Leonidas Kavakos has an unnerving habit of eyeballing his audience from the stage – staring us down as if to drive home the message of his playing.

The Greek violinist can be an uncompromising performer. His sound is borderline harsh, he moves heavily around the instrument, doesn't ever play particularly softly and can be strident with his melodies. There are no airs or graces to his attack and his energy levels are ferocious; the result is sometimes rough, but it's unapologetic and invigorating for it.

His partner here was Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky, playing the Queen's Hall Steinway with lid fully open but sounding by far the shier musician of the two. In truth he has every bit as much conviction as Kavakos -- he's just much quieter about it. His artistry comes in subtle shades and an ability to transform phrases with the slightest nuance. They make an unlikely duo, maybe, but somehow it works.

So Kavakos pounded through Janacek's Violin Sonata while Lugansky provided kaleidoscopic cushioning. Lugansky coaxed beautifully tender melodies from Brahms's G Major sonata while Kavakos strummed along ardently, and the second movement of this sonata provided the stillest, most searching moments of the recital.

The motoric rhythms of Stravinsky's Duo Concertant were brilliantly brash and bashed and its plaintive Dithyrambe strikingly forthright. The programme's wildcard was the Violin Sonata in B minor by Ottorino Respighi, a composer best known for his boisterous orchestral tone poems (most famously The Pines of Rome). But this sonata owes more to the heightened Germanic soundworld of his teacher Max Bruch than to the eternal city, and its expansiveness brought out the best in Kavakos and Lugansky.