The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Lin He (violin) Gregory Sioles (piano)
Composer: Debussy, Lili Boulanger, Ravel, Poulenc

This is an attractive programme, with Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne an extra miniature treat. Lin He brings many fine touches to the Debussy Sonata, showing a nice line in whispered intimacy and a seductive way with a glissando – whether Debussy’s or his own. But two things quickly become apparent. For the first, he takes the generally rubato nature of the music rather too much to heart. Debussy is liberal enough as it is with his fluctuating tempo markings, and Lin He’s inveterate pushing and pulling renders it all rather amorphous. Some of the last movement is just a scramble. For the second, the recording is uncomfortably close, which renders the sound harsh in places, and mercilessly exposes any technical infelicity.

Ravel is no better served. Pulse remains an issue, and so, also, the feeling that these performances exist too much in the moment, lacking any greater musical shape or purpose. The second-movement Blues, in which Lin He gets another good sprinkling of glissandos to enjoy, sits po-faced on the beat, and loses Ravel’s insouciant swing; the fragmentation of the final bars is not improved by being at half speed. Poulenc’s Sonata, with its passionate astringencies, fares best, but sadly this disc is not quite the treat it might have been.