Charlie Siem / Andrei Korobeinikov

Elgar, Grieg: Sonatas for violin & piano

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The standard coupling for Edward Elgar's late violin sonata is either another of Elgar's late chamber works, usually his piano quintet, or another English composer's violin sonata, usually William Walton's violin sonata. This unusual 2008 Challenge release by violinist Charlie Siem and pianist Andrei Korobeinikov instead joins Elgar's sonata with a sonata by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, his third in C minor. (Surprisingly, the same company coupled Elgar's sonata with Grieg's first sonata only the year before in performances by violinist Isabelle van Keulen and pianist Ronald Brautigam.) Although their performances are not as unusual as the coupling, Siem and Korobeinikov nevertheless find interesting things to say about both works. With his lean tone, ample technique, and concentrated vibrato, Siem can handle both works' physical demands, dashing through Elgar's opening Allegro with élan and tearing through Grieg's closing Prestissimo with panache. Siem can also express the emotional depths of Elgar's nostalgic central Romance and the lyrical heights of Grieg's sentimental central Allegretto without tipping over into bathos. The result is a pair of highly expressive but fully controlled performances that cast both the works and the composers in a different light. Siem's additions of Szigeti's transcriptions of Elgar's Serenade and Adieu and of his own arrangements of two of Grieg's songs fill out the disc with lighter, more approachable works in performances as charming as the music. Accompanied with power and grace by Korobeinikov and recorded in close but atmospheric sound by Challenge, Siem's performances rank among the better recordings of Elgar and Grieg's sonatas.

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