Most violinists use pleasant, nontaxing baroque or classical pieces to warm up for splashy, dramatic works. Not so with Adela Penåa, who made her Washington recital debut yesterday afternoon at the Phillips Collection. Opening with Schumann's Sonata in A Minor, she switched into emotional overdrive just moments after bow touched strings.
Penåa's romantic temperament, vigorous attack and full tone found a suitable outlet in the Schumann. Her extroverted approach was less successful when confronting Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C. A recurring tonal graininess marred the double stops, and her enthusiasm occasionally gave way to a careless, perfunctory treatment of embellishments and phrase endings, which had a lopped-off quality. She never lost hold of the rhythmic thread, though, saving her most compelling playing for the fast movements.
Pieces by Sessions and Ravel brought Penåa back to her element. Sessions' Duo for Violin and Piano has a playful air about it that almost masks the technical demands. Penåa and accompanist Erika Nickrenz breezed easily without so much as an eye cue. Ravel's "Tzigane" was Penåa's show, and she dazzled the audience with a fiery, soulful performance.
The concert will be broadcast on WETA-FM on Nov. 23.