In My Own Voice: Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin; with Craig Ketter, piano, and Anna Reinersman, harp; works by J. S. Bach, Eugène Ysaÿe, Camille Saint-Saëns, William Grant Still, David Baker, MSR Classics No. MS 1278; $14.95 available:

Kelly Hall-Tompkins presents a bountiful collection of lovely solo violin works on her new CD, In My Own Voice. Describing her choice of repertoire, Ms. Hall-Tompkins says the pieces represent “something old, something new, something borrowed, something Blues.” The big pieces for unaccompanied solo violin demonstrate her virtuosity: J.S. Bach’s triumphant Chaconne, from the Second Partita for Unaccompanied Violin in D Minor, S.1004, serves as a pillar, and it’s beautifully performed. I give her high marks for making a war horse speak with originality on a Guarneri del Gesu (1732 violin “ex Kaston”) with modern set-up. Her seemingly effortless performance of Ysaÿe’s “Ballade,” from the Sonata in D minor, Op.27, No. 3, another classic from the violin literature, will surely please aficionados of the instrument. However, there is much more to savor in this album. 

For starters, Camille Saint-Saëns’ heavenly classic, the Fantasy for Violin and Harp in A, Op. 124, played with Anna Reinersman, is a piece we don’t hear every day; it’s a composition that has been elevated to one of my favorites. Coupled with William Grant Still’s gorgeous “Summerland,” Ms. Hall-Tompkins makes the instrument sing. This is violin playing at its sweetest. The “wild card,” says the performer, is “Ethnic Variations on a Theme of Paganini,” for violin and piano, penned by David Baker, Jr. (b.1971). I have to admit I’m not a fan of quotations and musical parody, but this is well written, rich with sultry jazz-like moments and showy fanfare exploiting the performer’s skill. Ms. Hall-Tompkins’ adept collaborative proficiency, conviction and swing make it work — it’s a fitting encore. 

Ms. Hall-Tompkins is not only a versatile musician (she is a member of the prestigious Ritz Chamber Players and the New Jersey Symphony) but also an extraordinary individual. Classical music fans and readers will remember Daniel Wakin’s article “For the Homeless, Music That Fits a Void” (New York Times, December 18, 2009), about her project, Music Kitchen. A global citizen, she is a French speaker and a student of several languages and cultures. Ms. Hall-Tompkins represents a new generation of accomplished players who define themselves on their own terms; in so doing, she creates an intimate relationship with listeners without walls. 

The violinist grew up in South Carolina and was trained at several of our most prestigious music schools. It was at Eastman that she met Raleigh native Craig Ketter, the exceptional pianist who provides such strong support in this CD. (He’s her chief recital partner, performing with her frequently.) And it was at the Manhattan School of Music that she met harpist Anna Reinersman, who performs in New Bern every year during the late summer Carolina Chamber Music Festival.

Finally, hurrah for independent CD label MSR Classics! Showcasing artists who might otherwise be overlooked, we hear a richer, more diverse repertoire. Recorded in St. Peter’s church in NYC and Christ Church, Brooklyn, the sound Ms. Hall-Tompkins produces is glorious. This is a splendid CD. It deserves a prominent spot with your other violin favorites. Congratulations Ms. Hall-Tompkins — well done!

Note: The artist’s first CD, published in 2002, is available from Amazon; see the listing here.