William Bolcom

LORI SIMS, piano



"...the Graceful Ghost Rag is rendered with charm to spare and an apt light touch. The ardent and musicianly playing of Renata Knific and Lori Sims receives gracious praise from the composer and indeed, these inspired, straightforward performances allow Bolcom's eclectic style to register without special pleading...Knific and Sims are always committed - often more than that - and the two women make a compelling case for these works"
Gramophone - February 2008
"the present beautifully engineered performances are persuasive in almost every respect, and have deservedly earned the enthusiastic imprimatur of the composer. Knific and Sims bring a tremendous range of characterisation to these highly accessible works..."
Performance: 5 Stars / Sound: 5 Stars
BBC Music Magazine - February 2008
"[The Sonatas] are very well served here by Renata Knific and Lori Sims...[they] play without emotional and technical restraints; and the mood of each movement is found with precision. Bolcom himself [praises] the performers' 'rare fervor and drama'. I agree."
American Record Guide - January / February 2008
"...a fine recording and very good playing from both musicians... with the quality of music and musicianship on offer I can only urge you to give it a chance."
Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International - 2008
"Renata Knific and Lori Sims ...collaboration in three of William Bolcom's violin sonatas bears the imprimatur of Bolcom himself, who wrote the notes. Knific and Sims play [the First Sonata] with crackling, edgy energy in the more extroverted passages, and they bring an uneasy calm to the more meditative ones. Knific's tone remains confidently strong in the upper registers, upon which Bolcom frequently calls... Their rhythmic zest in the finale brings the Sonata to a more traditional-sounding conclusion than the earlier musical materials might have led a listener to expect...The duo's rhythmic incisiveness [in the Second Sonata] help defines the character of each of these disparate movements...Knific and Sims play [Graceful Ghost] more impudently and more slyly [than Shaham] so that the frequently recurring theme doesn't quickly wear out its welcome in the middle. The engineers have captured the performers close up, with especially strong effect at the end of the Fourth Sonata. Recommended principally to those who admire the music of Bolcom, but everybody should enjoy at least the rag."
Fanfare - January/February 2008
"William Bolcom may have made his name as America's foremost living composer of ragtime music...But there's something dark and complex at the heart of this music, and it's both fascinating and at times startling to hear. Then the program ends with a lovely arrangement of the 'Graceful Ghost.' Brilliant."
CD HotList for Libraries - October 2007
"For anyone unfamiliar with the violin sonatas of William Bolcom, or who has heard them but do not own this particular recording, stop what you're doing and buy it. Violinist Renata Artman Knific and pianist Lori Sims...offer an astonishingly commanding and engaging performance of the "Second," "Third," and "Fourth" sonatas. MSR's recorded sound on this CD is especially clear, allowing every note to be heard in even the densest, most aggressive passages. Intonation is all but flawless, and Knific's sound varies easily between the savage and the sweet. Her palate of tone colors is seemingly endless, which infuses each movement with a character all its own. Sims' piano playing is equally vibrating and varied. The cleanliness of her playing is remarkable considering the demands Bolcom makes of the pianist. Together, Knific and Sims perform as if they were a single instrument. They match each other's temperaments, articulations, phrasing, and character in a way usually associated with duos that have been playing together for decades. This CD is absolutely a necessary addition to virtually any collection and is recommended without reservation."
All Music Guide - October 2007
"The vibrant team of Renata Knific and Lori Sims play these works with rare fervor and drama... I thank them profoundly for this recording."
William Bolcom
Renata Artman Knific’s international career began in London when she joined the English Chamber Orchestra at the age of 21. Tours of Europe, North and South America and Asia followed, with artists such as Herman Bauman, Barry Tuckwell, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Maurice Andre, Pinchas Zuckerman, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Murray Perahia. She has worked closely with conductors Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Edo De Waart and Christoph Eschenbach, and has made dozens of recordings for the EMI, Decca and CBS labels.

As violinist of the Merling Trio, Knific performs 20 to 40 concerts annually throughout the world, including appearances at Merkin Hall, Carnegie Hall, St. John’s in London, and the Banff Center for the Arts. She has released three discs with the trio and premiered many works written for the group, which were finalists for the Naumburg Foundation Chamber Music Award in 1994. Knific has also appeared in chamber music festivals and as a soloist throughout Europe, the United States and Canada.

Ms. Knific is a founding member of the contemporary ensemble, Opus 21, and has premiered dozens of works by many leading composers in recent years. In 2003, she released "West of Everywhere", a crossover recording featuring her with a variety jazz greats including Gene Bertoncini, Sir Roland Hanna, John Abercrombie, Jamey Haddad and Billy Hart. Her premiere recording of Marga Richter’s concerto for piano, violin, cello and orchestra entitled "Variations and Interludes on Themes from Monteverdi and Bach" was released by Leonarda Records in 2004 to critical acclaim.

Ms. Knific is Professor of Music and Chair of the String Department at Western Michigan University, and has taught at the Encore School for Strings, Cleveland Institute of Music, Interlochen Arts Academy, and Lancut Festival in Poland. Her former students perform in the Cavani, Pro Arte and Cypress quartets and in orchestras throughout the world including the Cleveland, Houston, Honolulu and Sao Paulo Symphonies.

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Lori Sims received the Gold Medal at the 1998 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition, where she also won the prize for the best performance of a work by Brahms. Ms. Sims’s other awards include first prize co-winner of the 1994 Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn Competition in Berlin, winner of the 1993 American Pianists’ Association Competition with outstanding distinction from the jury, and the silver medal winner in the 1987 Kosciuszcko Foundation Chopin Competition. While a student, Ms. Sims was the recipient of numerous awards, including a Dean’s Prize at the Yale School of Music, and a Deutsche Akedemische Austauschdienst fellowship from the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2004, Ms. Sims was named the John T. Bernhard Professor of Music at Western Michigan University.

She has performed throughout North America, Europe and China, including engagements with the NordDeutscheRadio Orchester in Hannover, Israel Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Utah Symphony, Spokane Chamber Orchestra, Denver Chamber Orchestra, Memphis Symphony Chamber Orchestra, Rockford Symphony and Kalamazoo Symphony. Her 2000 Alice Tully Hall recital debut in New York received critical acclaim from Bernard Holland in The New York Times. In 2006, she made her fourth appearance at the prestigious Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, where she has been featured as solo-recitalist, master class artist and chamber musician.


William Bolcom (b.1938)
THIRD SONATA - Sonata Stramba (1992)
GRACEFUL GHOST RAG - Concert Variations for Violin and Piano (1979)

MSR Classics