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Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27 (1924)
No. 1 in G minor "To Joseph Szigeti" [15:21]
No.2 in A minor "To Jacques Thibaud" [11:43]
No. 3 in D minor ‘Ballade’ "To Georges Enesco" [6:53]
No.4 in E minor "To Fritz Kreisler" [11:03]
No. 5 in G major "To Mathieu Crickboom" [9:22]
No. 6 in E major "To Manuel Quiroga" [7:00]
Oscar Shumsky (violin)
rec. 1982, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI5039 [61:46]

Whilst reviewing Alina Ibragimova’s recent recording of these six sonatas (Hyperion CDA67993) I mentioned in passing two very different but very recommendable alternatives from Shumsky and Kavakos. The opportunity has now arisen briefly to note the virtues of Oscar Shumsky’s Nimbus set, recorded back in October 1982, a period which coincided with increased international exposure for this great artist. I should note that it’s also available as part of a set of three discs called ‘Oscar Shumsky; Portrait of a legendary violinist’ (NI 1735). The other discs are devoted to his Bach and Mozart concerto recordings for the company.

Taped more than thirty years ago the sonatas reveal his romanticist credentials in performances of undoubted passion. Where one finds Alina Ibragimova sculpting daring dynamics in these sonatas as an ancillary to the avoidance of resinous drama, Shumsky’s powerful, rich tone vests everything he plays with great immediacy. The tremolando ponticello effects with pizzicati in the opening movement of the G minor are remarkably vivid here. Similarly he brings a sure awareness of the long line necessary to maintain sufficient tension in the second sonata, dedicated to Jacques Thibaud. More than most players Shumsky finds something almost alarmingly intense about the Malinconia second movement – which, in itself, offers an interesting insight into the more withdrawn aspect of Thibaud’s supposedly ever-sunny and sensual self. He also shows – as, frankly, does almost everyone else – that a tearaway tempo, such as that taken by Ruggiero Ricci, is not the best solution to the complexities of the Sonata No.3, the Ballade.

Interestingly he includes an extra phrase in the Sarabande of the Fourth Sonata - the suggestion of Josef Gingold, one of Ysaÿe’s most eminent pupils - a work he plays with great character. If he is perhaps less startling than Ibragimova in the progressive harmonies of the opening of L’Aurore movement of the penultimate sonata then he lacks for little in terms of tonal breadth and expressive intensity. His amplitude brings its own reward. The sonata dedicated to the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga, the sixth and last, tends to be a little overlooked. Possibly its Iberian cast has something to do with this, but when played with the musical candour of a Shumsky it stands as just as much a masterpiece as its companions.

So, I can offer a renewed recommendation for this recording, which continues to stand the test of time.

Jonathan Woolf



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