In ritzy Beverly Hills, violinist Cho-Liang Lin plays with sublety, poetry

By Truman C. Wang
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cho-Liang Lin

Cho-Liang Lin

MOZART: Violin Sonata in G Major, K. 379 (373a). BRAHMS: Sonata in A Major, Op. 100. DVORAK: Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100. BEETHOVEN: Sonata in C minor, Op. 30,  No. 2. Cho-Liang Lin, Violin. Jon Kimura Parker, Piano. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills, California. Saturday, February 13, 2016

When the famed Taiwanese violinist Cho-Liang Lin and Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker strolled out onto the Wallis stage to begin the concert, they could have been mistaken for two middle-aged businessmen or college professors (which they indeed are, at Rice University).  Then they started to play the long slow introduction of Mozart’s G-Major Violin Sonata (K.379/373a) and showed an immediate rapport as between two excited frat boys.  With a few small misses, the same joyful rapport was maintained throughout the evening’s program. 

Despite the name ‘violin sonata’, all the works chosen featured equal parts for the piano and the violin.  In the Mozart sonata, the piano plays the dominant leading role, conforming to the 18th-Century ideal of the keyboard’s supremacy, while the violin provides an almost obbligato accompaniment.  In the Brahms, Dvorak and Beethoven sonatas, the piano and violin partnership becomes more democratic and tightly integrated into the fabric of the music. 

Playing the 1717 “Titian” Stradivarius, Mr. Lin produced his characteristically sweet yet robust tones, ideally suited for classical and early-romantic works.  One could never accuse Mr. Lin of flashy or bravura showmanship, even though he is undoubtedly a virtuoso among virtuosos.  There were occasional flashes of bravura, such as rapid-fire staccatos in the Beethoven sonata’s Presto finale or the cheerful abandon in the Dvorak Sonatina.  Most of the program, however, showcased Mr. Lin’s quiet sensibility for musical romanticism and his subtle, mellifluous phrasing.  Brahms Sonata No. 2 and Dvorak Sonatina, two works full of sunshine and sweet melodies, received particularly memorable readings from Mr. Lin. 

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker’s contributions were on the whole satisfying though clearly on a lesser level.  He was content with playing a lot of staccatos in the Mozart sonata and producing a big sound that frequently overwhelmed the violin. (The piano’s fully-open lid might be the other culprit.)   Clearly, Mr. Parker was more at home in the big romantic works of Brahms, Dvorak and Beethoven, where he and Mr. Lin sounded more like a well-matched team. 

This concert was part of the “Winter @Wallis” series, featuring many established and up-and-coming artists from Taiwan – Sean Chen, Steven Lin, Ben Hong, and Cho-Liang Lin.  This is encouraging news given Taiwan’s lack of a deeply-entrenched classical music tradition similar to that in Japan, China and Korea.  

Tickets for future concerts may be purchased in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts box office, by phone 310.746.4000, or online  

Truman C. Wang is editor-in-chief of Classical Voice, whose articles have appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News, other Southern California publications, as well as the Hawaiian Chinese Daily.