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Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op 27 (1924)
No.1 in G "To Joseph Szigeti" [14.59]
No. 2 in A "To Jacques Thibaud" [12.39]
No.3 in D "To Georges Enesco" [6.45]
No.4 in E "To Fritz Kreisler" [11.23]
No.5 in G "To Mathieu Crickboom" [9.14]
No. 6 in E "To Manuel Quiroga" [6.48]
Benjamin Schmid (violin)
Recorded in June and September 1988, unspecified location





This traversal of the complete solo sonatas was originally released on Arte Nova 67511 2 and its reappearance on Oehms in their extensive Schmid series is welcome. Not that this is a standard recommendation; these impulsive and highly personalised readings convey a powerful engagement with the Bachian rhetoric enshrined within them – but also an individual approach to period style and to matters of metrical freedom and rhythm generally. Schmid avoids the slow tempi that can afflict more lugubrious interpretations (for all Mordkovitch’s skill I find her tempi too slow to generate incisive tension) though he never aspires to the kind of adrenalin laced dynamism that characterises Ricci’s old cycle, which I last caught on a Turnabout CD reissue. His solutions to the manifold difficulties set by these works – composed in a white heat of inspiration in 1924 – are to balance stylistic features common to the violinists who inspired the six (Kreisler, Szigeti, Thibaud and Enescu among them) with the dictates of a prevailing contemporary aesthetic.

He’s not as febrile as Ricci in the First nor as aristocratic as Shumsky (Nimbus – now available on a boxed set devoted to some of the violinist’s Nimbus recordings) though his tone is more cleanly centred than the former in the Fugato. Here though he shows a distinct individuality when it comes to elastic rhythm, modifying his tempi quite daringly. In the Obsession of the Second he doesn’t stress the almost malign qualities of the music, such as Ricci finds with his outsize dynamics and roughened tone and hews to a straighter line in the Malinconia second movement – where some competitors stress the veiled viola-like sonorities to telling effect. His pizzicati in the third movement of the same sonata are quite aggressive though, though they’re not as cohesive as Ricci’s or Shumsky’s. Though Ricci is a minute faster than Schmid in the Third Sonata, Schmid nevertheless characterises it extremely well and there are some finely nuanced dynamic shadings in the Fourth for example.

The recording is natural and perhaps just a touch too forward sounding. But it allows dynamic gradients to sound effortlessly and is warmly sympathetic. A note of caution regarding the documentation; from the track listing it looks as if there are only five sonatas but something has gone awry with the printing and they’re actually all here. My principal recommendation remains Shumsky; Ricci brings a welcome taste of paprika to the proceedings. I’ve not heard the widely praised Zehetmair ECM. Schmid brings youth, enterprise and occasional idiosyncrasy.

Jonathan Woolf



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