A few inches of snow evidently didn’t deter anyone from piling into Peabody Hall at Dorchester’s Parish of All Saints on Sunday afternoon, as Ashmont Hill Chamber Music gave the floor to violinist Randall Goosby and pianist Zhu Wang for a thoughtfully curated and deftly performed recital that was entirely worth the trek.
The 25-year-old violinist’s star had just begun to ascend before the pandemic, and he has largely been spending his 2021-22 season playing with various top-tier symphony orchestras, Baltimore and Los Angeles among them; Boston should reserve a place on his dance card sooner rather than later.
His partnership with Wang is also bearing fruit — the two can be heard together on Goosby’s new album with Decca Classics, “Roots.” Their mind meld was a delight to see up close on Sunday, a view partially made possible by Ashmont Hill’s seating arrangement, which put the performers in the center of a half-circle with only a few rows of chairs.
Sunday’s program placed music by Black American composers Florence Price and William Dawson (a longtime music educator at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University) between repertoire pieces by Dvořák and Grieg, a layout that drew attention to the less commonly performed selections. Both Dvořák’s Violin Sonatina in G major and Price’s Fantasy No. 2 in F-sharp minor were featured on the “Roots” album, and being performed live, they took on entirely new dimensions. Goosby is a performer of exquisite sensitivity and magnetic stage presence, and his tone has an almost tactile quality, as if one could reach out and grasp it.
One gets the sense that it’s no small feat to share the stage with Goosby without fading into the background, but Wang more than held his own as accomplice at the piano, knowing when to mirror the violinist and when to contrast. The third movement of the Sonatina saw Wang taking over the melody, bubbling over with playfulness while the violin zinged through arpeggiated chords.
Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 delivered heady drama at first, as the violin flowed upward toward jagged outbursts that were underscored by Wang’s craggy chords and the distant rumbling of the Red Line at nearby Ashmont Station. The beginning of Allegretto was the evening’s only weak spot, as Goosby’s strings sounded with more blunt force than suited the tender main theme. But when that theme reappeared again an octave higher, the sound was luminous. The standout piece of the afternoon was William Dawson’s Violin Sonata No. 1, a new addition to Goosby and Wang’s repertoire that features a profound fusion of folk and formal traditions. The stately, spiritual-inflected central movement could easily stand on its own as a recital piece, and I’m crossing my fingers that Goosby and Wang will include the whole thing on a future album. In the meantime, they’re playing it again at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in April.
Goosby and Wang didn’t offer an encore, possibly because of time constraints; in his brief remarks between pieces, Goosby mentioned he had a flight to catch. But the surprising addition that began the program was better than an encore. Ashmont Hill Chamber Music has a standing collaboration with music education initiative Project STEP, and Watertown High School senior and violist Nathan Theodore acquitted himself finely alongside Goosby in a movement of a Mozart duet. “I’d never heard of Project STEP,” I heard someone murmur amid the shower of applause for the two. Theodore probably won’t ever forget that day; hopefully that audience member won’t forget, either.
RANDALL GOOSBY AND ZHU WANG
Presented by Ashmont Hill Chamber Music.
At Parish of All Saints, Feb. 13. www.ahchambermusic.org
A.Z. Madonna can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.