Unbounded: Music by American Women

One of the reasons I like reviewing independent label releases is they’re interesting. When a violinist makes a recording debut with a major label, it’s usually with tried and true masterworks. Nothing wrong with that. A new artist can bring new insights to old warhorses.

But I much prefer artists like Dawn Wohn. Her debut album, Perspectives, featured music from women around the world. In other words, music Wohn was personally invested in.

Her sophomore effort, Unbounded, further explores music by women. And as with her previous release, Wohn delivers committed, insightful performances.

The program is nicely balanced. It includes Amy Beach’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor. Jennifer Higdon, one of America’s pre-eminent composers (regardless of gender) is also represented. And there are works by Dorothy Rudd Moore and Irene Britton Smith, two composers of color.

Dorothy Rudd Moore co-founded the Society of Black Composers. She was one of her generation’s most important and influential black composers. Her “Three Pieces for Violin and Piano” (1962) is modernist, yet still quite accessible. Moore is under-represented in recordings, so this was a welcome selection.

Irene Britton Smith had an impressive pedigree. She did graduate work at Julliard, studied at the Eastman School of Music, and took composition lessons from Nadia Boulanger. All the while she taught elementary grades in the Chicago school system.

Her 1947 Sonata for Violin and Piano is both modern and tonal. It’s straightforward and plain-spoken music. Its beauty lies in the artful way Moore constructed it. This sonata is a real gem.

So instead of listening to yet another recording of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, I spent some time with Unbounded. Dawn Wohn’s choice of music is as impeccable as her playing. It was time well spent.

Unbounded: Music by American Women
Dawn Wohn, violin; Emely Phelps, piano
Delos DE 3599

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