Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Continent of Ysaÿe

The Six Sonatas for Solo Violin op. 27 are by far the most popular work by Eugène Ysaÿe (I counted over fifty versions on CD at Amazon), I'm afraid to the exclusion of the rest of his music. Indeed, this new CD from Belgium contains the first orchestral music of his that I've heard in a very long time. A French reviewer has said "Ysaÿe is a continent, of which we know a peninsula: the sonatas for solo violin." This music is so appealing and it's written in such an accessible and romantic style that I'm very surprised that at least a few of these poèmes for violin and orchestra aren't part of the standard repertoire. It's high time, it seems, to explore the continent of Ysaÿe.

This is the second disc of Ysaÿe's orchestral music recorded by Jean-Jacques Kantorow and the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liege. The first, from 2014, featured works for orchestra with cello, violin and string quartet, and was well received by critics, with special notice taken of the commitment, warmth and passion of the orchestral musicians. In the new disc we have two young violinists featured: Svetlin Roussev, playing a Stradivarius violin in three of the works, and Amaury Coeytaux in the remaining four. There's certainly something about concertante works written by composer-performers for their special instrument, which was clearly apparent listening to Grazyna Bacewicz's violin concertos recently. The violin parts in these Ysaÿe poèmes are like a personal voice of the composer, and his violin sings beautiful but sad, or at least bitter-sweet, songs.

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