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Ilya Kaler (violin)
čne YSAYE (1858–1931)

Sonata for solo violin, op.27/2 (1923) [12:48]

Paul HINDEMITH (1895–1963)

Sonata for solo violin, op.31/1 (1924) [13:34]

Sonata for solo violin, op.31/2 (1923) [10:56]

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)

Sonata for solo violin, op.115 (1947) [12:13]

Jean MARTINON (1910–1976)

Sonatina No.5 for solo violin, op.32/2 (1942) [7:37]

Vytautas BARKAUSKAS (b 1931)

Partita for solo violin (1967) [8:39]

Ilya Kaler (violin)

rec. 24–25 May 1995, The New Hope Methodist Church, Methuen, Ma, USA. DDD
ONGAKU 024103 [66:59] 

Experience Classicsonline

Ilya Kaler is the only violinist to win Gold Medals at the three major violin competitions – the Tchaikovsky, the Sibelius and the Paganini. Certainly on the strength of this recital he is a very fine player indeed, making light of what is a most challenging selection of music for solo violin, some of it written by virtuoso violinists.

Ysa˙e’s six Sonatas for solo violin are each dedicated to a particular player. For No. 2 it was Jacques Thibaud who had an obsession (by which name this Sonata is commonly known) with the Bach E major Partita so the composer incorporated the opening of that work into his and married it to his own obsession with the Dies Irae plainchant melody. It’s a cruelly difficult work to play, as you’d expect from one so intimate with the instrument, but the rewards are manifold. As a composition it is a shining example of how to write for an instrument which can, only slightly, supply harmony for itself, and how to make a composition from found material. 

Hindemith’s two Sonatas, op.31 are in the same mould, but are constructed from original material. In 1924, Hindemith was still an enfant terrible of modern music, these works immediately followed the hilariously irreverant Militärmusik Minimax (1923) for string quartet and was shortly to be succeded by the virtuoso Concerto for Orchestra, op.38 (1925) and the opera Neues vom Tage (News of the Day) which included a scene for a naked soprano (Laura) singing in the bath about the wonders of modern plumbing!  The 1st Sonata contains three fast and two slow movements, the fast ones throw caution to the wind as they move at break–neck speed, the finale is marked Prestissimo, and is played entirely muted, while the slow ones are gently lyrical. The 2nd Sonata is more relaxed, with lyricism being the basis of each movement, the third is played entirely pizzicato and the finale is a set of five variations on Mozart’s Komm, lieber Mai. It makes a fine contrast to the expressionism of the 1st Sonata and is easier on the ear, especially after so many pyrotechnics from himself and Ysa˙e! 

Prokofiev’s Sonata is probably the best known work here. It’s in a simple style because it was written to be played by a group of violinists in unison! It’s a delightful and unpretentious work, not without some quick writing, which must have been the devil to keep together for an ensemble. In general it’s an easy listen, with no problems, and it’s quite fun. 

We remember Jean Martinon today as a conductor and for his interpretations of the music of the French school of the first half of the 20th century. What has been forgotten is that he was a composer of some note, writing four symphonies, four concertos, and much choral and chamber music. He recorded his 4th Symphony, subtitled Altitudes, (1964/1965) for RCA in the 1960s. This miniature Sonata, in two fast movements, was written whilst Martinon was a prisoner of war, the first movement concentrates on the single melodic line and the second is a wild dance with all kinds of pyrotechnics. Martinon was a violinist himself, he played in orchestras under Ravel on a couple of occasions, and he knows, exactly, the capabilities of the instrument. 

Vytautas Barkauskas will be a new name to most of you, I am sure. In the 1960s he was a leader of the Lithuanian avant-garde, having been influeneced by Penderecki, Lutoslawski and Ligeti. Since then he has become more classical in his outlook, "I do not restrict myself to any single, defined compositional system, but am constantly searching for a natural stylistic synthesis. I strive to make my music expressive, emotional and of a concerto type", Barkauskas says. His Partita has an appealing quirkiness to it – you can hear elements from the avant–garde but there’s also an attractive lyricism to it. 

I really enjoyed this disk of violin music which we never get a chance to hear. The recording is bright and full, the fiddle beautifully captured. Kaler is a fine fiddler and this music is attractive and interesting. All the works here receive performances of the highest order.

Bob Briggs 



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