Sarah Chang and Andrew Von Oeyen February 28, 2010
By Glen Creason
You had to anticipate something special on Sunday at the Performing Arts Center, seeing the placed packed to the rafters a full twenty minutes before curtain, producing a buzz normally associated with pop music. This anxiously awaited concert by violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Andrew Von Oeyen had a lot going for it including the extremely talented duo, the enticing program filled with intriguing compositions from Johannes Brahms and the underrated Cesar Frank with a dash of the contemporary in a work by a promising young composer named Christopher Theofanidis. Without a lot of fanfare the two artists strode confidently to the stage and began a marvelous afternoon of music. Sarah Chang is beautiful and her playing is intense and animated but you could close your eyes and still be carried away by this dynamic violinist. It was also impossible to overlook the masterful playing of Andrew Von Oeyen who literally caused swoons from the audience in some of the romantic passages. Both of these artists began learning their instruments at the age of five years and even if they have not broken into their thirties they are veterans of music.
The curtain-raising “Scherzo” by Brahms was short and very sweet with the vigorous give and take between the two young artists creating color in the piece. Throughout the performance Chang exuded passion, dropping her arms and holding the violin in place with her neck and chin then taking a bold paraph with the bow to emphasize certain moments in the pieces. Occasionally her feet seemed to be off the floor all at once but more often it was something to close to a dance amidst the notes that flew from her Guarnari violin. The second Brahms composition “Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Opus 108 came in four distinctly different movements that ranged from the synchronicity of the pair in the opening “Allegro” to the heart-tugging “ Adagio,” to the fiery exchanges in the “Presto agitato.” The enthusiastic crowd applauded between movements but it seemed somehow perfectly fine since the broadly smiling artists seemed to be enjoying every note.
The second half was equally amazing with the fresh and wonderfully engaging contemporary piece “Fantasy” written by Christopher Theofanidis, inspired by his infant daughter but it was much more than a lullaby. This fantasy brought forth piano notes cascading across the hall, juxtaposed against the flowing violin line which met at a most delicate and satisfying finish. The music was just way too interesting to cause any drowsiness. The lynchpin portion of the concert; Cesar Frank’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano” was in turns contemplative, then boldly dramatic with fevered interplay between the violin and piano and at last beautifully filled with yearning that was made palpable in the talented hands of Chang and Von Oeyen. Without even a hint at becoming cloying Chang’s playing just took your breath away at times. After a rousing standing ovation the pair came forth for an encore of Edward Elgar’s “Salut d’amour” that seemed perfect to finish off a wonderful afternoon of music.