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Eugène Ysae (1858 - 1931)
Sonatas (6) for Solo Violin, Op 27 (1924) [67.50]: #1 in g "To Joseph Szigeti" [16.40]; #2 in a "To Jacques Thibaud" [12.49]; #3 in d "To Georges Enesco" [7.34]; #4 in e "To Fritz Kreisler" [12.44]; #5 in G "To Mathieu Crickboom" [10.07]; #6 in E "To Manuel Quiroga" [7.56]
Ilya Kaler (violin)
Recorded at St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 9 Dec 2001
Notes in English and Deutsch.
NAXOS 8.555996 [67.50]

Comparison Recordings:
Lydia Mordkovich Chandos CHAN 8599
Mateja Marinkovic Collins Classics 13762

These wonderful works, ignored for so long, now seem to have become violinistic war-horses. Ysaÿe accomplishes an impossible task, writing violin music which is almost independent of any period or place. This is not so much modern music or baroque music or romantic music, as it is all of these it is violin music. One can imagine Corelli or Biber enjoying playing these works as well as Paganini or Heifetz. To emphasise that, the composer has dedicated each one to a violinist friend of his as if to say, "This is music just for us."

Mathieu Crickboom (1871-1947) was a student of Ysaÿes who played in the Ysaÿe quartet, later founding his own quartet with Josep Rocabruna as the second violin, Rafael Gálvez on the viola, and Pablo Casals, cello; Enrique Granados joined them when they played chamber music with piano. Manuel Quiroga (1892-1961) was compared to Sarasate in his interest and ability to project violin music with a Latin flavour.

Violinists who can play this music are rare enough, and to try to rank these three performances in order of quality is all but impossible. No two virtuosi will play them the same way, with the enormous variety of shifting moods and styles. But if held at gun-point and forced to make a choice, I would say: Mordkovich first, then Kaler second by the thinnest of margins, then Marinkovic. But that opinion would not stand up to cross-examination, based as it is only upon very subjective feelings of the relative comfort and assurance in the playing. If you buy this disk you will certainly not regret it if later you should hear the Mordkovich recording.

I will always associate these sonatas with my dear, generous, and brilliantly talented friend Ronald L. Russell. He performed the second sonata at his final public appearance before increasing deafness forced him to put away his violin forever. Without music his life meant little to him, and he collapsed mentally, and then physically, and died in a few years. His performance was brilliant, but to deepen the tragedy, as the audience sat down to hear it, the microphone cable was inadvertently kicked and the recording failed.

Paul Shoemaker


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