The association of violinist Katherine Gowers with pianist and accompanist Charles Owen goes back into the 1990s; in 1997, their partnership won the Parkhouse Award, an international competition of piano and string chamber ensembles held in the U.K. Though released in 2007, this studio recording, Music by Monti, Fauré, Ravel, Gershwin et al, was made in 2004, taking some time to find a home; it has finally landed on Somm. This is a little surprising, as Gowers is a known quantity in England and quite popular with audiences, and this recital of encore pieces directly reflects the sort of material that has earned Gowers her renown. It is not the sort of program likely to please violin purists, but certainly satisfactory in terms of hitting the high points of what has endeared her to audiences.
There are places where Gowers is at a distinct disadvantage to accompanist Owen in the recording, and the recording itself isn't a wholly accurate representation of Gowers' tone in concert, if reviews of her performances are to be trusted. Although her playing is universally described as big-boned and expressive in the live context, the sound of it here is a little thin and distant in comparison. Perhaps a little case of studio recording jitters is also at play here, as Gowers sneaks up on the opening of the Monti's Csárdás. However, she does shine in most other pieces, such as the Bloch Nigun and Gypsy Carnival by Yascha Krein. "Orange Blossom Special" is certainly not a piece one would expect to see on a classical violin album, but Gowers' rip-roaring version of it is likely to make a believer out of anyone who hears it; clearly, she knows how to put on a show. To put a memento of Gowers' playing before her fans and to help spread her reputation before a greater public, Somm's Music by Monti, Fauré, Ravel, Gershwin et al is adequate, but one hopes that further recording will better represent her gifts.