Violinist Benjamin Beilman proves his mettle in Vancouver
A MusicFest Vancouver presentation. At Christ Church Cathedral on Monday, August 8
A recital in a dark church at 10:30 a.m. on a sunny weekday may sound like an unlikely draw, but the first of MusicFest Vancouver’s three Chamber Music Morning concerts pulled in a respectable audience at Christ Church Cathedral on August 8.
Apparently, word of 20-year-old American violinist Benjamin Beilman, winner of the 2010 Montreal International Musical Competition, has travelled fast. The baby-faced Beilman snapped up a nice haul of awards last year, including first prize at the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and a bronze medal at the 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. Accompanied by pianist Arthur Rowe, he performed a one-hour program of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sergei Prokofiev, and Camille Saint-Saí«ns—a selection of little musical tapas, if you will, designed to show off his various skills as a performer.
Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304—the only piece the composer wrote in that rather mournful key—demonstrated Beilman’s elegant bowing and careful phrasing, particularly in the second movement, the melancholy “Tempo di menuetto”. He also proved a collaborative player, communicating clearly with Rowe, who matched his every intention perfectly.
It was in Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major, Op. 94 bis that followed, however, that Beilman really came to life. It’s a technically challenging work full of double stops, intricate string crossings, and schizophrenic changes in mood, and Beilman tackled it all with aplomb. Every note landed perfectly, and his clear, precise tone never lost its sheen, even in the devilishly tricky staccato runs of the scherzo. If there was one thing the piece could have used, it was a little more fun. Beilman’s precision and care were impressive; as he matures, let’s hope he develops a little bit more abandon.
In Saint-Saí«ns’s flamenco-inflected Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28, Beilman seemed more at home, and allowed himself to display a little more flash, throwing in some well-placed glissandos and rubato phrasing to spice things up. With this closing piece he earned a standing ovation, and he returned for an encore: the second movement of Prokofiev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 115. A piece originally intended to be performed by a number of violins playing in unison, it is less technically demanding than some of the composer’s other work and Beilman played it with relaxed ease.
It was a tasteful note on which to end a perfectly enjoyable performance from a musician from whom much more is clearly yet to come.