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Wang, Kavakos present exquisite, captivating concert
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Wang, Kavakos present exquisite, captivating concert

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Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang and Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos are classical music superstars — dynamic, passionate performers who are considered among the very best in the world on their respective instruments.

Together, they presented an exquisite, captivating concert at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Monday that delved into J.S. Bach’s sonatas for violin and keyboard, likely history’s first duo sonatas, and Bach’s influence on composers for violin and piano.

That influence on Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni and Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich is most notably heard in their use of counterpoint, that is two melodic lines that complement each other but work independently — a perfect way to simultaneously showcase Wang and Kavakos.

The first half of the program paired Bach’s Sonata No. 3 for violin and keyboard with Busoni’s 1898 sonata for violin and piano. That latter saw a light, fast-flying second “presto” movement go into the variations on a Bach-rooted theme of the third and final movement, the duo impressively capturing the colors and emotions with their contrasting lines.

The second half was even more impressive, with Bach’s brief Baroque Sonata No. 1 setting up Shostakovich’s 1968 sonata for violin and piano that ran for more than 30 minutes.

That dark piece found Kavakos, acclaimed for his technique, plucking and striking his 1734 "Willemotte" Stradivarius violin, a beautiful-sounding instrument as it moved through the abrasive second movement of the complex composition.

Wang, a very dramatic pianist, was at the peak during that piece as well, with powerful chording and touching runs, at both high and low volume.

Known for her fashion as well, Wang began the night in a cut-out purple gown, but played Shostakovich wearing a black coat — it must have been chilly on the stage.

Likely as designed, the Shostakovich was the highlight of the night. But the entire evening was superb, as it provided an appreciative Lincoln audience the rare opportunity to see and hear two of the world’s best musicians.

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