Augustin Hadelich is in touch with the sunny side of a violin. He can dig in; he can probe; he can make the instrument bark when the music calls for it. But his default seems to be the warm lyrical joy of lilting melody.
The 24-year-old made his Kennedy Center recital debut on Sunday evening with a program that included one from every column of the virtuoso menu, from Bartók's final, wrenching, unaccompanied sonata to the fireworks of Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy." But the opening Beethoven Sonata No. 8 in G set the general tone: as happy and un-neurotic a piece as Beethoven produced, certainly in these hands.
Hadelich, born in Italy to German parents, is a Juilliard product whose career moved into high gear when he won the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2006 (perks include a recording, the use of a 17th-century Stradivarius and a solo recital on the main stage of Carnegie Hall). His background was unconventional: He started formal training relatively late, initially studying with his father, who is not a violinist himself. (It was also marked with trauma: The violinist was badly burned in a fire at age 15, and still bears the physical scars on his face and bow hand.)