From recital to finale, an evening of chamber finery

Jeremy Denk, Benjamin Beilman, Nicholas Phan
The Seattle Times

Variety was the keyword for Wednesday night’s presentations at the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival. The evening began with the most dulcet of Mozart sonatas, and concluded with the desperate renunciation of Janácek’s searing “The Diary of One Who Disappeared.”

Not surprisingly, some of the evening’s finest playing came in the preconcert recital, when the stellar pianist Jeremy Denk teamed up with the young violin virtuoso Benjamin Beilman for a pair of sonatas. For weary concertgoers who had braved some particularly appalling I-5 traffic to get to Benaroya Hall, the opening strains of Mozart’s K.301 Violin Sonata in G Major were a balm to the soul.

Beilman’s sweet, infinitely pliant tone was matched by Denk’s detailed lyricism at the keyboard, as each phrase was successively embellished a little more each time it appeared. The level of communication and the degree of accord were both unusually fine. And the duo’s approach to the Janácek sonata that followed couldn’t have been more different: incisive, restless, and propulsive, with a second (“Ballada”) movement that demonstrated Beilman’s infinite variety of bowing and tone coloration.

The performance of the evening, however, was tenor Nicholas Phan’s tour-de-force in the “Diary of One Who Disappeared.” The task of presenting (from memory) this long and complicated score in Czech paled in comparison to the depth of expression with which Phan invested this quasi-operatic role. Denk provided a full spectrum of almost orchestral colorations at the keyboard, ranging from the spare and subtle to huge washes of sound.

With Sasha Cooke as the protagonist’s gypsy inamorata, and an offstage trio (Rena Harms, Nerys Jones and Rachelle Moss), the performance was a chamber opera in miniature. But the show belonged to Phan, whose impressive emotional and vocal range culminated in a wholehearted, all-out finale of exultation and despair.

Read the rest of the review here