Con Faculty Duet Sparkles in Kulas
By Matthew Heck

Tuesday in the Conservatory’s Kulas Recital Hall, faculty members Marilyn McDonald on violin and Monique DuPhil on piano, performed a short program of mostly Romantic music with one contemporary piece by Stephen Hartke.
The program began with a performance of Schubert’s “Sonata in A Major, D. 574, for Violin and Piano.” It was clear from McDonald’s first note that it was going to be a spectacular concert. She played with a rich, warm tone and a wide, thick vibrato. Her intonation was practically flawless and her bow control impeccable. The range of dynamics and subtle phrasing she accomplished with only one bow was stunning. Each bow stroke she used could be divided into numerous different sections with various pressures, speeds and distances from the bridge. It was truly magical to watch. Few violinists utilize as well as McDonald this ability to accomplish a wide range of tone color in a single bow stroke.
McDonald had wonderful dynamic inflection throughout the opening movement. Her phrases were well prepared, clear and meaningful. Occasionally she lost clarity on some runs, but they never clouded the otherwise brilliant performance. The piano playing was occasionally a bit sluggish but after the first movement, DuPhil seemed to be more responsive. The second movement was light and had a wonderful bouncing quality. The third movement, marked Andantino, was paced appropriately and wonderfully phrased, and the final movement was also successful. DuPhil’s playing shone especially nicely in the last movement.
Following the Schubert on the program, McDonald played a contemporary piece by Stephen Hartke titled “Caoine” (pronounced “keen”) for solo violin. She explained that a “Caoine” was an Irish whaler’s lament, a sort of theme and variations in which each member of a group interprets a melody in different ways. This piece, written in 1980, was heavily influenced by simple Irish folk melodies and the open string colors of Irish fiddle playing. However, the piece weaved its way in and out of folk tonalities and modern dissonant harmonies. McDonald’s tone was beautiful, full and resonant, and her playing shifted from a thick romantic tone to a brilliant, intense, focused sound.
The duo returned without intermission to play Faure’s “Sonata in A Major.” This wistful, nostalgic piece was a perfect finale and showcased McDonald’s tone best of all. DuPhil’s playing was her best of the night and the ensemble was the most sensitive during this piece.
The concert must have been especially inspiring for the performers because of the respect and enthusiasm of the audience members. Few concerts have emoyed a quieter atmosphere during the music or louder applause at the end. Many of the audience members were students of the performers and there was a mutual love and support that was magical.



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