Franz Waxman is still best known as the soundtrack composer for such films as "Sunset Boulevard," "Magnificent Obsession" and "Stalag 17," but his greatest claim to long-term fame may be the "Carmen Fantasy" for violin that he composed in 1947 for Jascha Heifetz.
The piece, concluding violinist Ayako Yoshida's program Sunday evening at the National Gallery, gave exactly the right crowning touch to a program notable for solid musicianship and emotional communication.
"Carmen Fantasy" is not the only violin showpiece using thematic material from Georges Bizet's great opera "Carmen." And in terms of pure technical flash it may be a few degrees less dazzling than the one composed in the 19th century by Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate.
But it has, besides its virtuoso fireworks, a warmth and sweetness unexpected in music related to Bizet's savage melodrama of hopeless love and cynical betrayal.
Young violinists usually emphasize the speed and dexterity that are a major benefit of their youth. As a rule, depth and warmth come later, if at all.
In Yoshida's case, these gifts have come early. She gave full value to the loud and fast passages scattered through her program, the showers of pizzicato notes, the double-stops and all the other showff elements that bring audiences to their feet applauding wildly.
One such passage was the Gypsy dance transcription that concludes the "Carmen Fantasy," and it was rewarded with a long standing ovation. But it was not the best part.
The program opened with the Ciaccona of Tommasso Vitale (1663-1745), a baroque form featuring brilliant variations superimposed on a solid, repetitive, dance-related bass line.
It was well played, although baroque purists would prefer to hear less vibrato, but Yoshida's interest clearly is focused on Romantic repertoire.
The most memorable moments in this program were the slow passages: the Andante in Gabriel Faure's Sonata No. 1 in A; the second movement, "Improvisation: Andante cantabile," in Richard Strauss's Sonata in E-flat; the wonderfully expressive and provocatively phrased introduction to Carmen's "Habanera."
This is the kind of music that many young violinists treat merely as a sort of interruption, a contrasting interval between opportunities to show off.
Yoshida, sensitively assisted by pianist Andrew Armstrong, gave these moments a smooth, legato phrasing, a variety of tonal shadings, an expressive intensity that brought the music vividly to life.
There is a richness of feeling in parts of the Strauss and Faure works that seldom emerges in performance, perhaps because violinists in our time fear that they might be accused of sentimentality.
The music does require an especially delicate balance in performance, and on this occasion it got exactly what it required.
Next Sunday's free program at the National Gallery is its Gala Viennese New Year Concert, with music director George Manos conducting the National Gallery Orchestra. This is traditionally the most popular concert of the gallery's season, attracting an overflow audience, and those who want seats are advised to arrive early.
Other concerts this month--at 7 p.m. Sundays--will include pianist Analynn Miller and cellist Ulrich Schmid on Jan. 16, violinist Marilyn MacDonald and harpsichordist Kenneth Slowik on Jan. 23, and pianist Mark Markham on Jan. 30.