Violinist Elizabeth Franks, with her accompanist pianist Minfang Wang, mesmerized an audience of about 100 last week at Oneonta’s First Baptist Church with an exhibition of artistry uncommon in these parts. Both women are instrumental-music majors at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.
The concert of classical works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Cesar Franck, Jean Sibelius, and Edward Elgar, was sponsored by the Community Arts Council of Blount County. It was Franks’s second appearance in Oneonta.
The program opened with the Preludio and Gavotte en Rondeau from Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major. This work for solo violin exploits the technical capacity of the instrument as well as the skill and sensitivity of the player. The statuesque Franks unfurled garlands of melody, wove patterned phrases, and unleashed vigorous rhythms, to the audience’s delight.
Energy and emotional depth powered the evening’s second piece. For Franck’s Sonata in A Major, Franks was accompanied by Minfang Wang. Of slight build, and seeming as delicate as fine porcelain, she proved Herculean at the keyboard. In dialogue, violin and piano explored modulating harmonies that are Franck’s hallmark, enriching each other with sweeping rhapsodic themes. The sonata, written as a wedding gift for friends, celebrates the aspiration, anxiety, and exaltation of the human spirit. And those qualities filled the sanctuary.
Throughout the evening, listeners earned their keep. They paid close attention, as required by classical artistry, with some hunched forward eagerly to participate in the on-stage energy. Some annotated their programs. A breathless silence reigned between movements, and finales culminated in outbursts of applause.
The last piece on the program, the Allegro moderato from Sibelius’s Concerto in d minor, put audience listening skills to the test, leading listeners down shadowed paths of adversity and struggle. Dissonances and tortuous virtuoso passages threatened to vanquish performers and hearers alike. Brandishing her violin bow like a weapon, Franks blazed a trail through the Scandinavian musical gloom, leading her listeners toward dazzling glory.
As an encore, Franks played Love’s Greeting by Edward Elgar. The finale served as a harbinger of musical treasures yet to come when Franks returns for a springtime recital with an ensemble of her musical colleagues from Lee University. The date, not yet set, will be announced by the Community Arts Council.