Duke shows off the new Baldwin Auditorium

Editor's note: Watch video of Eric Pritchard testing the acoustics at the bottom of this article.

dmenconi@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2013 

— You usually don’t see scaffolding on the stage at a classical recital. Then again, such recitals don’t usually happen on a weekday morning, with the performer wandering the stage as he plays.

That was the scene Thursday at Duke University’s Baldwin Auditorium, which held a preview tour to show off its $15 million makeover. Ciompi Quartet first violinist Eric Pritchard was on hand to test out the newly renovated hall’s acoustics with a mini-recital.

Pritchard played the final movement from Bach’s “Partita for Violin No. 2 in D Minor,” dashing it off with elegant ease. The acousticians can rest easy, because the music sounded as clear from the back of the balcony as it did from the front row.

Baldwin has been closed since 2011 to undergo the renovation, and an acoustic upgrade was high on the list of things that needed fixing. Long the most-used hall on campus, it will be at the Duke music department’s service for rehearsals and concerts. Baldwin also will host several dozen shows of Duke Performances’ 2013-14 season

While Baldwin has lost about 200 of its former 900-seat capacity, its new layout is superior in almost every other way. The room’s acoustics are “tunable,” with cloth banners that can be lowered and raised as needed. Also of note is the new wooden stage backdrop made with Figured Anigre Veneer wood from South Africa.

The stage has been expanded to 2,000 square feet, and the attention to detail is impressive. The wooden stage floor has more than 75,000 holes for air flow that were “drilled one at a time,” said Duke architect Ray Walker.

Baldwin’s grand-reopening festivities happen Sept. 14, a Duke faculty concert featuring Ciompi Quartet, John Brown and others. Admission is $10, free for students. See music.duke.edu for details.

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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