Innova records album Portraits & Elegies features a selection of generally slow, melancholy compositions for violin and piano. Unlike many discs in this category that feature little more than "fluffy" adagios, this disc focuses on works by four American composers that have real substance and backbone, from Philip Lasser's flowing melodies in Vocalise and Berceuse Fantasque to the complex and engaging selections from Ned Rorem's Day Music and Night Music. Peter Lieberson's Elegy and Russell Platt's Autumn Music (the final two movements of his violin sonata) offer listeners poignant melodies set against intriguing but easily enjoyed harmonies in the piano and a unique interplay between the two instruments. Performing are violinist Frank Almond and pianist Brian Zeger, two artists whose sensitivity and attention to tone are perfectly suited to this program. Almond, who plays here on the ex-Lipinksi Stradivari violin (the instrument's first commercial recording), produces an amazingly sweet, rich tone even in the highest registers called for in Lieberson's Elegy. Zeger's voicing and controlled use of the pedal and dynamics provide a sensual backdrop for Almond's playing, and the two musicians play off one another with delicacy and brilliant technical accuracy. Innova's clean but rich sound quality enhances the detail that Almond and Zeger bring to this highly enjoyable performance.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell