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On the Road To Vienna: Music for Violin and Piano

all Roads Shea-Kim Duo: Brendan Shea, violin. Yerin Kim, piano. Blue Griffin Records 643 Total Time: Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****

The Shea-Kim Duo is a husband and wife team from the Northwest from which both Brendan Shea and Yerin Kim expand out to a variety of festivals and travels both here in the US and internationally. They are often noted for their intense and brilliant concert performances of both new and standard repertoire in over a decade of performing together. Their new release, All Roads, is a sort of homage to the music making that resulted from the contact composers had in their travels to and through Vienna across time. Three larger-scale works are featured here with a delightful little American encore.

The album opens with Beethoven’s third sonata from Op. 12 (1798) written for Antonio Salieri. These early sonatas still have a more involved piano part almost making them feel at times like sonatas with obligato violin lines. In this third work from the set, the music has a greater sense of grandeur and the violin takes on slightly greater role, but much of the music’s center comes from the keyboard. Three structurally traditional movements make up the work with the central slow movement being among the highlights of the piece before a final delightful rondo. The duo navigates the slight twists and turns well here with evenly-matched interactive motives having a playful touch in the opening movement.

Up next is the Suite in the Old Style from Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). The five-movement work is often performed in a chamber orchestra setting and is no less disarming here with its homage to older musical styles inspired by Baroque suites. A beautiful pastorale gets things off here in a performance that takes a bit more time to explore the lines of the music in a quite intimate performance. This makes the following faster “ballet” stand out a bit more before we move on to a little minuet and a fugue before a final andantino closes things up. The Duo takes a bit more time in the slower movements of this work which creates an occasional sublime quality to the music. The musical style may strike some as surprising with its careful reacquisition of musical gestures in slightly newer dress, but these latter ideas are quite restrained in this excellent little suite which is a highlight performance on this release.

Written in 1851, Schumann’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in a, Op. 105, exhibits some of the romantic explosiveness coupled with interesting harmonic colors. Schumann himself was not quite satisfied with the work and just wrote a second sonata instead of trying to address whatever he disliked about the first! Still, the three-movement work features some beautiful thematic ideas which are referenced across the work. It receives a fine impassioned reading here. Finally, Amy Beach’s beautiful little Romance, Op. 23, written for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, is a wonderful mark of her own romantic sensibilities and style.

The Shea-Kim Duo’s program provides solid and engaging pieces that provide a little traversal of the violin and piano combination across a little over a century of music. They are captured in a slightly dry acoustic which works well here with the violin sometimes shifting within the sound picture just slightly from center. This lends the recording a more “live” feel as a result. All Roads is a fine program that allows an opportunity to explore unique repertoire.


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