Anton Miller, violin, and Rita Porfiris, viola, conducted an afternoon master class in the Nelson Music Room and then, joined by Duke Professor Eric Pritchard, offered an evening recital in the same venue. Despite the small audience and the slight chill in the room, the performers were energetic and wowed the audience with their fantastic craft. The events were presented by the Duke University Department of Music.
The artists featured in the recital all have a deep connection to their instruments and a passion for sharing their gifts with their audiences. Anton Miller is a chamber musician, teacher, soloist, and has held faculty positions at The Hartt School, New York University, Oberlin Conservatory, Lawrence University, and Swarthmore College. He is a founder and the Artistic Director of the Silver Bay festival. He has also been a member of several chamber ensembles, including the Miller-Porfiris Duo and Miller/Zoernig Duo as well as many other professional groups.
Rita Porfiris is currently the Associate Professor of Viola at The Hartt School and was previously on the faculty at New York University, the University of Houston, and Florida International University. Porfiris has also performed as a soloist with many orchestras and has made many appearances at master classes and performances throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, in Europe, and in South America. She has also held positions with the Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and New World Symphony.
Eric Pritchard, a native of Durham, New Hampshire, studied at the New England Conservatory, the Indiana University School of Music, and the Juilliard School, where he received a Master of Music in 1985. His past teachers include Joseph Gingold, Ivan Galamian, Eric Rosenblith, and Giorgio Ciompi. He is the first violinist of the Ciompi Quartet.
The program included works from across the centuries. The memorable first piece was written in 2010 by Errollyn Wallen (b.1958) for Miller and Porfiris. Five Postcards for Violin and Viola featured short movements of varying information. The second movement has only 26 notes between the two musicians; the third movement calls for a little swagger. As the title suggests, the movements portray various written conversations. Porfiris and Miller are an energetic duo, very sensitive to different emotions within the music.
Pritchard then joined them for Zoltán Kodály's Serenade Op. 12 (1921). The two violins and viola make a wonderful combination with brighter tones accompanied by mellow rich tones. The Kodály began with a bang. The musicians made the fast notes dance lightly from their fingertips while the more serious melodies were left to hang and settle in the air.
Miller and Porfiris came across the next work, by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), a few years ago when searching for new music. The Sonata for Violin and Viola is a gem. Tedesco was John Williams' composition teacher; he wrote many film scores but was never a particularly well-known musician. However, his music is exquisite, and Miller and Porfiris made a convincing case for the score.
The last piece, Terzetto, composed by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), was filled with fantastic harmonies that were executed with precision. Dvořák’s music is distinctive in its sounds and structures. The composer's cultural roots shine through the music, and all three musicians carried this throughout the work. This performance was compelling and kept the audience engaged throughout.
Pritchard, Miller, and Porfiris make an excellent group. The trio is extremely passionate in their playing, and it is apparent these musicians love their work. Although the evening was cold, weather-wise, the lively music filled the air with warm harmonies and excitement.