The Cliburn Concerts series moved back to its old home grounds, Bass Hall, for Tuesday night’s impressive presentation. The spotlight this time was on the violin rather than the customary piano, although the latter instrument was also employed.
The series has of late favored the Kimbell Museum’s Piano Pavilion as a venue, doubling the concerts when a larger audience is expected. But the smaller venue would not have worked for the large crowd assembled in the Bass on Tuesday night.
The draw was undoubtedly violinist Hilary Hahn, one of the top performers in today’s Golden Age of the Violin, though the presence of pianist Robert Levin as her musical partner of the evening was a decided plus.
Their program was full of variety, with the music of two living composers surrounded by masterpieces by three giants of music.
For me, the highlight of the evening was Beethoven’s great “Kreutzer Sonata,” which was full of both drama and beauty. Levin was a full partner, with Hahn a lyrical presence (the slow movement seemed downright magical). The violinist’s elegance and security were constant throughout the evening.
Levin and Hahn each took to the stage alone for one contemporary piece. Hahn’s was “You,” a partita for solo violin by Spanish composer Antón García Abril. This somewhat mournful technical workout is the last of a group of pieces written for Hahn. The title of each of the six partitas begins with a letter that eventually spells out “H-I-L-A-R-Y.” Hahn’s performance of the work was brilliant.
Levin’s solo was “Dreams” by Romanian composer Hans Peter Türk. This seemed a kind of modernistic, impressionist work, moody and atmospheric with a fadeaway ending. “Dreams” was written for and dedicated to Levin, who was a friend of Türk and Türk’s late wife.
The evening was rounded out by elegant performances of sonatas for piano and violin by Bach (Sonata No. 6 in G Major) and Mozart (Sonata in E-flat major, K. 481).