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Yossif Ivanov: Violin Sonatas
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Violin Sonata (1886) [28:12]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Violin Sonata Op.27 No.5 (1923) [17:09]
Violin Sonata Op.27 No.6 (1923) [7:03]
Rafaël D’HAENE (b.1943)
Violin Sonata (2003) [21:41]
Yossif Ivanov (violin)
Daniel Blumenthal (piano)
rec. Tibor Varga Foundation studio, Sion, Switzerland, January 2006
AMBROISIE AMB102 [67:09]


Though he comes from Russian parents Yossif Ivanov was born in Antwerp and his recital represents a quartet of Belgian sonatas. Each composer’s work occupies a different century, and therefore allows Ivanov and Daniel Blumenthal to present the canonic Belgian sonata, the Franck, and end with D’Haene’s 2003 sonata and for the violinist alone to take on two of Ysaÿe’s six solo 1923 sonatas.

The solo sonata dedicated to Mathieu Crickboom, Ysaÿe’s second violin in his eponymous string quartet, receives a most intimate reading. The violinist threads an almost attenuated tissue of tone and this tone blanche that Ivanov demonstrates is in rude opposition to a patrician reading, such as that given by Oscar Shumsky on a Nimbus three disc set [NI 1735]. The tremolando style of delicacy and introversion favoured by Ivanov means that he tends to rely more of individual gesture than cumulative and structural cohesion.  His pizzicati are rather withdrawn and fail to ring out with Shumsky’s panache. In the second movement Danse rustique though, I rather liked the nineteen year old Ivanov’s overt dancing and rhythmic propulsion. He doesn’t stress accents with the slashing vivacity of Shumsky nor does he thereby stress the work’s proto-Bartókian modernity. Similarly the superb internalised dialogue that Shumsky establishes is not yet part of the younger man’s arsenal.

The Sixth sonata, dedicated to the wondrous Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga, is a compact seven-minute work. Ivanov is very forwardly recorded here and in the companion solo sonata but it’s more in the sixth that we pick up the sniffs, bow abrasions and adjacent string knocks that in a more distant recording we might otherwise not have noticed. They’re minimal except for the sniffing which is noticeable on attacks. Shumsky’s take is grand seigniorial but intensely vocalised, with fanfare like flourishes that add tensile bite to the playing. His recording is boomy in typical Nimbus house style but the pleasures of playing like this outweighs any – and all – secondary considerations of this kind. Ivanov by comparison doesn’t sculpt these phrases into quite so viable a construction; things remain exceptionally well played but rather earthbound.

D’Haene’s sonata is broadly traditional in outlook. It has a melancholic sound world that appeals strongly and its shadowing lines attest to a certain obsessive quality. Elements of Bartók’s folk inflexion are here as well and they give a brief taste of the earthy. D’Haene studied with Dutilleux in 1968 and since 1970 has taught composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels. One admires his avoidance of spurious rhetoric and his setting up of rather intriguing oppositions in his writing.

It’s perfectly understandable that Ivanov should want to include the Franck as a calling card, though perhaps more adventurous programming might have proved even more worthwhile from the collector’s point of view, given that a set of all six Ysaÿe sonatas now looks improbable from this source. Blumenthal is a good ally and needs to be in this work where the pianist has it much harder than the fiddle player. The general outlines are fine, though the recording fractionally favours the pianist – or maybe Ivanov’s tone doesn’t quite project enough. Blumenthal is apt to indulge some of the more outré pianistic demands and I definitely don’t like Ivanov’s smeary tone in the Allegretto.

Nevertheless this Zakhar Bron pupil has served notice of his gifts in this recital. His technical address is considerable but he needs to ally those gifts with a deepening insight into phraseology and projection.

Jonathan Woolf



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