Eugčne YSAE (1858-1931) Chamber Music for Strings String Quintet in B minor, for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello (1894) [20:12]*
String Quartet 'Le Londres' (String Trio op.19, arr. Jacques Ysa˙e) [14:04]
Andante in B minor, for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello (1893) [13:56]*
Paganini Variations, for string quartet (arr. Jacques Ysa˙e ) [10:25]
Kryptos Quartet (Hanna Drzewiecka (1st violin); Elisabeth Wybou (2nd violin); Vincent Hepp (viola); Anthony Gröger (cello)); Vlad Bogdanas (viola)*
rec. Studio Toots, VRT, Brussels, 25-27 January 2009. DDD
ETCETERA KTC 4034 [58:37]
It seems improbable that Ysa˙e should still be the subject of
premiere recordings of any of his works for strings eighty years
on from his death. After all he was one of the greatest violin
virtuosos of all time, and the composer of the Six Sonatas op.27,
one of the finest cycles for solo violin known to music. Yet
such is the case in this release by the Belgium-based Kryptos
Quartet: only the Paganini Variations appear to have been recorded
before, and not in this quartet arrangement.
Two of the four works are Ysa˙e's originals. Both the String
Quintet and the separate Andante are in B minor and for 2 violins,
2 violas and cello. Apart from that there is no obvious connection
between them - no indication that the Andante was ever intended
for the Quintet, itself a single-movement work, that followed
a year later. The Andante is an uncomplicated, highly lyrical,
hugely memorable work. Its haunting cantilena is almost straight
out of Piazzolla's pen, but in any case on a par with the most
tuneful quartet writing of Saint-Saëns or Fauré. The comparative
density of textures and the chromatic harmonies in the Quintet
proper recalls Richard Strauss - indeed, Ysa˙e was working in
Berlin at the time of Strauss's youthful String Quartet op.2.
A work of great sophistication, its neglect by quartets and
labels to date can only be described as bewildering.
On paper, the fact that two of the four works in Kryptos' recital
are arrangements by Ysa˙e's grandson, Jacques Ysa˙e - a jazz
musician referred to in the notes as 'Jazzy Jack Say' - does
not augur well, calling to mind as it does the spectres of either
Jacques Loussier or Gabriel Prokofiev. However, Jazzy's arrangements
are very tastefully done, in a fashion of which Eugčne himself
would surely have approved. In Eugčne's manuscript the String
Quartet was in fact the first movement of a String Trio, later
published as is as the Trio de Londres, op.19. Jacques arranged
this Trio for quartet and gave it the name 'Le Londres' (although
New Grove lists it as Trio de Concert) and that is what the
Kryptos performs here. It is an attractive, engrossing work,
with no obvious connection to London, but with more than a nod
to Bach and Vivaldi in the string motifs and fugal music. Ysa˙e
did not publish his Paganini Variations during his lifetime.
Based on Paganini's famous op.1 Caprices no.24, Ysa˙e's original
work was for solo violin, but this felicitous, untheatrical
arrangement by Jacques makes a superb addition to the quartet
repertoire, an instantaneous audience-pleaser.
The Kryptos Quartet, formed in 2002 and still fairly youthful,
give enthusiastic, thoughtful interpretations of Ysa˙e's music,
although their enthusiasm stops short of total inspiration.
There are also a few technical imperfections here and there
which, considered kindly, give the performances a raw edge.
Sound quality is very good. The booklet is informative, although
much of its thickness is due to its quadrilingual constitution.
Poor Vlad Bogdanas, second violist in the two Quintets, does
not get a mention in it - he remains a mere item in a track-listing.
The CD is a bit on the short side, but that should not deter
any lover of late 19th century string quartet or quintet music.
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