Violinist Chee-Yun has performed a number of times at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington under the auspices of the Polinger Artists of Excellence Concert Series, and on Sunday, she was greeted there as an old friend.
After acknowledging the greeting with a short talk of appreciation, she explained that, because her regular accompanist had just become a father and was otherwise occupied, pianist Julie Coucheron had stepped in, learned one of the pieces — the Saint-Saëns D Minor Sonata No. 1 — on the fly and that, together, they would do their best.
Thanks for the warning, but it wasn’t needed. The two turned out to be a formidable team.
Except for the opening Vitali “Chaconne,” which was all violin filigree over a piano continuo, the program shared the music-making equally, and the two shared an ensemble that might have been forged over years of partnership.
The Saint-Saëns is a showy piece of exuberance with a sort of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-too give and take between violin and piano. Sometimes one instrument took the lead and sometimes the other, but the mirroring and the occasional joining of forces extended to exquisite shaping of phrases, touch and dynamics that culminated in a breathless perpetual motion finale.
The Franck Sonata offered more opportunities for Chee-Yun to lean into the big rich tone she wields so generously and, here too, Coucheron was a match. The two rode the waves of Franck’s excursions from lyricism to drama and back with a confident balance, mutually agreed-upon weight and opulent sonorities. Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango” was a fittingly exuberant ending to an evening of big romantic statements.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.