Lin He / Gregory Sioles

French Sonatas for Violin & Piano

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Albums devoted to French violin sonatas are in no short supply, often including the usual Debussy and Ravel sonatas along with the ever-popular Franck Sonata in A major. The program for the Centaur album goes slightly outside of the box by replacing the Franck sonata with the less common but perhaps more enthralling Poulenc sonata. Apart from this departure, however, violinist Lin He and pianist Gregory Sioles do not offer listeners anything particularly special or enticing to differentiate themselves from the pack. Sound quality seems to be the primary issue throughout the recording. His sound is extremely close and bright through most of the disc, producing an overly forceful, harsh effect throughout. The exception to this is a peculiar moment about 20 seconds into the final movement of the Poulenc sonata where his recorded sound quality suddenly changes drastically, almost as if he turned completely away from the microphone for several minutes. By contrast, Sioles' sound is clearly pushed to the background throughout and is not nearly as present or clear as would be necessary to produce a more even chamber music partnership between two equal players. He's interpretation is also somewhat lacking in the more fluid, colorful sensuality inherent in these sonatas. The sultry rhythms and glissandos in the blues movement of the Ravel sonata sound more perfunctory than organic and some of he more technical sections in the three sonatas come across as being nothing more than difficult-sounding technical exercises.

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