William Bolcom is one of America's most omnivorous musical minds. Especially in large-scale works, such as his setting of Blake's ''Songs of Innocence and Experience," he's able to weld a diverse range of musical styles into an integrated whole.
His four violin sonatas, though narrower in scope, show the same eclecticism. Two of them, the second and fourth, were at the heart of pianist Michael Lewin and violinist Irina Muresanu's recital on Sunday at Boston Conservatory, where they are faculty members. The second sonata, the best known of the four, weaves together blues, gritty atonality, and 1930s jazz. The fourth makes subtle but brilliant use of Arabic-Spanish influences.
Whatever the musical syntax, though, there is something deeply soulful about these works, even at their most chaotic. And because Bolcom allows these idioms to swirl freely around one another, the sonatas excel at upending a listener's expectations.
They are also phenomenally difficult, something that seemed of no consequence to Muresanu and Lewin. They've played together for only three years, but you wouldn't know it from their almost telepathic rapport. Their playing in the Bolcom pieces was marked by passion and tremendous rhythmic vitality. They approached Brahms's Second Sonata with similar zeal, though also with a clear-eyed sense of structure and proportion. That was refreshing in a work that almost invites performers to abandon themselves to its unhurried lyricism.
Two very different takes on themes from Bizet's ''Carmen" closed the afternoon. Busoni's Chamber Fantasy, for solo piano, is a complex reworking of the opera's melodies that transforms them, almost perversely, into dense polyphony. Pablo Sarasate's Concert Fantasy (for the duo), on the other hand, was all high-wire technical wizardry for the violinist, and closer in spirit to the source. Both were brought off almost flawlessly.
An enthusiastic audience was treated to more Bolcom as an encore, an arrangement of the aptly named ''Graceful Ghost Rag."