Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman began this Carnegie Hall recital with Johann Gottlieb Goldberg’s Sonata for Two Violins. Long attributed to J. S. Bach as BWV1037 it has only recently been re-ascribed to his pupil Goldberg, primarily remembered for lending his name to the Goldberg Variations. This charming piece is in four movements, alternately slow-fast. The violinists brought the slow ones to life with affection and embraced the others with wholehearted joyousness, Rohan De Silva (replacing Martha Argerich, her absence generating a change of program and the addition of Zukerman) a mostly discreet supporter.
Next came Mozart, an apt showcase for these musicians’ trademarks: Perlman’s sweet lyricism and Zukerman’s deep and burnished viola tone, most notably in the Adagio, part of an altogether elegant performance in which the Finale was especially nimble and vibrant. Back in two-violin repertory were two of Henryk Wieniawski’s Études-caprices, didactic exercises that are technically challenging showpieces, with most of the fireworks generated by the first violin. The less-elaborate of the two played, in G-minor, begins as a duet, with the violinists having similar figures, the second musician then accompanying the first’s quicksilver flourishes. The A-minor piece is a more spectacular display, Perlman again executing the dizzying pyrotechnics with ease and charm, Zukerman taking more of a harmonizing role.
Following intermission, eight of Bartók's Forty-Four Duos, each introduced by Perlman, often with a wry comment. The two artists delivered wonderfully lively and articulate renditions of these miniatures, which vary greatly in form and complexity, from the haunting ‘Sorrow’ to the humorous rhythms of ‘Limping Dance’, which Perlman jokingly said was his favorite. With De Silva returning the evening closed with Moritz Moszkowski’s Suite. Agreeable and unpretentious, the piece includes a particularly lovely, rather sad, slow movement, Perlman and Zukerman drawing out its romanticism through reflective, graceful and natural playing. As an encore, the trio delivered gorgeously lyrical accounts of Three Duets, winsome music arranged by K. Fortunatov as Shostakovich’s Opus 97d, 97a being the orchestral Suite from his music for The Gadfly.