On Thursday evening August 21 the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival presented and all Beethoven program at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. The evening began with the last of Beethoven’s sonatas for cello and piano – the 5th in D Op 102, #2. Written in 1815 along with the 4th sonata, it was dedicated to Countess Marie Erdody. The work is especially noted for its beautiful slow movement and the fugal final movement which presages the master’s late period.
Unfortunately the sonata received a rather listless reading by cellist Ronald Thomas. Veteran pianist Joseph Kalichstein could do little to liven the performance. The tepid applause the audience offered at the work’s conclusion reflected the lack of depth of the performance. One could not grasp from this rendition that this was one of Beethoven’s most interesting and intricate chamber works.
The performance temperature went off the scale with the appearance of 23 year old violinist Benjamin Beilman. This artist, who looks even younger than he is, possess’s a technique and sound that place him in the front rank of contemporary violinists. His playing of Beethoven’s last violin sonata (#10, Op 96) reinvigorated the audience made lethargic by the first piece. This piece is Beethoven at his best, but it is its last movement that is extraordinary even for Beethoven. It’s slow, it’s fast. It’s soft, it’s loud. Just when you think it’s going one way it goes another. Beilman was up to all its twists and turns. He has a flawless command of his instrument. He also has a dynamic range unique in my experience. He can get so much sound out of the violin that you almost think it’s amplified. If this young man comes your way be sure and go and hear him. He’s a great talent. Mr Kalichstein was again the pianist.
The second half of the program was Beethoven’s Archduke Piano Trio, Op 97. The performers were Martin Beaver, violin; Eric Kim, cello; and Yefim Bronfman, piano. This work was by far the most familiar to audience and they reacted to a splendid performance of it with great enthusiasm. Mr Bronfman is an outstanding pianist well known for his solo work. A missed note at the start aside, he was easily up to the work’s challenge as were his colleagues.
This trio is longer than many of Beethoven’s symphonies. It is both lyrical and muscular. Its final presto brought the evening to a rousing finish. The chamber music festival is about to end. It’s 2015 season will soon be announced. The level of performance by this organization is so high that it’s worth a special trip to Santa Fe just to hear the great musicians that it brings each year to New Mexico. And of course, Santa Fe has many other charms.