Elena Urioste and Tom Poster Highlight Lesser-Known French Sonatas on ‘Le Temps Retrouvé: Fauré, Bonis, Hahn, Boulanger’

The goal of this album was to bring these sonatas of the early 20th century into the core repertoire

By Miranda Wilson | From the March-April 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

Violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster have released this album with the goal of bringing lesser-known French sonatas of the early 20th century into the core repertoire. Though the names of Gabriel Fauré and Lili Boulanger are well known, Fauré’s second sonata and Boulanger’s Nocturne are not. Mélanie Bonis (who published music under the more masculine name of Mel) and Reynaldo Hahn are lesser known but described by the performers as “due a major renaissance.”


Le Temps Retrouvé: Fauré, Bonis, Hahn, Boulanger, Elena Urioste, violin; Tom Poster, piano (Chandos)

First on the album is the Bonis sonata, a work of brilliant contrasting colors, mercurial rhythms, and unconventional formal structures. Bonis, whose life story the performers liken to “the plot of a Hollywood film,” takes as transgressive an attitude to musical form as she did to social convention. The third movement, based on the folk modes of a traditional Greek song, is particularly unusual. Next is Fauré’s second sonata, a significantly more modernistic work than his first essay in the genre 40 years earlier. While the first sonata is Romantic in tone, the second signals that the era has come to its very end.

The Impressionistic sonata by the Venezuelan-French Hahn is the most conservative of the four works on the disc, appearing to owe more to the style of his mentor Saint-Saëns than to that of the forward-thinking Fauré. The second movement is unexpectedly quirky, composed of both instruments dashing frantically up and down modal scalar material that traverses the extremes of their registers. The third movement, a poetic Modéré, never quite moves beyond the diatonic. Ironically, Hahn composed this work long after the far more modernistic single-movement Nocturne by a teenage Lili Boulanger that closes the album. Boulanger’s career was cruelly cut short by a fatal illness at the age of only 24; we can only imagine what feats of composition she might have accomplished had she lived longer. 

Lili Boulanger, Nocturne, Elena Urioste, Tom Poster

Urioste and Poster provide sympathetic, poetic readings of all four works. It is a pity that the microphones picked up so much heavy breathing, which distracts from the otherwise exquisite charm of their ensemble.