Tianwa Yang Plays Ysaye
Eugene Ysaye's Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, op. 27, (1924) have become an integral part of the literature for unaccompanied violin together with Bach's Sonatas and Partitas and Paganini's Caprices. Bach and Paganini find frequent echoes and quotation in Ysaye. Born in Belgium, Ysaye (1858 -- 1931) was a brilliant violinist as well as a composer. He dedicated each of the six violin sonatas to a leading violinist of his day and shaped the particular work to the dedicatee's musical and performance style.
Ysaye's sonatas are crushingly difficult virtuoso works frequently performed by young violinists to demonstrate technical mastery. The young Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang performs this music with a total command of her instrument. She brings such passion and musicianship to her performance that the technical demands of the sonatas become almost secondary. Her playing is broad, powerful and assured. She captures the spirit of each of these six works with their overriding romanticism. Yang, who has earlier recorded Sarasate, Mendelssohn, and Wolfgang Rihm, performs on a 1729 Guarneri in these recordings from 2012 in Berlin.
The sonatas demand a full virtuoso technique with extensive fugal sections, double stops, runs, long complex figures, pizzicato sections (in both hands), harmonics, and changes in dynamics, tempo, and mood. Although composed in 1924, the musical language is of the late 19th Century. In varied romantic styles, Ysaye uses counterpoint, Baroque dance forms, tone paintings, gypsy and folk dances and more. The music conjures up legendary, charismatic and flamboyant violinists with a heavily romantic force to their characters and playing. I tried to visualize the music as performed by the dedicatees. Yang's performances took me to an earlier era of making music.
Dedicated to George Enescu, the single movement sonata no. 3, "Ballade" inevitably brings to mind the Chopin Ballades in its turbulence, story-telling, and quick changes of mood. The lengthy sonata no. 1, dedicated to Szigetti, is magisterial and austere in character with strong links to Bach. Dedicated to the French violinist Jacques Thibaud, the sonata no. 2 has a free, melancholy character, with movements with titles including "Obsession" and "Malinconia". Dedicated to Fritz Kriesler, the sonata no. 4. is virtuosic and melodic with a quotation from Kreisler in its finale. The sonata no. 5, dedicated to the French violinist Mathieu Crickboom opens with a slow, impressionistic setting which gradually becomes forceful and concludes with a rapid-fire dance. The final sonata, dedicated to the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga features technical fireworks followed by a heavily Spanish-influenced dance.
Yang clearly loves this music and plays with expression and flair. This CD will appeal first and foremost to lovers of the violin. It will also appeal to lovers of romantic music and to listeners wishing to be reminded of the many styles of great music composed during the 20th Century. Naxos kindly sent me a copy of this CD to review.
Total Time: 74:26