Astral presents violinist Beilman

Benjamin Beilman gave an Astral Artists recital Sunday at Trinity Center, playing Brahms, Poulenc, Messiaen, Schubert.
Benjamin Beilman gave an Astral Artists recital Sunday at Trinity Center, playing Brahms, Poulenc, Messiaen, Schubert. (CHRISTIAN STEINER)
Posted: November 14, 2012

They keep coming, these supremely gifted young players. Is there a place for them all in the contracting classical cosmos?

Violinist Benjamin Beilman, 22, made a strong case for himself as a rare talent in a Sunday afternoon Astral Artists Trinity Center recital in Poulenc, Brahms, Messiaen, and Schubert. It was a program packed with stylistic diversity, and with sheer notes. Schubert's Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major (D. 934) has so much etudelike repetition the violinist begins to seem like a sous chef slicing and dicing his way through the task. And yet Beilman made music from it. His initial entrance was a whisper with an inaudible start. A sweeter sound would not have been possible at the entrance of the slow variation section. Even in moments when Schubert's message is more blunt than his norm - the jubilant finish, for instance - Beilman and his fine pianist, Amy Yang, found creative ways to phrase and color notes.

The Messiaen might have surprised some. The Fantasy for Violin and Piano was written in 1933, and the avant-gardist-to-be was still somewhat under the influence of Debussy. Beilman and Yang traversed a fascinating harmonic path that led to a bubbly finish. Poulenc's Sonata for Violin and Piano, from the 1940s, was expressively uneven, with Beilman not quite getting to the essence until the second movement, when, expressively, he became deeply involved.

The most encouraging signs came from the most exposed music: Brahms' Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2. There were slight technical blemishes. But you had to admire and share in his chance-taking. Young players often retain the flavor of their teachers, and while it's impossible to say whether and to what extent this is the case here, Beilman, a recent Curtis Institute graduate, was in hot pursuit of a point of view on Brahms. Much more often than not, he was the composer's thrilling advocate.


Contact Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/artswatch.

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