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Peter Dickinson
Gramophone, August 2006

A superb duo exploiting Bolcom’s fondness for the fiddle

William Bolcom has been doing well on CD, thanks largely to Naxos- and he deserves to, as his massive Songs of Innocence and of Experience and more intimate ‘Songs” with Carole Farley (both 7/05), abundantly showed.  These four violin and piano sonatas cover a period of almost 40 years.  Bolcom gave up violin lessons with relief at the age of about 10 when his instrument was stolen from his father’s car, but he has retained a strong affection for the fiddle and the sonatas represent his more serious side rather than the rumbustious ragtimer.

The First Sonata comes from 1956, Bolcom’s freshman year at the University of Washington, Seattle, but was revised later.  I thought I recognized the flowing melody of Milhaud but Bolcom studied with him after that.  The Second Sonata arose 20 years later, after he met jazz violinist Joe Venuti, and it was completed in memoriam. In the first movement the violin sings in a gentle bluesy manner over regular patterns in the piano: ‘Brutal’, which follows, is as tough as anything in Ives.  There are conventional triads in both the last two movements and the whole piece affectionately recalls some of Venutis’s own licks.

The other two sonatas come from the mid 1990s.  The Third is subtitled Stamba (‘Weird’) and, admittedly, you never quite know what is going to happen next.  A mini-scherzo is a scrap of tarantella, then the finale fuses tangos and Arab music.  The last one is another virtuoso piece, at times hyperactive, where everything is confidently delivered by this brilliant duo.



Jed Distler
ClassicsToday.com, August 2006

William Bolcom's four violin sonatas span 50 years of compositional activity. The First dates from 1956 (his freshman year at the University of Washington in Seattle), the Second was written 22 years later, while Nos. 3 and 4 respectively appeared in 1993 and 1994. Play the First's energetic concluding Quasi-Variations movement first and you'll realize that the 18-year-old composer already could embrace and manipulate many moods, shifting from sweet tunefulness and thorny dissonance as he pleased. His ability to do this, of course, would develop to more blatant extremes once hard-core jazz, pop, and world music idioms gained unreserved admission to his expressive kingdom.

The husband and wife team of violinist Solomia Soroka and pianist Arthur Greene simply eat up this music like starving artists getting their first substantial grub in ages. Examples: their gutsy delivery of the Fourth's Arabic-influenced Arabesque, their impassioned, flame-throwing dialogue at the Third's outset, and dagger-like articulation of the Second's terse second movement. Perhaps a quicker, suppler approach to the Second's "Joe Venuti meets Salsa" finale, in the manner of Maria Bachmann'a 1994 Catalyst recording, would be more stylistically apt, but the music bears up well when articulated in "longhair" accents (will Nonesuch ever reissue the still-unsurpassed Sergiu Luca recording with the composer tearing up the keyboard?). Bolcom provides his own informative, entertaining booklet notes to a lovingly executed and beautifully engineered release that does all participants proud.



David Denton
The Strad, July 2006

William Bolcom's name came into the popular domain in the 1970s when piano rags returned to fashion, but his foray into works in that idiom form just part of a pluralistic life that has seen him working in highly diverse musical forms. Bolcom was born in Seattle in 1938 and after studies with Darius Milhaud and Frederick McKay launched upon a career that has largely been divided between teaching and the composition of a substantial catalogue of works.

It is not easy to get hold of a Bolcom style - there's a constant questing for new ideas and even a latter-day Ives lurking in the background of the First Violin Sonata, written as a teenager. Features of all four sonatas include innocent ideas turned on their head in an atmosphere of childish fun and rapid changes of mood from classically serious to whimsical. Hymns, jazz, funky rhythms and brutal atonality all rub shoulders. but Bolcom frequently links them with abrupt discordant passages. The piano is given an equally interesting role, with much use in its percussive mode, while the violin continually decorates the keyboard's thematic material.

Resident in the US, the Ukraine-born violinist Solomia Soroka is technically secure, and her musicality takes her through Bolcom's mood swings with an easy grasp of the idiom, while the extreme demands of the Fourth Sonata are easily negotiated. Arthur Greene proves an excellent partner, and though the recording is at times unkind to the tone of the piano, the engineers have nicely judged the balance between instruments.



David Denton
The Strad, July 2006

William Bolcom's name came into the popular domain in the 1970s when piano rags returned to fashion, but his foray into works in that idiom form just part of a pluralistic life that has seen him working in highly diverse musical forms. Bolcom was born in Seattle in 1938 and after studies with Darius Milhaud and Frederick McKay launched upon a career that has largely been divided between teaching and the composition of a substantial catalogue of works.

It is not easy to get hold of a Bolcom style - there's a constant questing for new ideas and even a latter-day Ives lurking in the background of the First Violin Sonata, written as a teenager. Features of all four sonatas include innocent ideas turned on their head in an atmosphere of childish fun and rapid changes of mood from classically serious to whimsical. Hymns, jazz, funky rhythms and brutal atonality all rub shoulders. but Bolcom frequently links them with abrupt discordant passages. The piano is given an equally interesting role, with much use in its percussive mode, while the violin continually decorates the keyboard's thematic material.

Resident in the US, the Ukraine-born violinist Solomia Soroka is technically secure, and her musicality takes her through Bolcom's mood swings with an easy grasp of the idiom, while the extreme demands of the Fourth Sonata are easily negotiated. Arthur Greene proves an excellent partner, and though the recording is at times unkind to the tone of the piano, the engineers have nicely judged the balance between instruments.



MAGIL
American Record Guide, June 2006

I first heard of William Bolcom as the piano partner of his wife, the singer Joan Morris.  They specialized in late-19th- and early-20th Century pop songs during the ragtime craze of the 1970s.  Only later did I learn that Bolcom was also a composer.  These violin sonatas span 40 years of his composing career, from 1956 when he was a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle to 1994 when he was a long-established faculty member at the University of Michigan.

Sonata 1 shows the influence of 20th Century American composers like Ives and Copland.  The finale quasi-variations are based on a tune that is pure Americana.  Sonata 2 was inspired by an encounter with the pioneering jazz violinist Joe Venuti.  Venuti’s death in August 1978 came before the sonata’s completion, and the finales is titled “In Memory of Joe Venuti’.  The violin part incorporates many of Venuti’s mannerisms.  Sonata 3 was written in 1993 for the 75th birthday of the great violin teacher Doroty DeLay.  It is titled Sonata Stramba. Stramba is Italian for weird, and Bolcom informs us that he was in a weird mood during its composition; you hear that especially in the finale, which is a sort of Piazzolla-Arabic-flavored set of variations on a passacaglia bass.  Sonata 4 begins with two expressionist movements that are followed by an Arabesque and a Jota.

Bolcom is a very eclectic composer who draws inspiration from various types of music.  As a result, I don’t get much of a feel of a “Bolcom” style in these works.  I like a composer’s works to have the unmistakable stamp of his unique personality.  Solomia Soroka and Arthur Greene are competent but not dazzling.




Jed Distler
ClassicsToday.com, February 2006

William Bolcom's four violin sonatas span 50 years of compositional activity. The First dates from 1956 (his freshman year at the University of Washington in Seattle), the Second was written 22 years later, while Nos. 3 and 4 respectively appeared in 1993 and 1994. Play the First's energetic concluding Quasi-Variations movement first and you'll realize that the 18-year-old composer already could embrace and manipulate many moods, shifting from sweet tunefulness and thorny dissonance as he pleased. His ability to do this, of course, would develop to more blatant extremes once hard-core jazz, pop, and world music idioms gained unreserved admission to his expressive kingdom.

The husband and wife team of violinist Solomia Soroka and pianist Arthur Greene simply eat up this music like starving artists getting their first substantial grub in ages. Examples: their gutsy delivery of the Fourth's Arabic-influenced Arabesque, their impassioned, flame-throwing dialogue at the Third's outset, and dagger-like articulation of the Second's terse second movement. Perhaps a quicker, suppler approach to the Second's "Joe Venuti meets Salsa" finale, in the manner of Maria Bachmann'a 1994 Catalyst recording, would be more stylistically apt, but the music bears up well when articulated in "longhair" accents (will Nonesuch ever reissue the still-unsurpassed Sergiu Luca recording with the composer tearing up the keyboard?). Bolcom provides his own informative, entertaining booklet notes to a lovingly executed and beautifully engineered release that does all participants proud.






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3:00:17 AM, 24 November 2014
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