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Violinist Pamela Frank presents a rich program of all six Bach sonatas

Pamela Frank at Victoria Hall in Geneva in 2012. (Nicolas Lieber)
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Pamela Frank’s concert in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Wednesday night was an occasion for both a homecoming and a departure. The celebrated American violinist returned to the venue on the Fortas Chamber Music Series, just as Jamie Broumas, the arts center’s director of classical and new music programs, announced she would be leaving after 23 years.

A hand injury in 2001 sidelined Frank, whose career was seemingly unstoppable, including winning the Avery Fisher Prize in 1999. She stopped performing for more than a decade, returning to the stage gradually since 2012. This program of all six Bach sonatas for violin and harpsichord was the most recent of several appearances in the past couple of years around Washington.

Frank’s sound remains rich and lustrous, especially in the lower reaches, and the intonation and musical sense are as sure as ever. Frank expertly unpacked the interweaving lines of each sonata, shared between the violin and the keyboard part played by Stephen Prutsman on modern piano (replacing Peter Serkin). She took admirable care in distinguishing between her part’s accompanying and solo roles.

Frank’s technique has faded slightly. Passages in double-stops seemed tentative, with some difficulty producing a consistent sound that was strong and in tune, as in the third movement of the fifth sonata. A similar caution tempered the pacing of the otherwise glittering Presto, Vivace and Allegro movements.

Prutsman rounded out a fine ensemble rendition of these intricate pieces, made during Bach’s years serving the music-loving prince of Anhalt-Köthen. In the single movement for harpsichord alone, in the middle of the sixth sonata, Prutsman’s rough edges brought an unwelcome harshness. The performance was best for both musicians when they were at their most collaborative.

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