The evening opened with Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Viola, performed by Spektral Quartet violist Doyle Armbrust. Composed between 1991 and 1994 for Tabea Zimmerman, the Sonata bears a structural similarity to Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor or Solo Violin, beginning with a spacious prelude and ending with an elaborate chaconne.
Armbrust was at his best in the slower movements. He artfully constructed an arc from the semplice opening of the “Hora lungă” to its more disquieting moments and back again, as well as projecting an elegiac quality in “Fascar” (written in memory of Ligeti’s teacher Sándor Veress). The faster movements—“Loop,” “Presto con sordino,” and “Chaconne Chromatique”—were somewhat straightlaced in Armbrust’s rendition. One wanted a bit more brutality and abandon when the music called for it, though the soloist’s technical command of the knottier passages was nonetheless impressive.