Most violin recitals feature sonatas requiring piano accompaniment that sometimes mellows the tone of the music. It was very refreshing then to hear last evening's recital by Lara Lev of three rarely performed works for solo violin. By itself, the instrument has a spare almost stark sound that the three composers featured fully exploited in these works. At the same time, Ms. Lev approached the music in a straightforward, no nonsense manner free of any hint of frivolity.
The first piece was Ernest Bloch's Suite No. 1 for Solo Violin (1958), a roughly ten minute piece dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin who recorded it in 1974. This was followed by the Sonata for Violin Solo in D Major, Op. 115 (1947) by Sergei Prokofiev. A fascinating historical note is that this piece was not after all originally composed for solo violin but actually for a group of violins, perhaps twenty or so, playing in unison.
After a short pause Ms. Lev returned to the stage for a performance of Sonata for Violin Solo (1944) by Bela Bartok. This piece also was dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin who commissioned it and then premiered it in a performance in New York. Ms. Lev's playing here was exemplary on a work clearly designed to test a violinist's virtuosity. As the Wikipedia article notes:
"The Solo Sonata presents violinists with many difficulties and uses the full gamut of violin techniques: several notes played simultaneously (multiple stops), artificial harmonics, left-hand pizzicato executed simultaneously with a melody played with the bow, and wide leaps between pitches."
Ms. Lev joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2008.