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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Serenade Op. 8 in D major (1797) [30:01]
Eugene YSAYE (1858-1931)
String Trio Le Chimay [17:00]
Rada Ovcharova (violin), Emlyn Stam (viola), Willem Stam (cello)
rec. 26-28 November 2012, Studio van Schuppen, Veenedaal.
DUTCH RECORD COMPANY DRC 131015/01 [47:01]

Beethoven’s Serenade op. 8 in D major for violin, viola and cello was written in 1796-7 and published in 1797 by Artaria in Vienna. It’s performed here with grace and imagination by the Ysaye Trio and opens and closes its six movements with a sprightly Marcia. Ovcharova’s violin is instantly winning and full of character whilst Willem Stam’s coercively tender cello playing at the beginning and end of the Adagio evokes the heartfelt sincerity. A wonderfully spirited viola section played by Emlyn Stam can be thoroughly enjoyed in the Allegretto alla Polacca and Thema con Variazioni. All instrumentalists sound balanced and rich in this recording for DRC.
 
Though apparently light-hearted, this Serenade has some tricky passages for the violin as at the time of composition Beethoven was acquainted with the much acclaimed violinist Schuppanzigh. Much like Ovcharova he would have found no difficulty in some of the more technically challenging passages. A piece which was most likely composed to amuse and entertain audiences, this composition is devoid of Beethoven’s later intense introspection and by many is considered an ‘apprentice’ work. However glimpses of Beethoven’s characteristic sorrowfulness, interspersed with frantic scherzo sections, can be heard in the fourth movement (Adagio). Additionally, from the Thema con Variazioni (Andante quasi allegro), Beethoven’s later song Sanft wie die Fruhlingsohne (Soft as the Sun in Spring) can be found. Evoking both this youthful energy and intimately psychological conflict; the Ysaye Trio play with attentiveness and understanding. In contrast to Beethoven’s String Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 3 which is heavily indebted to Mozart’s Divertimento K. 563, his Serenade in D major is suggestive of greater individuality, an experimentation with form and an interest in contrast of colour and texture.
 
Remembered for his six sonatas for solo violin, Eugene Ysaye’s String Trio ‘Le Chimay’ was discovered amongst his papers after the Second World War and premiered in 1964. Incidentally, it was named after the Belgian town in which it was first performed. Playing the viola and cello to a high standard and studying the violin under Henry Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawski, Ysaye’s Le Chimay contains passages that require virtuosity and panache. A high degree of musical understanding and craftsmanship is needed to play a piece in which virtually no dynamic, tempo or expression markings exist from the composer’s manuscript. Whilst the printed edition (Ries and Erler, ed. by the Gaede Trio) is more readable, it is also highly suggestive in its markings, thus can be thought to stultify the desired innovativeness of subsequent trios - or at the very least, influence their interpretation. However, the Ysaye Trio sound distinct, fresh and skilful. Favourably reviewed by Nick Barnard and Jonathan Woolf for MusicWeb International, Henning Kraggerud (violin), Lars Anders Tomter (viola) and Ole-Eirik Ree (cello) perform Le Chimay on a Naxos recording (8.570977). There there’s a less direct sense of emotion and greater attention to the overall musical phrasing and interrelatedness of each part.
 
It’s in a continuous movement of widely ranging and outreaching emotions and vibrancies but Ysaye’s style is difficult to pin down. Though Le Chimay is certainly evocative of Debussy, Ravel and late works by Fauré, it is not as dreamy or impressionistic. At times early works by Schonenberg (such as Verklärte Nacht) come to mind, but Ysaye’s musical language is rather more lyrical, containing dramatic outpouring as well as lighter dalliance. The Ysaye Trio blend this dizzying combination to conclude with passionate rapture.

Lucy Jeffery