Fried and Biss offer varied delights at the Gardner

Jonathan Biss & Miriam Fried , Jonathan Biss, Miriam Fried
Boston Globe

By David Weininger

Violinist Miriam Fried and pianist Jonathan Biss began a two-concert exploration of music by Schumann and Bartok on Sunday at the Gardner Museum. It’s the kind of comparative, broad-view programming at which the Gardner excels. Yet it wasn’t clear, by the end of an enjoyable performance, what guiding thread made these two very different composers worth bringing together in the first place.

Indeed, the program’s two pillars — each composer’s first violin sonatas — seem to point in almost irreconcilable directions. The Schumann is concise, darkly shaded, and constructed in a way that necessitates tight coordination between the two players. The Bartok, by contrast, is expansive, blazingly avant-garde for its time, and shot through with timbres so inventive that they have yet to lose their power to surprise.

Yet as different as the two pieces were, they worked simply as an appealing program. In this case, opposites neither attracted nor repelled; they sat side by side, each content to say its peace.

Fried and Biss are a mother-and-son partnership, so the affinity they demonstrated in the Schumann was unsurprising. The sonata is suffused with imitation and repetition, and keeping the sense of a larger dramatic arc alive requires careful work on the micro level. The duo excelled at this, passing lines and motifs back and forth in a way that propelled this restless, quietly seething music ever onward toward its goal.

Read the rest of the review here.