‘I hope you will enjoy it, even though it’s quite nightmarish,’ were the words Itamar Zorman used to introduce Schnittke’s Violin Sonata no.2, ‘Quasi unable sonata’ (1968). Zorman was right on target, and the piece made an impressive display for his talents and those of Kwan Yi, his equally gifted pianist. Schnittke’s mesmerizing canvas includes violent attacks, harrowing squeals and - just as powerful - shocking silences, during which Zorman froze, his bow immobile, hovering just above his strings, as Yi’s fingers did the same above the keyboard. At the striking close, Yi hammered out repeated G minor chords which Zorman sailed over like a banshee, until a final, sickly glissando arrived like the exhalation of a dying man.
The duo also gave a vigorous reading of Brahms’s Third Sonata, combining sumptuous tone (Zorman plays a 1745 instrument made by Pietro Guarneri of Venice) with carefully considered phrasing. In the Adagio Zorman made the most of Brahms’s long lines, and every violinist might want to study Zorman’s pianissimos and how he uses them to draw in the audience. Bravura readings of Bach’s Third Solo Violin Sonata and Hindemith’s op.31 no.1 completed the substantial programme, which ended with two encores: a soulful Hebrew Melody by Josef Achron and a virtuoso Hora by Moshe Zorman, the violinist’s father.