Self-effacing directness goes a long way in Brahms’ three Violin Sonatas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t carry them very far in as cavernous an environment as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
That at least was the impression Tuesday evening, when violinist Shlomo Mintz and pianist Yefim Bronfman essayed the triumvirate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Celebrity Series. Playing of affecting simplicity--supported by all-encompassing technique in sovereign ensemble--was robbed of much of its impact by the Pavilion reaches, where a large and restive audience clapped between movements and defected in substantial numbers at intermission.
The duo played the sonatas in order, which makes nice musical as well as chronological sense. But leading with the “Regenlied” Sonata in G and the Sonata in A puts a very large dose of sweetness and lyrical light up front, and Mintz and Bronfman made no concession to the hall.
Their playing was almost anti-charismatic in its purity, staying well within the musical limits of the scores at all times. There was nothing weak or underplayed about the performances--suave, focused sound from Mintz and rounded, articulate partnership from Bronfman--which could have been the glory of the season in a more intimate room.
The D-minor Sonata provided flashier, more extroverted opportunities, but there too Mintz and Bronfman emphasized refinement and eloquence rather than virtuoso deeds. The sense of both physical and emotional distance was seldom overcome.
An intensely athletic, vivid account of a movement from Prokofiev’s Sonata in D, in encore, proved that interpretive aloofness is not organic for Mintz and Bronfman.