Bolen & de Vries Piano Duo

Brahms, Milhaud, Poulenc, Rachmaninoff: Works for 2 Pianos

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The liner notes for this album of two-piano works performed by Bradley Bolen and Vincent de Vries discuss some of the obstacles inherent in putting two pianos together for a single performance. One of the difficulties not mentioned is the balancing act for recording engineers when trying to produce albums from this medium. With all of the sonic information coming from the two huge instruments, maintaining a pleasing equilibrium between clarity and warmth, reverb and precision of articulation, and dynamic range is quite challenging. On this particular MSR CD, the challenge is not entirely met. The overall sound quality throughout the disc is one of sterility and blandness. The works by Brahms and Milhaud, which were both originally for full orchestra, lack any symphonic grandeur or intensity. The Rachmaninoff second suite for two pianos, likely the most familiar work on the program, is equally dry and distant. While articulation from both instruments is relatively clear, it does not make up for the shortcomings in sound qualities. Bolen and de Vries perform well together in as much as matching articulation, phrasing, and pacing are concerned, but their combined emotional and musical impact is as uninspiring as their sound quality.

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