"A recital that spans from 1784 to 2011, bookended with works by Mozart and American composer Ilya Levinson, challenges the performers to be persuasive in many styles. This is achieved effortlessly by violinist David Yonan and pianist Susan Merdinger. They are imaginative interpreters who communicate every style on the program with sympathy for each composer. The fact that the two are well-established international soloists gives them an individual voice, but there’s also a feeling of unanimity that is a special quality in their partnership...
Mozart is rarely the hardest of composers when it comes to technical challenges, but he cruelly exposes performers through the purity and deceptive simplicity of his style. This violin sonata, for example, is charming and light-hearted, but it mustn’t sound frivolous. The piano and violin have to communicate as one, even though on disc you frequently encounter duos where the violin dominates or, more rarely, vice versa. Merdinger and Yonan are so spontaneous- sounding, vibrant, and musically sympathetic, you’d never guess that Mozart was tricky at all. This is a really lovely reading, and I especially admired their poise. Poise is a necessary trait in playing Classical-period music, but it’s not easy to avoid sounding staid. Here, however, Mozart’s champagne river of melody flows with just the right balance of restraint and joyful feeling...
The artists write in a personal note that this first installment in a proposed series of releases represents some of their favorite composers, including a friend, Ilya Levinson, a colleague of Yonan’s at Columbia College in Chicago. This is the world-premiere recording of Levinson’s Elegy: Crossing the Bridge from 2011. The composer explains the title as being both physical and metaphysical. In the physical sense the violinist is asked to cross the instrument’s bridge to play with a mysterious col legno sound between the bridge and the tailpiece. Metaphysically, the music, which begins with a lovely elegiac melody, passes through conflict and tragedy to the peace of transcendence.
Elegy exploits the violin’s capacities more than anything else on the program, and Yonan, who began his musical life as child prodigy in Berlin, is impressive in passages of high-lying harmonics that express the impulse to break earthly boundaries and find a higher realm of existence. The listener, having encountered four very different stories in this recital, is left with a vision of transcendence that is quite moving.
For its unique programming and compelling performances, I can warmly recommend this very satisfying release. The recorded sound is full and lifelike, bringing out the subtlety in the playing of two gifted artists. "
Huntley Dent, Fanfare Magazine 2019