Seattle-born composer Daniel Asia has been a consistent and prolific contributor to most of the traditional art music genres. While listeners are more likely to be familiar with his many symphonic works (he was composer-in-residence for the Phoenix Symphony for three years), his chamber music output is equally refined and deserving of attention. This album features his Violin Sonata and Piano Trio. The violin sonata, performed by violinist Curtis Macomber and pianist Christopher Oldfather, is a grand arch-form in the style of Bartók interspersed with short, "enigmatic" movements reminiscent of Christopher Rouse. Asia's writing is quite accessible to listeners, filled with interesting rhythmic nuance and harmonic intrigue. The Piano Trio, performed by violinist Frantisek Soucek, cellist Vladimír Fortin, and pianist Richard Ormrod, is equally engaging for listeners. Written as a memorial piece, Asia focuses much more on life and vitality than brooding. In both pieces, the performances are technically quite pristine. Intonation is virtually flawless, articulation is well-matched throughout, and balance is lucid. What's lacking at times is a true and convincing sense of emotional commitment to the music being performed. Macomber's playing in the Violin Sonata, in particular, is quite bland and unenthusiastic despite its high technical merits. The Piano Trio is also uninspiring musically. Even in the introspective depths of the second movement, the performers seem to do little apart from reading through the notes.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell