“BEETHOVEN SONATA PERSPECTIVES,” Libby Gardner Concert Hall, April 28
Pianist Vedrana Subotic’s game plan in her multi-year perusal of Beethoven’s chamber music with piano alternates programs of early and late works. Monday’s concert, in which she was joined by Utah Symphony colleagues Stephen Proser, horn, Pegsoon Whang, cello, and Lun Jiang, violin, focused on sonatas written around 1800.
Beethoven’s early works are still squarely rooted in classical parameters, and in the four works played Monday one could barely notice where the young composer would be headed in just a few years’ time. The one distinguishing element in these, and in contrast to what had been written up to this point, is that there is a slightly more defined independence of parts. In these sonatas, the horn, cello and violin don’t play a secondary role to the piano — they take active part in presenting and developing the thematic material.
The four works — the Horn Sonata in F major, op. 17; the Cello Sonata in F major, op. 5, no. 1; and the first two violin sonatas of the op. 12 set — show Beethoven’s considerable melodic bent. These are all lyrical, mellifluous works that are appealing and entertaining, and it’s easy to understand why he quickly became the darling of Viennese society not long after moving there.
Subotic and her partners gave wonderfully nuanced and expressive accounts of these four pieces. Subotic is a fabulous pianist in her own right and a remarkable collaborator — traits that aren’t necessarily found in the same person. She brought subtle inflection to her part and made sure there was a fine balance between the piano and the other instruments, even the horn, which can be a rather dominating instrument without trying.
Proser, too, must be lauded for his articulate and fluid playing. He brought lightness and dexterity to his part, even in the more forceful fanfare passages.
The five cello sonatas Beethoven wrote, and which span most of his life, are gems of the repertoire. Even the two in the op. 5 set are remarkable pieces, and Whang infused her playing with fluidity and grace. It was a thoughtful account that captured the expressiveness of the music wonderfully.
Jiang also gave an eloquent reading of the two violin sonatas. Both are bright, airy works and he underscored this with his sensitive playing that was light and lyrical, yet also decisive.