Two Players, Single-Mindedly Sonorous

At the Terrace Theater, Robert McDuffie and Christopher Taylor were very much on the same page.
At the Terrace Theater, Robert McDuffie and Christopher Taylor were very much on the same page. (Courtesy Of Kennedy Center - Courtesy Of Kennedy Center)

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Chamber music satisfies most when the expression of the ensemble appears to issue from a single head and heart. Violinist Robert McDuffie and pianist Christopher Taylor displayed just such a like-minded rapport in their Terrace Theater recital on Thursday.

Both artists created the feeling of starting or finishing each other's sentences in Schumann's rapturous Violin Sonata No. 1 and Beethoven's turbulent Sonata No. 7. Each piece was treated as a continuous, ever-evolving stream of thought, with the music's surging romantic rhetoric shared as if by one voice. Taylor's playing -- emotionally volatile yet scrupulously weighted and voiced -- worked hand-in-glove with McDuffie's, which alternated restless, big-toned ardor with phrasing of tender restraint. Most affecting was the sense of emotions barely held in check that McDuffie brought to the opening movement of the Schumann.

Following a rapt, superbly balanced reading of Arvo Part's "Spiegel im Spiegel," the duo dove headlong into the pungency and hammering rhythms of Bartok's Rhapsodies No. 1 and 2, "Folk Dances." It's hard to imagine these works being played with more earth-stamping vigor or attention to detail. McDuffie conjured plenty of boisterous peasant color and entered fully into the spirit of the dance -- as did Taylor, who delivered (especially in the headlong tumult at the close of No. 2) an astonishing mix of rounded tone, percussive assault and razor-sharp clarity. Once again, their singleness of phrase and purpose was remarkable.

-- Joe Banno

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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