Review: Benjamin Beilman Goes Beyond His Violin Bonbons
By Vivien Schweitzer
May 6, 2016
Young performers often highlight their versatility in recitals with a range of genres and composers, but the violinist Benjamin Beilman instead offered a tribute to a bygone era in a concert on Thursday evening at the Rose Studio.
After a program last fall of works by various composers celebrating the violinist Fritz Kreisler and the Romantic style, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center asked Mr. Beilman to devise a lineup focusing largely on Kreisler, the Austrian composer and violinist adored for his elegant musicianship and gorgeous tone. His lush miniatures are now frequently performed as encores.
In addition to his much-loved violin bonbons, Kreisler also composed operettas, songs and a string quartet. It proved interesting to hear some of his lesser-known arrangements for violin and piano, with Mr. Beilman sensitively partnered by the pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, in this live-streamed performance. However enjoyable, though, Kreisler’s music doesn’t merit an entire two-hour program.
Mr. Beilman demonstrated a rich, glowing sound in the opening Praeludium and Allegro, written in the style of the baroque violinist and composer Gaetano Pugnani. Kreisler initially claimed that this piece and others were his versions of original works by Baroque composers. In fact, Kreisler created them from scratch.
There are myriad worthy arrangements for piano of works by Bach, transcribed by Busoni, Myra Hess and others. But the “Prelude” and “Gavotte en Rondeau” from Bach’s Partita No. 3 for solo violin — one of the great masterpieces of the repertory — fare less well with Kreisler’s interventions.
The first half of the program also included Kreisler’s arrangement of Corelli’s Sonata “La Follia,” its Baroque character romanticized with robust piano chords and its trills played with languid elegance by Mr. Beilman. In the early 20th century, concertos were sometimes performed in arrangements for piano and soloist, a rarity now. The duo offered Kreisler’s version of Viotti’s Concerto No. 22 in A minor, its virtuoso passages deftly rendered by both musicians.
Mr. Beilman played beautifully throughout the second half of the program, which featured four of Kreisler’s compositions for violin and piano and one arrangement. His soaring tone, range of color and sotto voce contrasts were admirable in “Lotus Land” (after Cyril Scott’s Op. 47, No. 1). The flourishes and trills of the “Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta,” passionately accompanied by Mr. Sunwoo, were energetically dispatched.
Mr. Beilman’s delicate, wistful rendition of Kreisler’s “Liebesleid,” the encore, was lovely. But by the end of the program, I felt as if I’d gorged on a few too many sugary desserts: a palate cleanser of unadulterated Bach would have been most welcome.