Lin and Parker offer robust CMS program of American music

Fri May 10, 2019 at 12:27 pm
Cho-Lianh Lin and Jon Kimura Parker performed an American program Thursday night for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Cho-Liang Lin and Jon Kimura Parker performed an American program Thursday night at the Rose Studio for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center holds its biggest events in Alice Tully Hall.  But the “Art of the Recital” series, held upstairs in the Rose Studio, is a treasure in itself. Curated entirely by the artists, these are often rich programs filled with music of personal significance to the performers.

A prime example was the recital performed on Thursday night by violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Their robust program of American music featured three sonatas that Lin himself commissioned when he was director of the La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest.

Beginning with Harbison’s Violin Sonata No. 1, they dove hard into the roughness of the opening Sinfonia. This is jagged music, rhythmically, melodically, and texturally, leaving a strand of tension even when it calms. An entirely different mode came through in the Intermezzo, which lived up to its indication, “Grazioso,” as Lin and Parker played with casual elegance.

Lin’s playing was always intelligent, and his phrasing came through clearly, but it often felt as though technical insecurity was holding him back, particularly in the tightness of his vibrato. He passed up many opportunities to sing out in the lyrical sections of the fourth movement Rondo, and the closing “Poscritto” was played almost entirely straight. 

Lin struggled a bit as well in Steven Stucky’s Violin Sonata, where he didn’t quite have the bow control to capture the breathtaking emptiness of the opening. 

Parker, meanwhile, projected confidence in all his playing, attacking the chords of this opening movement with piercing force. The Scherzo as a whole could have used a lighter touch, though Stucky’s writing fascinated, sending the line of the violin in a manic scramble up the fingerboard over rhythmic pounding in the piano.

A pair of short, charming palate cleansers were heard after intermission: the first was Canon for Aaron, Leonard Bernstein’s birthday tribute to Aaron Copland. This is a simple piece, but in its sweet, earnest little melody it hints at the bright imagination of Bernstein’s later work. Then came Lukas Foss’s “Composer’s Holiday,” where Lin sounded much more secure, playing with greater intention and bringing shining energy to the racing motion of the music.

In what was altogether a substantial program, the most fascinating item was the closer, Paul Schoenfield’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The first movement, “Vanishing Point,” is bracing in how quickly it shifts from one mode to the next, a dizzying tour of musical ideas and styles with motivic snatches flitting about on the edge of the frame. The piece opens with a grand, rhapsodic flourish, a quasi-cadenza for both instruments in tandem, and before long we’ve moved into a playful ragtime duet. 

The stewing intensity of the writing created a feeling of immense pressure in the Intermezzo. The Romanza could have used a more playful approach and the closing movement, “Freilach,” lost focus in the wandering passages nested among its stomping dances, yet on the whole, this performance brought admirable flair to Schoenfeld’s intricate ideas. 

Lin and Parker’s energetic last impression demanded an encore: they offered a lovely, softly glowing rendition of the Larghetto from Dvořák’s Sonatina in G Major.

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