Augustin Hadelich has the blues.

That may seem strange for one of classical music's hottest violinists, but the blues that have seized his attention are the kind that came up from the American South and gave birth to jazz. Judging from Tuesday evening's opening concert of the Schubert Club International Artist Series season, Hadelich has fallen in love with the genre.

While his program with pianist Orion Weiss featured impeccably played works by Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky, the passion really poured forth when Hadelich cut loose on a blues-inspired triptych by African American composer and jazz pianist Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, indulged Maurice Ravel's love of jazz in his Second Violin Sonata, then encored with a piece by jazz violinist Eddie South.

You might even say a jazz jam broke out at St. Paul's Ordway Concert Hall. OK, it was more scripted than improvised, but it proved an exciting, adventurous turn in the musical journey of a highly skilled 37-year-old violinist.

Originally from Italy's Tuscany region, Hadelich came stateside to study at New York's Juilliard School. He's been a New Yorker ever since and a U.S. citizen since 2014. There are few violinists more decorated in recent years, as he received a Grammy in 2016 and was named Musical America's "Instrumentalist of the Year" in 2018.

The music stayed safely within the classical realm when Hadelich and Weiss opened the evening with a suite that Stravinsky gleaned from his "Pulcinella" ballet score. For those used to hearing those themes played by an orchestra, it seemed a sparse soundscape, but it worked well for a haunting Serenata and a dauntingly relentless Tarantella.

Yet Perkinson's "Blue/s Forms for Solo Violin" was where the concert really kicked into gear. After bringing chills on the work's slow movement, Hadelich cut loose with an untethered and unfailingly exciting finale. The energy level in the room seemed to double.

After that solo work, pianist Weiss became a full partner in the evening's offerings, recorded for a virtual reprise that will be streamed Dec. 2 via He helped make the Ravel sonata's opening movement ghostly, but it was the slow movement — dubbed "Blues" by the composer — in which the skillfully bent blue notes and jaunty rhythms of the duo proved captivating. The concluding "Perpetuum Mobile" proved a fine showcase for the violinist's unflagging energy.

As for Beethoven's popular Sonata No. 9, the "Kreutzer" — which took up the concert's entire second half — I came away from the first movement feeling that here, at last, was the belated birthday tribute I'd longed for since COVID shut down concerts during the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. There was drama and passion, explosions from the piano and high-energy bowing that sent Hadelich's shaggy black mane flying about.

But the ensuing theme and variations reminded me that the "Kreutzer" seems more a piano sonata with violin accompaniment than a violin sonata. Hadelich just wasn't given that much to do, although the theme of the finale provided plenty of bouncy fun. He and Weiss played up the proto-romantic sound of the work, full of flourishes and heart-on-sleeve emotional expression. Would that it were a better showcase for Hadelich's musicianship.

However, his enthusiasm burst forth again on the encore of "Black Gypsy," a circa-1930 piece by South, who led his own American band before collaborating with such Parisians as Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. It left the impression that more blues and jazz may be on the way for one of classical music's most celebrated soloists.

Rob Hubbard is a freelance classical music critic.