Robert McDuffie and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra Lead Off a String of Violin/Fiddle-Centric Shows
McDuffie will co-star with the orchestra in the Violin Concerto of Johannes Brahms, then the orchestra will perform the Symphony No. 7 of Ludvig von Beethoven. Both 19th Century works (the Beethoven, 1812; the Brahms, 1878) stand as gems of the Romantic Period of classical music with a lush orchestral style reflecting a preoccupation with nature mysticism, a growing emphasis on melody and the expanding dynamics that large orchestras afforded.
McDuffie, however, is an agile musical time machine. A master of vintage and modern classical music, he is very much of his own time, with skilled expressions of popular music as well.
His two most recent recorded releases capture his range. His album “ICONS: Philip Glass, John Adams, John Corigliano” presents duets of contemporary classical pieces with pianist Elizabeth Pridgen. Meanwhile, on the American Public Television special “A Night of Georgia Music,” McDuffie plays arrangements of soul, rock and funk tunes by Georgia-associated giants Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers Band, Outkast, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the B-52s and others, playing alongside keyboardist Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers, Sea Level and the Rolling Stones) and bassist Mike Mills (R.E.M). The show, distributed by PBS, will also feature Mills’s Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra, which McDuffie commissioned.
A native of Macon, Georgia (birthplace of 1950s proto-rocker Little Richard; then home to the Allman Brothers), McDuffie was featured in the all-star stage show Midnight Rider alongside rockers Gregg Allman and Chuck Leavell, and with actor Anna Deveare Smith in Letter from Birmingham Jail honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to R.E.M.’s Mike Mills’s ambitious cross-cultural Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and Orchestra, McDuffie also performed the world premiere of Violin Concerto No. 2 “American Four Seasons” by American modernist Philip Glass. On tour with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, McDuffie paired Glass’s American Four Seasons with Antonio Vivaldi’s baroque-era classic The Four Seasons.
Led by Music Director Steven Mercurio, the 30-year-old Czech National Symphony Orchestra also displays a remarkable versatility. The orchestra won the first-ever Oscar for composer Ennio Morricone for his (recorded live!) score to Quentin Tarantino’s film The Hateful Eight. The orchestra has toured the world playing both classical and more vernacular pieces, collaborating with Chick Corea, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, John Abercrombie and other jazz giants. The ensemble arrives at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall two days after playing Carnegie Hall.
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra, with featured violin soloist Robert McDuffie, performs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. $45, $35, $15. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
This concert launches a flurry of performances featuring violinists; or fiddlers.
On Friday, Feb. 24, Troy Chromatics presents the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble at the Hall in music of Maurice Ravel, Antonin Dvorak, Paul Hindemith and George Enesco – the featured work is Enesco’s Octet for Strings. A subset of the larger West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Ensemble features violinist Michael Barenboim. 7:30 p.m. $55, $45, $35
Fiddles are very much in the mix with the bustling Scottish octet Skerryvore, at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Friday, March 3 – layering traditional Celtic instruments over a rock rhythm section on six albums since 2005. 7:30 p.m. $29.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
The Massachusetts chamber-folk group Darlingside – at The Egg on Thursday, March 9 – features violinist Auyon Mukharji along with fellow founders Don Mitchell, guitars, and cellist Harris Paseltiner; plus newcomers Molly Parden, bass; and Ben Burns, drummer and banjoist. Their November show at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs was their last, at least for a while, with founder-bassist David Senft before his departure. 7:30 p.m. $34.50
Toronto’s Enter The Haggis follows the next night at The Egg – Friday, March 10 – featuring new fiddler Rose Baldino in a six-piece lineup. Since Craig Downie founded the band, they briefly re-named themselves Jubilee Riots and has released more than a dozen albums. The Nova Scotia sisters Cassie and Maggie (MacDonald) open – yep, fiddle there, too; in the hands of Cassie. 7:30 p.m. $29.50
Then, the night after that – Saturday, March 11 – Mark O’Connor brings his Crossing Bridges retrospective show to The Egg. A star since 13, O’Connor ranks as highly as McDuffie among hyper-versatile violinists – also a guitarist, but we digress. O’Connor has made every kind of music from mainstream country as a valued Nashville session player to progressive rock with Dixie Dregs, gypsy-jazz swing with Stephane Grappelli, bluegrass with David Grisman and classical pieces with Yo-Yo Ma. O’Connor recently summed up these virtuoso cross-cultural adventures in the 430 pages of his new autobiography Crossing Bridges. At The Egg on March 11, O’Connor will read from those pages and play music from those varied styles and exploits. O’Connor’s – fiddle-playing! – wife Maggie accompanies him. 7:30 p.m. $29.50