Olivier Messiaen’s Thème et variations (1932), a wedding present for his first wife, makes an unusual opening for an imaginatively conceived recital from Itamar Zorman (M.M. ’09, Artist Diploma ’12, violin) and Kwan Yi (Pre-College ’04; M.M. ’10, piano). A subdued opening leads to a rapturous climax, and as Zorman spins out the inquisitive violin line, Yi calmly maintains Messiaen’s steady pulse.
Schubert’s Rondo in B Minor, D. 895, sets its fireworks amid sweet melodic strains, and the duo manages to find bits of humor here and there, with Yi especially sensitive to Schubert’s playful dotted rhythms. And in Chausson’s Poème (1896), written for the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, they are particularly beguiling, patiently letting the composer’s languid phrases unfold.
In what will be the high point for some listeners, Zorman navigates the solitary challenges of Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 31, No. 1, with breathtaking confidence. The composer’s inventiveness shows off the violinist’s precise bowing technique, whether in the breathy strokes of the third movement, the dreamy double stops and melancholy spirals of the fourth, or the vertiginous Prestissimo that ends it all.
In the Brahms Sonata in D Minor, Op. 108, Zorman’s magnificent tone again holds forth (he plays a 1745 instrument by Pietro Guarneri), and he and Yi generate considerable warmth in the opening Allegro. Zorman’s expert phrasing makes the seductive Adagio even more alluring, the Scherzo is notable for Yi’s nimble contributions, and the finale exudes sheer muscular excitement.
Zorman comments in the liner notes that he wanted his debut recording to reflect an actual concert. In November 2014, he and Yi played the Hindemith and Brahms at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall—a striking performance—and this release only confirms the two musicians’ talents. Recorded in Germany by Thomas Eschler at the hr-Sendesaal in Frankfurt am Main, the disc boasts rich sound, with just the right amount of reverberation.