated in the way one expects from such a great violin. But the highs on the E string were less ethereal, sometimes strung thin; in Enesco's rarely heard and very difficult "Impressions d'enfance" and in Szymanowski's "La Fontaine d'Arethuse," though, this clearly was sometimes deliberate.
As an interpreter, Chase tended toward sharp contrasts of mood, especially appropriate in the Beethoven; but in one of the slow movement's variations (the one before the pizzicati) she got in a rush.
Perhaps a special reason Chase's tonal inconsistencies kept coming to mind was because of the exceptional tonal coloring by the pianist, Anne-Marie McDermott, who had already made a fine showing here in a 1983 Young Concert Artists recital at the Kennedy Center. Yesterday she played with distinction, and in the impressionistic washes of sound in the Szymanowski her coloring was truly fine.