American Sonatas for Violin and Piano
Virgil Thomson said it best: ‘The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be an American and then write any kind of music you wish.’ Thomson isn’t represented on this disc of American sonatas for violin and piano but the composers who are – William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Charles Ives – would appear to agree. Corigliano even seconds Thomson in the booklet notes when he states that his sonata ‘is more the result of an American writing music than writing “American” music’.
That said, traits that might be termed American can be discerned in these imaginative and entrancing pieces. Ives doesn’t employ actual folk tunes in his Second Sonata but he folds his own folksy melodies into the three movements, which have the descriptive titles ‘Autumn’, ‘In the Barn’ and ‘The Revival’. In his Second Sonata, the ever-inventive Bolcom pays tribute to jazz violinist Joe Venuti in four movements of bluesy and swinging material, including special techniques Venuti made his own. Corigliano composed his only work in the genre soon after graduating from Columbia University, yet his ability to devise musical narratives of creative and alluring substance is already at full steam.
Violinist Ching-Yi Lin and pianist Zachary Lopes play the sonatas with equal degrees of panache and warmth. They are a well-matched team, savouring their individual duties while communicating with one another as if engaged in a series of tender, lively and challenging conversations.