American Record Guide Review
In My Own Voice by Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin
Attention concert presenters! If this album reflects real life, you’d have a winner in presenting Kelly Hall-Tompkins. Here is an artist who deserves not just a hearing but fame itself.
I’m always hesitant when reviewing an album produced by an artist unknown to me. It’s obviously an act an act of self promotion, but when it’s this good, then bully for her! There are so many outstanding talents who fail to catch fire because they don’t promote themselves.
Right from the start in the Kreisler (for violin alone), it’s clear that Hall-Tompkins is beyond technique. She has a firm presence and, above all, a grasp of the work’s structure. In the Suk (with piano) she leans into phrases, giving them plenty of breathing room while never letting the music die on the vine.
The Ysaye and the Bach are choice examples of her solid grasp of structure and, thus, her powers of interpretation. The introduction to Sonata 3 is a long, anguished sigh with recitative-like rubato and long pauses, expressively wrought with rich tone colors as it works up to an intense flowing finale. In the first minutes of Partita 2 I feared she had lost that compelling quality, only to realize by the end that she caught me up without my being aware of it; what she did, in fact, was recognize the difference between building an 8 minute versus a 15-minute piece, while achieving the same searing intensity. She achieves the same even in Saint-Saens’s Fantasy for violin and harp. In brief, she compels you to listen.
Summerland is the only weak selection here (William Grant Still’s fault, not the soloist’s), using the same major-key pentatonic “is everybody happy” kind of melodies as Roderick Elms (see my review of his album in this issue). Ethnic Variations for violin and piano by David Baker Jr. (born 1931 and chairman of the jazz department at Indiana U) is really a set of jazz variations (with a little Lawrence of Arabia thrown in) on Paganini’s Caprice 24, showing Hall-Tompkins’s virtuosity in yet another style. She turns it into crossover-with-class.
The engineering is excellent, and the program notes are well written and to the point.
-Gil French, American Record Guide