On Sunday night, at the cozy little Gem Theatre, violinist Mischa Lefkowitz presented the first of two recitals he will offer under the auspices of the Garden Grove Symphony. It was a meat-and-potatoes program, with Beethoven, Bloch and Brahms as the main courses.
While technical feats were consistently well done, expressive nuance was a bit too rare. Brahms' Third Sonata suffered most from blandness, the quiet, suspense-fraught passages of the Allegro reduced to mere posturing, the undercurrent of pained Angst smoothed to a calm sureness in the Adagio.
Lefkowitz did, however, muster an exciting level of energy for the closing Allegro vivace. That complemented the contained dynamism of his accompanist Brent McMunn, whose command of romantic intensity, direction and phrasing contrasted with the soloist's shortfalls in earlier movements.
Bloch also suffered from over-reliance on technical authority. With little attention given to dynamic shape and overall cohesion, the Prelude to his Suite No. 1 for solo violin tended to ramble and the Andante tranquillo seemed uneasy.
But all was not bleak. Beethoven's First Sonata emerged unscathed from the violinist's matter-of-fact approach. Here, with McMunn's able assistance, Lefkowitz offered a secure and stylish reading of this more straight-forward work.
Lefkowitz filled out his program with musically uncomplicated, physically demanding miniatures by Wienawski, Sarasate and Dvorak, all sparkling with an impressive facility. It is a facility that will serve the Garden Grove Symphony well, as the orchestra begins its fifth season with Lefkowitz as the new principal concertmaster (replacing Liane Mautner).