River of Light: American Short Works for Violin & Piano

River of Light: American Short Works for Violin & Piano

by Tim Fain


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Violinist Tim Fain and pianist Pei-Yao Wang present an appealing recital of short American compositions on this 2011 Naxos release and give a fairly representative selection of contemporary chamber works by prominent and rising composers. Certainly the best-known pieces are "Knee Play 2," a perpetuum mobile for solo violin from Philip Glass' minimalist opera "Einstein on the Beach" (1976), and William Bolcom's engaging "Graceful Ghost Rag" (1979), both well on their way to being classics. Aaron Jay Kernis, Richard Danielpour, and Jennifer Higdon are familiar names of the postmodernist generation of American composers, and their respective works, "Air" (1995), "River of Light" (2007), and "Legacy" (1999), show a strong propensity for long-breathed melodies, which is also shared by Kevin Puts in his "Aria" (200) and Lev Zhurbin in his "Sicilienne" (2000). The dominant tone of the program is therefore one of calm reflection and neo-Romantic lyricism, and even though Ruth Shaw Wylie's "Wistful Piece" (1953) is a bit spicier in its modernist harmonies, it also conveys a gentle, introspective mood. The most balanced piece is Patrick Zimmerli's "The Light Guitar" (2006), which goes through contrasting expressions in the manner of a sonata, and the solo violin is given a variety of textures and techniques, which add interest. Naxos provides its customary fine sound, and the performances are attractively enhanced by responsive acoustics.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/30/2011
Label: Naxos American
UPC: 0636943966228
catalogNumber: 8559662
Rank: 184655


  1. River of Light, for violin & piano
  2. Sicilienne, for violin & piano
  3. Wistful Piece, for violin & piano, Op. 16/2
  4. The Light Guitar, for violin & piano

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Tim Fain   Primary Artist

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River of Light: American Short Works for Violin & Piano 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
lollidamaAC More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful collection brimming with remarkable discoveries. Several stylistic strains are represented, from the wistful, nostalgic ¿Ghost Rag¿ of William Bolcom to the orthodox minimalism of Philip Glass. According to violinist, Tim Fain: ¿The composers represented here share a melodic vision and gift for lyricism¿. Some of the best examples of this can be explored in the following tracks: 1, 3, 4 and 7. Fain and his accompanist, Pei-Yao Wang do a fine job of holding this all together. Sonics are excellent. The liner notes are well written and enlightening. Rack up another win for Naxos on behalf of contemporary American music.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
Violinist Tim Fain had an interesting idea. Violin virtuosos of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a wealth of short, contemporary works to round out their recitals and use as encore pieces. So why not develop a similar body of music for modern violinists? That's the concept behind River of Light, a selection of short violin showpieces, all composed by American composers -- many at the behest of Fain. Some of the biggest names in American music are represented, such as Philip Glass, William Bolcolm, Jennifer Higdon, and Aaron Jay Kernis, but the collection is about quality, not celebrity. The disc takes its title from an eleven minute work by Richard Danielpour, an elegiac piece that sings with neo-romantic vigor. Fain brings out the autumnal nature of the work with his sympathetic performance. Another highpoint is Patrick Zimmerli's "The Light Guitar," a three-movement work for solo violin that provides Fain plenty of opportunity to demonstrate not only his technical facility, but also his musicality. The work very much depends on the soloist bringing out the lyric quality of the melody, something Fain does very well. Philip Glass' "Knee Play 2" (from his opera Einstein on the Beach) makes an excellent moto perpetuo, that staple of the violin recital. Fain plays it with precision and unflagging energy. The oldest work on the CD is "Wistful Piece," by Ruth Shaw Wylie (1953), a short piece that seems akin in style to Howard Hanson. While it does sound a little dates, Wylie's music still works within the context of the program. Sometimes I find collections of violin showpieces a little wearisome to listen to, because all the works are pretty much the same. Not so with River of Light. Fain has put together a program of music that offer up variety in style, emotional depth, character, and even instrumentation (some have piano accompaniment, some are solo violin only). This is not only an enjoyable disc to listen to, but one I hope violinists will take to heart. I would love to hear some of these works in recital rather than the same old encore pieces!