Of the three sonatas presented, Beethoven’s were a little disappointing largely due to Lynn Harrell’s somewhat strident tone, his ever-nimble bow nearly always hovering around the bridge. However, the ensemble was excellent: there’s no better way than frequent collaboration to raise the “togetherness” bar. What’s more, it was clear that Harrell and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy were actually having fun with their music making.
They also demonstrated mastery of the “show business” moves in their performance. Harrell generated a real “woof” flourish for his arpeggiated chords. Unfortunately, none of the exposition repeats were taken.
The Rachmaninoff was something else again. Here, Harrell’s tone suited the piece to a T, yet had a little trouble projecting over the piano. The first three movements are especially well written (this was my initial hearing) and artfully rendered. The finale seems to have a lot of trouble finding just the right moment to end. The audience was a little cooler than on previous concerts so we were rewarded with just a bit of Prokofiev as an encore, but then we were force-fed into another—that applause died quickly: enough was finally enough.
One hopes that Harrell might rethink utilizing the same sound production technique with all composers. Ashkenazy’s incredible skill makes one wonder why he went into conducting—we really need more pianists of his calibre. JWR