The Kennedy Center had a bit of an intramural competition last night: Italian violinist Uto Ughi in the Terrace Theater, Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini in the Concert Hall. Pollini was the numbers winner, but judging from his reception at the Terrace, Ughi came away a winner, too.
Uto Ughi possesses a strong bowing arm and formidable technique, all the better to make his violin sing. However, there were instances throughout the evening when his powerful right arm, engaged in vigorous staccato phrasing, produced dry, brittle tones, giving his instrument's voice a slightly hoarse quality. This problem, on the basis of past recitals, seemed more of a temporary lapse than a grievous performance error.
Ughi brought a steely determination to every work, even Jean-Marie Leclair's lighthearted Sonata in D. The J.S. Bach Partita No. 2 in D Minor for unaccompanied violin truly tested his abilities; he responded with a fluid, committed reading that reached its peak in the Chaconne.
After the intermission Ughi and his congenial accompanist, Samuel Sanders, picked up where the Bach left off, with a stirring "Kreutzer" Sonata by Beethoven. The direct communciation between players kindled the piece's passionate nature, which was never less than smoldering.