INEVITABLY, the appearance of Gil Shaham and Akira Eguchi suggested a high school music recital. Shaham is a very boyish 23, Eguchi looks even younger. Could Sunday's full-house audience take such callow innocence seriously? From the first notes of the Dvorak Sonatina, it was obvious that their musical maturity far belied their seeming youth. Granted, one still had doubts how those dark sweet sounds of an early Stradivarius synchronised with such an ingenuous player, but Shaham certainly knows how to use his 1689 instrument. Give Shaham double credits in his programme. First, his choices were rare, interesting, hardly chosen for the usual Hong Kong audience. Second, with one possible exception, the works fit the performer's own cheerful mood. The exception was Beethoven's Seventh Sonata. This was a delightful performance, yes, but very much on the light side. Beethoven's key was minor, but the work is hardly tragic. Even that slow movement Adagio cantabile is tranquil, elegiac, and can be played that way. In the lighter sections, the opening and the finale, Shaham and Eguchi scuttled through the music with an honest mastery. Shaham is an athletic performer, and this was a robust, even easy-going performance. But in that gorgeous slow movement, one can never be nonchalant. It was lyrical, beautiful, elegant. What was missing? Perhaps because it was so wholesome, one missed a depth, a reflection of the lines. The elegance was sufficient, but I have the feeling that in 10 years Shaham will find something beneath the surface. Pianist Eguchi is technically equal with Shaham. But in the Beethoven, he too seemed bouncy, almost impulsive in his piano runs. The sonata is indeed written for 'violin and piano', but this hardly means two different skilful musicians. It means a complementary unity, and Eguchi was frequently the exhibitionist. If the Beethoven was on the light side, the other works were custom-tailored for these two. The opening Dvorak Sonatina is far more 'American' than the composer's New World.. Both tunes and rhythms could have been written by a 19th Century Aaron Copland. To say that the piece played itself would have been an insult to both musicians. But its spontaneity spoke for itself. Prokofiev's Sonata For Solo Violin was new to me (it was originally written for an ensemble of solo violins). It is devilishly difficult, contagiously catchy, and gave a new voice to Shaham's violin, with more shine, sheen and brightness. The last two works were both arrangements, from the foremost American and French operas. Heifetz's songs from Porgy and Bess and Hubay's virtuoso pieces from Carmen were both played with all the panache and exuberance these artists could summon up. As for the Chinese Lunar New Year encore offering, it proved that Shaham is a natural crowd-pleaser. As his brilliant technique ripens with his experience, he is bound to become a peerless artist. gil Shaham, violin, Akira Eguchi, piano; City Hall Concert Hall, January 29.