Judging by the number of new recordings of Eugčne
Ysa˙e’s Sonatas for solo violin, it seems that this remarkable cycle of violinistic high-wire acts is taking hold among young string players. It may be that young violinists are seeing them as a short cut to credibility; the demands made of the musician are certainly as great as anything else in the solo violin repertoire and they are not simply flashy showpieces. Within them lies a world of reference - both to Bach and to Ysa˙e’s great violinist friends - as well as a technical time-capsule preserving in perpetuity the sound of their composer, one of the greatest of all violinists, who sadly peaked just before the advent of recorded sound.
Polish violinist Wojciech Koprowski, born in 1987, brings a staggeringly assured technique to these pieces, playing throughout with a clarity and beauty of tone. In the First Sonata, the most overtly Bachian in form and movement, Koprowski is precise and ultra smooth. The voices of the Fugato
are excellently defined, played with minimal vibrato, and without prior knowledge you’d not know this was just one instrument. Koprowski is also excellent at the more introverted moments of the more celebrated Second Sonata, particularly in the Danse des ombres
movement. It’s fair to say that you won’t hear a more immaculate recording of these works; every double stop is precisely tuned and every voice clear.
There is, however, a lack of fire and movement in the faster movements, which can tend to sound a little metronomic. For all his technical command, he rarely engages with the score’s implicit demand to reproduce Ysa˙e’s idea of style and sound. Ysa˙e smothers these pieces with an unprecedented level of performance instruction, carefully managing every detail from rubato to fingering. Yet Koprowski’s are thoroughly modern performances, rarely employing the more antiquated style of shifts and slides familiar from the few recordings of Ysa˙e.