Of the many musical virtues evident at Oleh Krysa's violin recital Sunday afternoon at Catholic University's Ward Hall, the most notable was finesse. This distinguished Ukrainian musician is a player who brings subtlety and calm elegance to every musical phrase, and his work with pianist Paul Ostrovsky in this all-Prokofiev recital was a fine chance to hear a poised, almost too laid-back approach to this fiery composer's work.
Prokofiev's two violin sonatas formed the heart of the program. Krysa's warm tone and accurate playing created real power in the uncompromising and dark Sonata No. 1 in F. This is an austere piece -- in its first movement reminiscent of Bartok's hypnotic "Night Music" and later full of discord and severity. It's difficult music for performer and listener alike, but Krysa plays it with great honesty and to his credit makes no effort to smooth its edges.
The Second Sonata, a more familiar work dating from 1944, is full of Prokofiev's characteristic humor, supercharged rhythms and magnificent tunes. Both players excelled here and pianist Ostrovsky did an exceptionally charming job with the last-movement theme, a piano exercise ditty that becomes rapidly unglued.
Ostrovsky, who is artist-in-residence at Catholic University, also proved himself a sensitive accompanist in other Prokofiev works; although his tone never quite cut through the hall's blurred acoustics, he remains a first-rate ensemble player well suited to Krysa's clean style.