Murray plays with a fierce intensity and commitment that gave each of the works a veneer of greatness. The program traced a chronological arc through a landscape of virtuoso tradition, starting with a caprice by the baroque composer Locatelli (from his Sonata in D minor) and traversing Paganini, Kreisler and Milstein on its way to “The Red Violin,” written by John Corigliano for the 1998 film, in which it was performed by Joshua Bell.
It also traversed a formidable and bristling array of virtuosic techniques. Some of the pieces were almost entirely written for double-stops, calling for the violinist to play two notes at once; there were searing notes at the top of the instrument’s register, seesawing leaps from high notes to low, finger-plucks, and runs of notes that had Murray’s long fingers moving like a flow of water on the keyboard.
But such a formidable program is also exposed — spotlighting, for instance, the uncertainties of intonation that may creep in when fingers and bow are leaping ceaselessly from one string to another. And the unceasing barrage of fireworks, accompanied by the sawings of the double-stopping bow, can become exhausting to the ear. At the midpoint of the program, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s variations on “The Last Rose of Summer” started to sound like a lot of work to little effect — more effort than the payoff was worth. The start of “The Red Violin” was the first slow piece of the afternoon, and a welcome contrast.
Murray has ability and variety to burn, and some of her most effective moments were the humorous asides — the graceful little curlicue of notes that ended Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo with a smile, or the high-wire high notes of Milstein’s “Paganiniana” (my favorite piece on the program). But I wished she had thrown in a contrasting piece of a different kind of musical substance. In this short program, there was room for one of the Bach partitas, or even one of the Ysaye sonatas that Murray recorded in 2012. Or even a transcription — like the encore that Murray did play, an arrangement of Francisco Tárrega’s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra,” originally written for guitar. As it was, we got to see a lot of Murray but didn’t really get to know her.