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A Tribute to Ysaÿe
rec. 2009-2019
FUGA LIBERA FUG758 [5 CDs: 355 mins]

This is a compilation of recordings made over the years, but largely recently, that have now been housed in a handy 5-CD box with extensive notes (trilingual; French, English and German) in the 96-page booklet. The earliest track comes from 2009 – the Poème Élégiaque with Tedi Papavrami - and the Saint-Saëns caprice was recorded back in 2013, but everything else was recorded at various sessions in 2018-19. It’s this newness that makes the box of interest alongside the raft of fine soloists and the contributions of the Liège and Brussels orchestras and their equally excellent conductors.

This cross-orchestral collaboration ensures that the anthology, which is not intended to be a ‘complete works’ edition, is largely a securely directed and programmed one. The works cover a range of Ysaÿe’s concertos and chamber works though they avoid the more obvious and often recorded solo violin sonatas.

The surviving movements from the Violin Concertos are certainly not well-known. The 1886 E minor (played by Yossif Ivanov) owes much to the Mendelssohn with which it shares the same key. Resplendent though it is, it’s not hard to see why the surviving first movement has not much been performed. The slightly earlier D minor (the violinist here is Nikita Boriso-Glebsky), of which only the conductor’s score has survived, shows how practical was his writing for orchestra and whilst there’s nothing especially distinctive about the writing, a blind listen would immediately point to Brahms as the major influence. Composed in 1893 and orchestrated in 1904 the Poème Élégiaque, dedicated to Fauré, was his first tone poem, an interesting melange of pastoral lyricism and Wagnerian grandeur. Ysaÿe the virtuoso is encountered in the Caprice which Maria Milstein plays with panache.

Amitié for two violins and orchestra shows an experienced practitioner at work, distributing material between the instruments with clarity and characterising the music with occasionally sombre but largely balletic affection. Cast for string quartet and string orchestra Harmonies du soir is a Franck-influenced nocturne with reverie-like beauty in its quarter-hour length whilst this second disc is topped by Gary Hoffman’s eloquent performance of the Méditation for cello; composed in 1913, revised in 1921 and infused with attractive chromaticism. Stéphane Denève directs the Brussels Philharmonic throughout.

There are two string trios, both named after the cities in which they were premiered. ‘Le Chimay’, for violin, viola and cello, was composed in 1927 but not premiered until 1964. It mines that eventful nocturnal and quietly melancholic quality that so much marked his chamber music – an inheritance of the great composing contemporaries whose works he premiered - but leavened by puckish wit and some advanced harmonies. Ysaÿe wrote ‘Le Londres’ for two violins and viola and this recording uses the version in one movement. An engaging late work it includes a fugal section half way in, but this academic-seeming exercise is more than balanced by the work’s airiness and liveliness.

Légende norvégienne comes from the early 1880s and reminds one of Wieniawski in its virtuoso stance, along with some Sarasate-like whistling, and some Nordic picture-postcard writing. It’s a slender piece but attractively projected by Kerson Leong and Jonathan Fournel. Rather different is the Sonata he composed during the war for two violins in three movements. The first encloses a fugato that bulks things unnecessarily but the central movement has warm textures and the finale has some charmingly affectionate writing. For the Rêve d’enfant there is the luxury casting of Augustin Dumay and Fournel. One of his best-known miniatures, Dumay – nearing 70 at the time - plays it with all his accustomed tonal and stylistic resources.

The box also contains works by Ysaÿe’s composing contemporaries, ones that he premiered or brought to prominence. Thus, there is Chausson’s Poème, stylishly played by Renaud Capuçon and the Concert where members of the Hermès Quartet are prominent, the violin soloist being Elena Buksha and the pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. Lekeu’s Violin Sonata (Leong and the experienced Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden) is coupled with Franck’s Sonata (Lorenzo Gatto and Julien Libeer) and there’s also a performance of the former’s wonderful Piano Quartet, as well as Debussy’s String Quartet where the foursome is led by Dumay.

Fine though these performances are none is truly top drawer and I mean it as an observation, rather than a direct criticism that, whilst I appreciate that these works contextualize Ysaÿe’s great achievement as enabler, and inspirational soloist, they are hardly lacking for recordings from the 1920s onwards. I hope it’s not unfair to point out the many unrecorded, or very seldom recorded, violin works premiered by Ysaÿe or dedicated to him (or both) by such composers as Silvio Lazzari, Oscar Espla, Gustave Samazeuilh, Charles Bordes, Mathiue Crickboom (fellow Belgian violinist and member of Ysaÿe’s Quartet), Emile Mohr, Jean Rogister – whose music is increasingly being rediscovered – and numerous others.

Assuming these works exist, either in published form or in manuscript, the value of this box would have been increased substantially. Still, one can’t carp at what’s not included too much. This is a valuable and dedicated undertaking, finely performed and recorded. The two violin concerto movements are claimed as disc premieres and if you are looking for these, and his chamber music in one substantial set, you are in safe hands.

Jonathan Woolf

Contents
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Violin Concerto in E Minor: I. Allegro appassionato non troppo vivo [16:37]
Yossif Ivanov (violin)/Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Violin Concerto in D Minor: I. Allegro moderato [17:06]
Nikita Boriso-Glebsky (violin)/Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Poème elegiaque in D minor, Op. 12 [14:11]
Tedi Papavrami(violin)/Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/François-Xavier Roth
Caprice d'après l'Étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns, Op. 52 (Transcription for Violin and Orchestra by Eugène Ysaÿe) [8:49]
Maria Milstein (violin)/Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège/Christian Arming
Amitié, for Two Violins and Orchestra, Op. 26 [15:37]
Yossif Ivanov and Lorenzo Gatto (violins)/Brussels Philharmonic/Stéphane Denève
Harmonies du soir, for String Quartet and String Orchestra, Op. 31 [14:31]
Quatuor Hermès/Brussels Philharmonic/Stéphane Denève
Méditation, for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 16 [12:58]
Gary Hoffman (cello)/Brussels Philharmonic/Stéphane Denève
Trio de concert "Le Chimay", for Violin, Viola and Cello [18:07]
Elina Buksha (violin): Hélène Desaint (viola): Astrig Siranossian (cello)
Légende norvégienne, for Violin and Piano [11:59]
Kerson Leong (violin): Jonathan Fournel (piano)
Sonata for Two Violins [34:24]
Hyeon Jin Jane Cho and Vladyslava Luchenko (violins)
Trio de concert en une partie "Le Londres", for Two Violins and Viola (Version in One Movement) [14:04]
Hyeon Jin Jane Cho (violin): Vladyslava Luchenko (violin): Miguel da Silva (viola),
Rêve d'enfant, Op. 14 [4:02]
Augustin Dumay (violin): Jonathan Fournel (piano)
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Poème for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25 [16:06]
Renaud Capuçon (violin)/Brussels Philharmonic/Stéphane Denève
Concert in D major for piano, violin and string quartet, Op. 21 [42:51]
Elina Buksha (violin): Quatuor Hermès: Pavel Kolesnikov (piano)
Guillaume LEKEU (1870-94)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major [34:58]
Kerson Leong (violin): Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden (piano)
Piano Quartet [27:07]
Júlia Pusker (violin) Miguel da Silva (viola): Danilo Squitieri (cello):Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden (piano)
César FRANCK (1822-90)
Violin Sonata in A major [26:00]
Lorenzo Gatto (violin): Julien Libeer (piano)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 [25:57]
Augustin Dumay (violin): Hyeon Jin Jane Cho (violin): Miguel da Silva (viola): Henri Demarquette (cello)



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