If violinist Kristin Lee had been trying to spotlight her splendid bow arm, she couldn’t have chosen a better program than the one she and pianist Michael Mizrahi put together for their concert at the Phillips Collection on Sunday.
At one extreme was Anton Webern’s Op. 7, Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, where every stroke had its own prescribed attack, weight and release and where the ability to draw out long, unwavering and almost inaudible whispers was so important. At the other was the Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata, Op. 47, where passion and playfulness rode on a sea of fast, sharply chiseled and energetic bowing.
The perpetual-motion conclusion of the second of Copland’s Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, “Ukulele Serenade,” and the French “on-the-breath” coloring of Ravel’s Sonata in G filled in the broad scope of her technique.
Mizrahi’s formidable strengths were of a different sort, however. Intense and often on the front cusp of the beat, he rarely drew sounds from the piano, preferring to power them out with percussive edges. Fortunately, he tamed this propensity where it mattered most — in the Webern, where detail and quiet focus conveyed their own power.
At their best, as they were in the Webern and Copland, the duo seemed entirely of one mind and the music was enthralling. In the Beethoven, however, it was Mizrahi’s big, hard-fingered presence that took over and seemed to propel Lee to overdrive in a collaboration that made the sonata’s two outer movements feel more aggressive than urgent. But it was in the Ravel that the two seemed to part ways, as Lee focused on a sultry suggestiveness, just letting it float over the piano’s more earthbound terrain.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.