In a rare alignment of four shorter works, two fine musicians shared a mastery of timing and expression despite the wide range of genres performed. The programme began with Mozart’s cheerful Violin Sonata in E flat major, KV 481, which is more accurately labelled a sonata for piano and violin, the former very much the primary instrument. From the start, Yulianna Avdeeva showed herself as more than just violin support. She varied her dynamics, sharing the stage with Julia Fischer, much like in the meeting of two innovative minds.

Julia Fischer
© Uwe Arens

The first movement was filled with unexpected turnings (“tricky details” as coined in the programme notes). Its tender beginnings turned on their heel into colourful pomp and a degree of cheek. The Adagio was like a lullaby and featured a beautifully rendered, delicate ending before the Allegretto. It, in turn, began at a promenade pace, but was embellished later with greater variation in dynamics, and offered a simple, childlike melody.

George Enescu’s Violin Sonata no. 2 in F minor followed, providing the evening’s programme with an unexpected side-story. The Romanian Enescu composed the sonata in 1899, completing his education the same year at the Paris Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Maurice Ravel’s. Ravel, in turn, was inspired by Hungarian folk music for his virtuoso Tzigane, which concluded the Zurich programme.

The Enescu featured pure power in its turbulent start, and built dissonances shortly thereafter that demanded terrific athleticism from both players. Then, all at once, the violin gave a compelling contrast, turning lyrical and dreamlike. Almost as if for a mourning song, Fischer moved her body like a dancer’s, then stood with legs akimbo to support the work’s syncopation. At the end, all dams burst open, the piano and strings teeming with colour and energy that put us all in the audience on the edge of our seats. Such exhilaration! 

Yulianna Avdeeva
© Christine Schneider

Next on the programme was Robert Schumann’s lively Violin Sonata no. 1 in A minor. The first movement’s violin part, for which the score dictates “passionate expression”, includes some soaring upper notes, and the pianist’s eyebrows rose in keeping with the same. To their great credit, the two musicians played with a kind of physical energy and mutual understanding that was almost palpable. The Allegretto’s soothing melody gave way to the terrific athleticism of the finale, in which both instruments also play in canon, one repeating the sequence of the other in a richly woven fabric.

Last performed was Ravel’s familiar Tzigane, whose sinuous violin has beguiled listeners since its 1924 premiere. Prior to that first performance, Ravel had written to his fellow composer Béla Bartók that he wanted to write a piece “whose diabolical difficulty will resurrect the Hungary of my dreams”. And so it does for us today, but with as much a sense of melancholy as a sense of enquiry. Tzigane is a triumph of virtuosity and, here in Zurich, the superb Fischer ended it by sweeping her bow high up into the air as if it were a rapier.