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William Bolcom: Violin Sonatas 2 - 4 / Knific, Sims

Release Date: 06/05/2007 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1197   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  William Bolcom
Performer:  Lori SimsRenata Artman Knific
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BOLCOM Violin Sonatas: No. 2; No. 3, “Sonata Stramba”; No. 4. Graceful Ghost Renata Artman Knific (vn); Lori Sims (pn) MSR 1197 (57:20)

Renata Knific and Lori Sims serve on the faculty of Western Michigan University; their collaboration in three of William Bolcom’s violin sonatas bears the imprimatur of Bolcom himself, who wrote the notes. His First Sonata, he explains, comes from his “extreme youth,” which, for him, Read more apparently means 18. It doesn’t appear on the recital; the program begins with the Third Sonata (1992), which, according to him, bears a relationship to Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s musical personality. The first movement is dramatic, given to slashing, dissonant expostulations, with skittish accompaniment, interrupted by interludes with an almost romantic fervor. The ensuing Andante provides simpler reflections, both harmonically and technically. The brief, fey third movement, “In a shiver,” leads directly, according to the directions, into the finale, which bears the subtitle “all’arabesca.” Perhaps because of its ethnicity, its theme remains closer to its harmonic center than do the subjects of the other movements. Knific and Sims play this Sonata with crackling, edgy energy in the more extroverted passages, and they bring an uneasy calm to the more meditative ones. Knific’s tone remains confidently strong in the upper registers, upon which Bolcom frequently calls, even if an occasional spitting double stop misses its target by a pinch. Their rhythmic zest in the finale brings the Sonata to a more traditional and traditional-sounding conclusion than the earlier musical materials might have led a listener to expect, although the movement hardly lacks sudden lurches and surprises.

According to Bolcom, the Second Sonata (1978) arose from a friendship between Sergiu Luca and Joe Venuti. In its first movement, “Summer Dreams,” the violin doesn’t follow where the jazzy, indolent piano introduction seems to lead, although the moods of the two instruments may be congruent—or at least congenial. Aficionados of Joe Venuti may recognize the voice of their idol only briefly in this movement (and then most strongly at the end, in the style of double-stopping); and its middle section takes the music further from the source of its inspiration than the opening did. The second movement, marked Brutal, fast , consists largely of grinding double-stops and interjections that become progressively jaunty as the movement moves through its middle section. The third movement, an adagio, grows almost statically reflective, with tonal cadences periodically grounding its tonal meandering. The finale, explicitly written and titled “In Memory of Joe Venuti,” (Venuti died in 1978) doesn’t exactly sound like Venuti, either; but, entertaining and unpredictable, it nevertheless makes a fitting tribute to a violinist who could often be both. The duo’s rhythmic incisiveness help defines the character of each of these disparate movements.

The Fourth Sonata, again according to Bolcom, found its impetus in the desire of Henry Rubin for a showpiece. Its four movements comprise a toccata-like Allegro brillante, a capricious movement entitled “White Night,” an Arabesque that could almost be take as a caricature of a popular tune, with knockings and repetitions and, finally, the work ends with a boisterous Jota (Bolcom cites Piazzolla as an influence).

The Graceful Ghost , subtitled “Concert Variations” may be the most familiar work on the program. Gil Shaham included the rag in his October recital of Halloween-like pieces. Knific and Sims play more impudently and more slyly, so that the frequently recurring theme doesn’t quickly wear out its welcome in the middle. The engineers have captured the performers close up, with especially strong effect at the end of the Fourth Sonata. Recommended principally to those who admire the music of William Bolcom, but everybody should enjoy at least the rag.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 by William Bolcom
Performer:  Lori Sims (Piano), Renata Artman Knific (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; USA 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 "Sonata Stramba" by William Bolcom
Performer:  Renata Artman Knific (Violin), Lori Sims (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; Ann Arbor, Michigan 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 4 by William Bolcom
Performer:  Renata Artman Knific (Violin), Lori Sims (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; Ann Arbor, Michigan 
Concert Variation for Violin and Piano "Graceful Ghost" by William Bolcom
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Piano Rag Suberb March 22, 2013 By Louise Little See All My Reviews "Purchasing at full price a new CD is rare for me but I'd heard the cut on NPR and I was hooked. Graceful Ghost Rag is so compelling and masterfully rendered that I wonder why there is no compilation recording yet available of all the Bolcomb rags. I would encourage the duo to consider this. New Music is harder to relate to for me and, although I am also a musician, it has very little emotional relevancy for me. But emotion is always only relative." Report Abuse
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