Belarusian-born violinist Yevgeny Kutik made his Kennedy Center debut Tuesday night, presented in the Terrace Theater by Washington Performing Arts. The performance revealed an artist with considerable strengths and some weaknesses.
Kutik was at his best in Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 1, a piece that veers from style to style with abandon. Kutik and the imposing pianist Anna Polonsky moved together effortlessly through thickets of dissonance in the first movement and the playful, percussive jabs of the second. The slow movement hovered in polytonal layering, Polonsky’s graceful, repeating chords answered by Kutik’s precise artificial harmonics. The finale grooved with verve, punctuated by howling double-stops in the violin.
Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 2 didn’t seem to engage Kutik in the same way. His broad, beefy tone sheared off the center of the pitch at times, and the melodic phrasing felt flat. Polonsky provided most of the zing in the devilish Scherzo movement, but both players ended on a strong note in the stubborn, almost oafish finale.
The second half was drawn from Kutik’s recording “Music From the Suitcase,” all short pieces redolent in family memories. The waltz from Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” was a highlight, with the melodic warmth that seemed missing from Rubinstein’s “Romance in E-flat.” Several movements from the divertimento from Stravinsky’s “The Fairy’s Kiss” featured Kutik in muscular passages and technical effects.
Kutik augmented these pieces with new ones, commissioned from composers as works inspired by family photographs. Gity Razaz’s “Cadenza for the Once Young” featured the solo violin in sentimental phrases, while Andreia Pinto Correia’s “Litania” was more somber and expressionistic. A “Suitcase” encore, the Romance from Shostakovich’s film score for “The Gadfly,” closed the evening on a tender note.