John Gilbert

Herbert Howells: Sonata No. 1; Benjamin Britten: Suite for Violin & Piano; Ralph Vaughan Williams: Sonata in A minor

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While one would very much like to wholeheartedly praise violinist John Gilbert and pianist Susan Wass' disc of twentieth century English works for violin and piano, the actual performances elicit only lukewarm praise. Certainly the program itself is brilliant. Coupling Herbert Howells lushly expressive Violin Sonata in E major with Benjamin Britten's dryly ironic Suite for violin and piano and Vaughan Williams wildly imaginative Violin Sonata in A minor provides a fascinating overview of the genre in twentieth century in England. But the performances can't match the program. Gilbert has a more than adequate but by no means spectacular technique and a tone that tends toward the wiry, and his interpretations are pleasant but not especially insightful. In his hands, Howells' sonata is merely light and lithesome, Britten's suite is simply sweet and saucy and Vaughan Williams' sonata sadly lacks both muscle and imagination. Wass' is a talented pianist and an adept accompanist, but she, like Gilbert, stays on top of the notes rather than probing beneath them. Captured in thin, dry digital sound, this disc is for dedicated fans of the repertoire only.

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