The standing-room audience at the Lyceum in Alexandria got a preview of a future CD release in the form of Sunday afternoon's recital by violinist Ilya Kaler and pianist Boris Slutsky. If their recorded versions of violin sonatas by Leclair, Franck and Strauss contain half the intensity and conviction of these live performances, chamber music fans are in for a treat.
Duo partners since 1992, Kaler and Slutsky boast an impressive collection of international prizes as soloists, which helps explain the bravura attack they brought to all three pieces. The mighty Sonata in A by Franck put the musicians on equal footing, with Slutsky opening each movement and Kaler pushing the thematic development. Amid all the emotional outpourings, they never stepped on each other's toes, achieving an uncanny sense of give-and-take without any eye contact. The energy level remained high in Richard Strauss's Sonata in E-flat, written in 1887, the year after the Franck. In the improvisatory second movement, Kaler produced some of the most exquisitely articulated, muted tones imaginable after Slutsky had hammered out figurations reminiscent of Schubert's "Erlkoenig." Slutsky was a cool-headed instigator and a worthy partner when he doubled Kaler's lines.
The duo adhered to the more traditional roles of melody instrument and accompanist during the Leclair Sonata in D. Despite his overall bold, sweeping interpretation, Kaler found room for some thoughtful touches, notably the immaculate trills and gentle-voiced inflections that graced the Sarabande.