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Eugene YSAYE (1858-1931)
Six Sonatas for solo violin Op. 27 (1924): (No. 1 in G minor [15:22]; No. 2 in A minor [12:20]; No. 3 (‘Ballade’) in D minor [6:36]; No. 4 in E minor [11:15]; No. 5 in G major [8:45]; No. 6 in E major [6:59])
Poème élégiaque in D minor Op.12 (1892-93) [12:40]
Rêve d’enfant Op.14  (1892-93) [3:46]
Philippe Graffin (violin); Pascal Devoyon (piano)
rec. Channel Classics, Rensoude (Sonatas), Philipszaal Eindhoven (other pieces), The Netherlands, January 1997. DDD
first released on CDA66940
Experience Classicsonline

Ysaye studied the violin in Paris in the tradition of the virtuoso performers, such as Paganini. He was a self-taught composer, mainly writing works for himself to play, including several concertos. The great violinist Joachim announced “I've never heard anybody play like that!” on first hearing him. He later took lessons with Joachim, before becoming Konzertmeister with the Brasserie Bilse Orchestra - later Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He returned to Paris and was the dedicatee of a number of works written for him by composers including Franck, Debussy, Saint-Saëns and Chausson. He also formed a string quartet, was given a post as Professor at Brussels Conservatoire, and formed a concert society, for which he conducted, and performed many premieres.
Ysaye drew a great deal upon that greatest of composers, Bach, and all six of his sonatas are testament to this. One can hear the influence of Bach throughout the works – not just in form and occasional actual musical reference, but also in the beauty and simplicity of line. Each sonata was dedicated to a younger violinist and was composed with his particular style of playing in mind – Szigeti, Thibaud, Enescu, Kreisler, Crickboom and Quiroga.
The sonatas are here played superbly – and, indeed, virtuosically - by Philippe Graffin. Graffin seems to draw out the connections with Bach’s music, and I personally find these tributes to Bach - and there is a particularly heavy allusion to Bach’s third partita in the first two movements of Ysaye’s second sonata - very moving. So, for me, the performers create a powerful effect. They are convincing advocates of this music, playing with passion, confidence and spirit. Just listen to the fire and enthusiasm in Les Furies (last movement of the second sonata) and the third sonata.
The sonatas are followed by the Poème élégiaque - which Ysaye later orchestrated. Graffin is here accompanied by Pascal Devoyon. The work is exhilaratingly beautiful and lyrical, the performance intense – superb! The disc concludes with Rêve d'enfant. Ysaye dedicated this to his youngest son Antoine. It is a tender lullaby - gorgeous music and playing.
The performances by Philippe Graffin are full of musicality and understanding. He has not just an excellent technical ability but a real love and comprehension of this music that shines through. He is an excellent communicator.
Em Marshall


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