Maxim Vengerov | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Maxim Vengerov has a rare combination of gifts--supreme virtuosity, profound musicality, and the ability to truly communicate emotion. At 29, he's among the world's busiest violinists, playing about 130 concerts each year in 100 different cities, and in his first recital here since 2002 he'll perform sonatas of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. In Bach's lovely Sonata no. 1 in B Minor for violin and keyboard, the violin starts with a single, sustained note that opens into a heartbreaking lament. Of Brahms's sonatas for violin, the second is the least dramatic yet perhaps the most lyrical--the gentler side of Brahms. Beethoven's Sonata no. 9, the Kreutzer, is one of the composer's finest works. Like the Eroica Symphony, which was finished the same year, it's emotionally riveting and written on a scale unprecedented for its genre. The light-filled theme and variations of the second movement provide a respite from all the passion and fury that come before and after, and Vengerov's recording of the piece is an exceptional realization of the composer's intentions. He expands the opening passages wonderfully and makes breathtaking use of vibrato on the ascending notes of the third phrase. He could stand to vary the sweetness of his sound a little in the second movement, but this is superb Beethoven. Since 1998 Vengerov has performed on the Stradivarius said to have been owned by the violinist to whom Beethoven dedicated the sonata, Rodolphe Kreutzer, who apparently never even played the work. The pianist will be Fazil Say. Monday, March 15, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Thomas Muller.

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