Effortlessly gliding through the Tzigane’s double trills and harmonics, Sarah Chang captivated the audience with her unparalleled technique and energy in her February 3 performance in the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium. With over 20 years of experience performing on the world’s biggest stages, she gave what was a passionate, virtuosic recital consisting of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108, Franck’s Sonata in A Major, FWV 8, and Ravel’s Tzigane, with Bartók’s challenging Hungarian Dances as a closing encore.
Throughout this difficult program, Sarah wowed the audience with her brilliant technique and zealous energy, at times even contorting her body in certain ways that seemed to defy what would be comfortable or aiding her sound. Coming from a violin school at Julliard that emphasizes generating the biggest sound (and being quite showy about it), she broke perhaps 15 bow hairs in each half of the recital (even changing bows between the first and second half). Though I don’t necessarily agree that one needs to press that hard on the strings to produce a good sound or have dramatic body sways or contortions to convey the emotions or ideas of a piece, I was nonetheless blown away by Sarah’s artistry and virtuosity throughout the performance. From the cleanliness of the chromatic runs in the Bartók Folk Dances to the nostalgic yearning of Brahm’s Adagio in the second movement of his violin sonata to the energetic themes of Ravel’s Tzigane, Sarah guided the audience through each challenging piece with liveliness and clarity.
As a pianist, I also found it very refreshing to see Julio Elizalde essentially run a marathon on the piano during the recital, as each of the above pieces were as challenging for the pianist as it was for the violinist. Elizalde said in a brief remark in the post-performance discussion that violin-piano pieces too often have a lackluster piano part to “accompany” the violin. But this was most definitely not the case for this performance, as Bartók, Brahms, Frank and Ravel were all fantastic pianists (or organist, in Franck’s case) and wrote difficult and musically stimulating parts for both the piano and violin.
In all, Sarah Chang had what was an energetic and awe-inspiring performance that carried through the post-performance discussion and student reception afterward, with her bubbly personality and passion for the performance arts shining through in all aspects.