Violinist McDuffie proves worthy at Naval Academy

October 29, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

In last Friday's Naval Academy program, in which violinist Robert McDuffie played major works by Beethoven, Enescu and Stravinsky plus baubles and bangles of Kreisler, Dvorak and Gershwin, he demonstrated why his playing has been received so enthusiastically by audiences worldwide.

The Grammy nominee is an aristocratic player who explodes the stereotype that young virtuosos of the violin are interested solely in tearing through the Paganini "Caprices" faster and more throbbingly than their peers.

His Stravinsky "Suite Italienne," for example, was a model of incisive clarity tempered by graceful dignity, while the gorgeous second movement of Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata sang with plenty of feeling but no hint of affectation.

While I might have wished for a more involving entry into Beethoven's songful reverie in the first movement and for stormier moments of emphasis in the concluding Allegro, there can be no doubt that McDuffie is a true artist.

He certainly can turn up the heat when he wants to, as in a blistering account of the extraordinary Third Sonata of George Enescu. The work's folk elements obviously went right to McDuffie's heart, so total was his immersion in the Romanian composer-violinist's national idiom.

The Enescu is seldom heard in concert halls because few can even pretend to play it well. On a technical level, it is obvious that McDuffie can achieve whatever effects he wishes on his instrument.

Pianist Charles Abramovich proved an able, sensitive accompanist.

Alumni Hall audiences seem desperately in need of some pre-concert etiquette briefings.

Others may get more peevish about people clapping between movements, but when late-comers seat themselves at will, amateur photographers click away, oblivious to concert hall rules of engagement, while others roam the mezzanine.

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