Jenny Lin is a pianist of the first rank who commands an enviably economical technique and a silvery singing sound that propels music directly to the heart. But what really sets her apart is her insatiable curiosity. She plays things nobody else does, or can. You might say Lin is a spokeswoman for the musically underserved: brand-new music that has not been heard, newer music that deserves to be heard more, and older music that may not be fashionable, but that, at the very least, warrants a good listen.
Lin gave a concert Friday night at the Library of Congress, shining the light of her intelligence and empathy on Artur Schnabel, one of the great pianists of the first half of the 20th century. Despite his prestige as a performer and teacher, Schnabel’s own compositions have yet to gain a foothold in the repertory.
Schnabel, who died in 1951 at age 69, wrote a number of songs for his wife, contralto Therese Behr. Soprano Marlissa Hudson gave stunning performances of three of them that demonstrated Schnabel’s deft vocal writing and sensitivity to poetic texts.
Violinist Cornelius Dufallo joined Lin for Schnabel’s 1935 Sonata for Violin and Piano, a piece unfolding in four distinctive movements, including a brief but effective slow movement and a finale of almost Prokofiev-like energy. The disparity between the relatively straightforward violin part and more developed keyboard writing suggests Schnabel’s greater comfort in composing for piano.
The highlight of the concert was three movements from Schnabel’s 1932 Sonata for Piano. Lin’s variety of touch and wealth of color brought the drama of this formidable work vividly to life.