A LARGE audience greeted Daniel Rowland (violin) and Natacha Kudritskaya (piano) on their first visit to Kendal as guests of the Midday Concert Club, writes CLIVE WALKLEY. The duo was formed in 2011 and both artists have interesting backgrounds: Daniel was born in Britain but moved to and studied in the Netherlands; Natacha Kudritskaya was born in the Urals and studied in Kiev. What unites them artistically is their passion for music rooted in Paris during the decade of the 1920s, a time noted for its rich, social, artistic and cultural collaborations.

Their Kendal programme was dominated by César Franck’s lovely Violin Sonata, but before that we heard works by Stravinsky and Ravel.

Stravinsky’s ‘Divertimento for Violin and Piano, after The Fairy’s Kiss’ opened the programme. The work reuses material the composer originally wrote for his ballet, itself based on the music of Tchaikovsky – melodies which Stravinsky had known since his childhood. It is a colourful piece and, as one would expect of ballet music, complex rhythmically, and technically demanding for both players who rose to its varied demands brilliantly. Daniel Rowland’s style of playing is theatrical: he moves around his performing space, bending and stretching in response to the music, and his balletic style suited this particular piece. In contrast, Natacha Kudritskaya is restrained in her pianistic gestures: her many bravura moments were accomplished without excess movements, but nevertheless with great effect. This combination of theatricality and restraint immediately drew the audience into a performance which was electric. One of the many impressive features of both musicians’ playing was their ability to move from an extreme pianissimo sound to a climatic fortissimo passage while maintaining a perfect balance between the two instruments. When the grand piano is fully open, there is always a danger that it can overwhelm a string instrument: this it did not do (at least not up in the balcony).

Next on the programme came a sensitive performance of Ravel’s charming, short Pièce en forme de habanera. Again, each player caught the atmosphere of this sultry piece with Daniel Rowland relishing a chance to show what a beautiful legato line he could produce in this song without words.

Finally came César Franck’s mighty sonata, a work so well-known and loved by violinists. The duo gave us a masterly performance marked by subtly of phrasing, strong tone and carefully graded dynamics. An encore, Kreisler’s Liebesleid, sent us all home happy.