As far as could be determined from last night's recital in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, violinist Nigel Kennedy has no experience with technical difficulties. He talks about them, to be sure, in the running commentary that he often slips into between musical numbers, but there is no sign of them in his playing.

The worst thing about his performance last night was the way he rocked back and forth, stamping his heels and making a distracting noise during the more impassioned passages of Be'la Barto'k's music -- which, otherwise, he played brilliantly. Get him a pair of black shoes with soundproofed heels, and the sky's the limit.

Kennedy likes to discuss the difficulties of the music he plays. Introducing Barto'k's brilliant and technically formidable Sonata for Solo Violin, he talked about how the sonata matched Bach's feat of making the unaccompanied violin a self-sufficient instrument, then added: "Fortunately, he wrote only one."

Introducing Dave Heath's incandescent "On Fire," a work that has echoes of Jimi Hendrix and the music of north India, he said, "Unfortunately, he {the composer} is here tonight, so I've got to get it right." Before starting the Heifetz arrangement of Three Preludes by Gershwin, he remarked casually that "the violin part is impossible to play." Then, after dashing it off flawlessly, he said, "I think it's my lucky day."

The simple fact is, of course, that Nigel Kennedy needs no luck and no apologies for any music he chooses to play. He is gifted not only with an incredible pair of hands but also with a superb set of musical instincts. He is able to play not only with incredible speed, power and accuracy (the special qualities one expects in a young performer) but also with a heart-on-sleeve romanticism when the music requires it.

The program was devoted entirely to music of this century, and Kennedy said it was designed "to show that the 20th century has a lot of variety." That was amply demonstrated in the program, which began with the post-Brahmsian accents of Elgar's Sonata in E minor and included the best performance I have ever heard of Barto'k's Romanian Folk Dances. Then, he opened a whole new dimension with two jazz numbers played as encores, making his violin sound like a cousin of Miles Davis' trumpet.

But for many members of the audience, the most memorable moments of the evening may turn out to be the most old-fashioned, when Kennedy played the melting cantabile phrases of Elgar's slow movement, labeled "Romance -- Andante," with a limpid tone and lyric grace that almost made you think of Fritz Kreisler.