By Lawrence Budmen 

Russia has long produced violinists of the most exceptional variety. From Leopold Auer (a colleague of Tchaikovsky and a founder of Philadelphiaís Curtis Institute) to Misha Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh, and Vladimir Spivakov, the unique Russian tradition has emblazoned the worldís concert stages. Maxim Vengerov upholds that legacy today. 

At his recital for the Concert Association on Monday at the Broward Center, Vengerov exhibited a potent combination of masterful technique and probing artistry. He is a thinking manís violinist.

His Mozart (the Adagio in E Major, K.261) was introspective, phrased in long spun melodic arcs. Instead of the usual hyper-drama, Vengerovís approach to Beethovenís Sonata No.7 in C Minor, Op.20 was soulful and ruminative. His reading of the Adagio cantabile emerged silken and pure in tone. Vengerov imbued the music with sadness and contemplation, the subtext that lurks beneath the musicís graceful strophes. A light, playful version of the Scherzo was contrasted with an invigorating trio of almost heroic proportions. In a powerhouse traversal of the finale, Vengerov preferred understated subtlety to exaggerated melodrama.

The supple, incisive pianism of Lilya Zilberstein was a joy to hear. A winner of the Busoni International Competition, Zilberstein was the perfect collaborator. Her pearly tone, musical sensitivity and flexibility matched Vengerovís acumen at every turn. 

Turning to 20th century Russian repertoire, Vengerov delivered a strongly emotive traversal of Prokofievís Sonata No.1 in F Minor, Op.80. Instead of playing the piece with superficial lightness and sweetness (as many violinists do), Vengerov emphasized the scoreís bleak subtext and tonal ambiguity. With Zilbersteinís fleet, heaven storming finger work, Vengerov brought his own unique blend of brooding intensity and tinted shadow to Prokofievís dark ruminations. This work was an Oistrakh specialty; Vengerov proved a worthy successor. 

The violinist attacked his own transcription of Ten Preludes (from the 24 Preludes for Piano, Op.34) by Shostakovich with bold, stormy strokes. Vengerov turned Shostakovichís tribute to Bach into razzle dazzle fiddle vignettes.

Responding to an enthusiastic standing ovation, Vengerov added dashing ornamentation to Brahmsís Hungarian Dance No.5 Ė the ultimate demonstration of violinistic firepower.

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