Tamsin Waley-Cohen / Huw Watkins

1917: Works for Violin & Piano

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The year 1917 was a time of transition, as post-Romantic composers and modernists alike struggled to create music in the face of the devastation of World War I. Perhaps some effects of the conflict may be found in the melancholy moods of the Violin Sonata in G minor by Claude Debussy and the Violin Sonata in E minor by Edward Elgar, and even in the brooding outpourings of the Violin Sonata in B minor by Ottorino Respighi, though neither these works nor the the much lighter Five Pieces by Jean Sibelius contain any programs or overt references to the war. The composers featured on this 2014 Signum Classics release evoke a pensive but sweet style that had been conventional since the turn of the 20th century, though their ideas are expressed through different stylistic means. Even so, a retrospective album that emphasizes the year of composition creates expectations of a period feeling, and violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and her accompanist, Huw Watkins, play with such ardent emotion, technical elegance, and rich tonal coloration that it's almost impossible to hear the music without imagining the dying embers of Europe's belle époque. For the most part, these are controlled yet passionate performances of music from a bygone era, and Waley-Cohen shades the music with a vibrant feeling that makes the sense of nostalgia especially poignant.

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