Bolcom's works for violin and piano could stand alone as an introduction to the composer's total output. Beginning with the Sonatina of 1958 and extending on this album through the Fourth Sonata of 1994, Bolcom has visited and frequently continues to visit this genre. The 10 compositions heard on this two-disc set provide a representation of all of Bolcom's stylistic changes throughout his career.
Of violinist Philip Ficsor and pianist Constantine Finehouse, Bolcom states in the liner notes that he "think[s] they're pretty well prepared...." Not exactly high praise for a living composer to give artists who are attempting to record a complete genre of compositions. Unfortunately, Bolcom's limited enthusiasm is warranted. Despite performing works written over the course of nearly four decades, Ficsor and Finehouse make only limited changes to their stylistic approach. Even this musical oversight might be forgiven if it were not also accompanied by pronounced technical deficits in the violin playing. Ficsor's sound is quite strained; every shift and every run sound extremely difficult. There's little or no sense of freedom and liquidity. Topping it all off is Ficsor's pervasively poor intonation. The result is a two-disc set of magnificent compositions written by one of America's greatest living composers performed so poorly as to make the collection one to pass.