The danger of a romantic program such as that violinist Victor Danchenko presented last evening in Friedberg Hall is that everything may begin to sound the same. This is especially the case when a romantic violinist, which Danchenko clearly is, performs.
With his sister, the pianist Vera Danchenko-Stern, the violinist played Leos Janacek's Sonata, Schumann's Fantasy in C for violin and orchestra in a violin-and-piano arrangement by Fritz zTC Kreisler, Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancolique and Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2 -- all works whose moods orbit around a romantically melancholic moon.
It was immediately apparent that the Russian-born Danchenko -- who was a student of David Oistrakh, won prizes in important competitions and is now a member of the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory -- is a fine violinist. He displayed a beautiful tone (whose quality he was never willing to sacrifice for the sake of volume), secure intonation and cultivated musical instincts.
As the recital progressed, moreover, he also made it clear that he was up to the challenge of this particular program. He was able to make distinctions between the sophistication of the embalmed-in-marzipan Schumann-Kreisler arrangement (which contains very little Schumann, but much Kreisler) and the weepy, heart-on-sleeve Tchaikovsky work.
And while his playing illustrated the Slavonic familial relations between the Janacek sonata (which opened the program) and the one by Prokofiev (which concluded it), he also conveyed their differences: how, for example, the Janacek, which expresses its troubled lyricism in intimate gestures, is closer to the modern Central European tradition than the Prokofiev, which (although written later in this century) is a throwback to the exuberant romanticism of an earlier age.
Danchenko was fortunate in having a partner who possesses the sensitivity and assurance of his sister. He is a violinist who plays very freely and he had a collaborator, who -- without submerging her personality -- was able to support him at every step.
It would have been nice had the violinist permitted his sister to play with the lid of her instrument up. Danchenko-Stern was too good a pianist to let her sound become muffled. The Prokofiev, particularly, would have benefited from an open lid that would have permitted the piano to match the violin on equal ground in the sonata's most brilliant pages.