Lavrova/Rhind, Mall Galleries, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Born in St Petersburg just 20 years ago, the violinist Dunja Lavrova is hotly tipped as one of classical music's most promising young stars. Since graduating from the Menuhin School in 2003, she has won numerous awards, and last year performed at the Royal College of Music's Young Artist of the Year concert at the Wigmore Hall.

Tuesday's recital was a rare and welcome chance to hear her give a chamber performance and she and the pianist Alison Rhind began with Beethoven's G major sonata for violin and piano (No 8, Op 30), the third of a set of three composed in 1802 as the composer was coming into the full maturity of his powers.

Some intonation difficulties gave rise to anxiety whether Lavrova had yet forged a relationship with her instrument, a 1914 Pedrazzi recently given to her, and the dry acoustic of the Mall Galleries did her no favours. A somewhat clinical rendition of the tender, nostalgic Siciliana from Bach's G minor violin sonata did little to warm up the atmosphere, and the sense of discomfort was heightened by the ill-advised choice that followed - Schubert's setting of Goethe's macabre ballad "Erlkönig".

Lavrova coped gamely with its gymnastics - in Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst's transcription which turned the masterpiece into a showy party-piece - but while it showcased her formidable technique, it gave her musicianship little room to flourish, and it all sounded rather effortful.The sense of disengagement that permeated the first half of the concert gave rise to some anxiety among an audience keen for this young artist to succeed.

The single work in the second half, César Franck's meditative A major sonata, is justly regarded as one of the glories of the repertoire, and as the haunting melody unfolded, the tensions of the first half were dispelled. The Pedrazzi breathed into life. Lavrova, more relaxed and confident now, displayed a warmth of tone.

There was energy and fire in the restless, searching allegro that follows, and Lavrova maintained a firm sense of direction through the long, arching line of the recitative that introduces the third-movement fantasia. The warmth of the applause that greeted the rapturous finale was not untinged with relief.

In a well-deserved encore, the duo continued the mood with a rapt account of Massenet's "Meditation", sending the audience warmed - at last - into the bitter February night.

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