A bouquet of three French compositions – two from the 20th century and one from the 18th – were presented at Sunday afternoon’s Rice Toyota Sitkovetsky and Friends Chamber Concert. Guest Russian-American violinist Yevgeny Kutik, who had played with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra the night before, performed in all three works.

The concert began with Sonata for Two Violins in E minor, Op. 3, No. 5 by Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764). GSO music director Dmitry Sitkovetsky told the nice-sized audience that the French composer was the “founder of the French school of violin playing,” but he was probably more famous because of his unsolved murder. Sitkovetsky said that the sonata that he and Kutik were performing was Leclair’s most frequently performed work.

The three-movement composition was a delight. The two violins exchange melodic ideas back and forth, with the accompanying musician easily stepping into the background while the principal violin part is in the spotlight. Much of the musical conversation was a back-and-forth affair, with both Sitkovetsky and Kutik landing perfectly in tune (with minimal vibrato, Baroque appropriate) at cadences. Energy was high, and both musicians seemed to delight in the music making.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) wrote Violin Sonata No. 2 in G in 1927. Sitkovetsky pointed out that the world was awash and awed by jazz from the U.S. at this time, and this composition in particular shows that influence – the second movement is called “Blues.” Ravel himself wrote, “The Blues in my sonata…is stylized jazz, more French than American in character perhaps…” Kutik was joined by UNCG faculty pianist Inara Zandmane.

The opening Allegro begins with a single melodic idea in the piano, which the violin picks up shortly thereafter. Several writers have commented on the fact that the piano part is sparse, some comparing the piano to a Baroque sonata (with two solo lines as in the Leclair). The movement ended with Zandmane recapitulating the opening line while Kutik soared into the stratosphere, sustaining a single note.

The second movement features, of course, “blues” notes from the violin and lots of plucking. The piano serves more as an accompaniment in this movement and features some humorous riffs and unexpected stops and starts. The finale, too, is not without humor, with a “wind up” opening that sends the violin into non-stop motion until the end.

Kutik and Zandmane were wonderful partners, matching each other’s rhythmic freedom and sharing the material equally. The entire sonata was a joy to hear as these two artists made impressive music that delighted the listeners.

The final work on the program was the Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120, by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). Alexander Ezerman, UNCG faculty cellist and principal chair of the GSO, joined Kutik and Zandmane in the three-movement work. Written just five years before the Ravel sonata, the two compositions display radically different sensibilities. While Ravel reflects 1920s urbane society with mildly dissonant, syncopated, and light-hearted music, Fauré’s Trio has one foot in the 19th century and one in the 20th. Ezerman and Kutik brought to life Fauré’s rich, flowing melodies while Zandmane aptly filled the piano part’s more traditional accompaniment role.

Deep romantic feelings are at the forefront in the first movement. Ideas, often varied, are shared among the three instruments. All three musicians shaped the forward motion toward climaxes with commitment and passion.

The heart of the piece is found in the Andantino, where gorgeous melodies flourish. Perhaps the most moving moments were toward the end, where Kutik and Ezerman played impassioned melodies, sometimes in octaves, with wonderfully sensitive playing from Zandmane.

Octave-doubling exclamations begin the last movement, interrupted by brilliant piano flourishes. Generous quantities of ardent melodies are counterbalanced by eloquence and tenderness, and vitality from the three musicians filled the fiery final measures that closed out the afternoon’s concert.