Notes and Editorial Reviews
6 Solo Violin Sonatas
Rachel Kolly d’Alba (vn)
WARNER 2564 68385-5 (55:38)
Rachel Kolly d’Alba’s set of Eugène Ysaÿe’s six Solo sonatas, recorded in Switzerland in 2008 on the 1727 Smith Stradivari, includes booklet notes by the violinist. In the First Sonata, dedicated to Joseph Szigeti and supposedly inspired by that violinist’s playing of Bach, she occasionally allows her fancy to take wing, but otherwise her playing remains quiet and, if subtle, also somewhat subdued. She creates highlights in
the second movement’s slinky, chromatic fugue that relieve some of the texture’s dense severity with flashing virtuosity. Reminiscences of Bach’s fugues, though, of course, filtered through Ysaÿe’s more modern harmonic sensibility, emerge more clearly than usual throughout the movement. The
Allegretto poco scherzando
, referring, if somewhat sketchily, to the third movements of Bach’s three solo sonatas, sounds poetic despite a tempo that hardly relaxes.
The Second Sonata, based on motives from Bach’s Third Partita (in the first movement) as well as on the
, which pervades the entire work, can sound electrifying or even terrifying (as Aaron Rosand and Ruggiero Ricci showed); but d’Alba’s first movement seems more focused on the music’s less mephitic effects. The second movement is atmospheric in her reading; but in the third, a sort of rhythmic crescendo, her facility (as in the variation in triplets) lends the passagework a sort of lambent quality that may seem to many to lack menace. Similarly, in the opening of the last movement, “Les Furies,” her chords sound more smoothly rolled than biting, dampening some of their menace; and the passages
that alternate with bold statements don’t raise goosebumps.
The Third Sonata, dedicated to George Enescu and one of the set’s most rhapsodic, appeared in the repertoire of David Oistrakh and Michael Rabin (Francescatti, Milstein, Heifetz, and Stern didn’t take up these sonatas, though Francescatti played a lament for Ysaÿe by Gustave Samazeuilh,
Lamento e moto perpetuo
). Oistrakh’s ardor seemd far removed from d’Alba’s more careful approach, though she does incorporate some idiomatic portamentos.
Fritz Kreisler had dedicated his solo
Recitativo and Scherzo
to Ysaÿe, and that composer’s Fourth Sonata may be a return gesture. Here, even in what hardly amounts to an imitation of Kreisler’s style, d’Alba’s more genial approach to Ysaÿe’s complex solo writing, seems to hit closer to the mark than it does in the earlier sonatas. In the finale, her rush of rapid notes sounds more silvery and diaphanous than anything in the same vein from Kreisler himself.
The Fifth Sonata begins with a quasi-mystical evocation of the dawn, and macho-meister Ruggiero Ricci made of this movement an almost shattering emotional experience. On the other hand, d’Alba, despite almost equal technical command—at least in these passages—doesn’t reach the same level of illumination; and her final movement lacks the robust energy of a rustic dance (although there’s no gainsaying her brilliant burst of light at the movement’s conclusion).
D’Alba remarks in her notes that the brief Sixth, one-movement sonata, exotically Spanish, poses the most formidable technical challenges, and it sounds that way, though d’Alba meets them easily, capturing, along the way, some coquettish ethnic charm, if not smoldering emotion.
Not to recommend these adroit and, in their way, highly personal, performances would be almost unthinkable; on the other hand, they hardly channel the composer’s leonine presence. Recommended therefore almost exclusively to those willing to exchange some slash or even technical security for additional poetry, some introverted brooding for straightforward good cheer, and some of the sonatas’ darker hues for pastels.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
"The drama in Kolly d’Alba’s playing is inescapable, and that Passion Ysaÿe title goes further than mere sales pitch in terms of white-hot expressive emphasis. Kolly d’Alba doesn’t turn these pieces into stereotype showstoppers... Her performances are not only technically impressive, which is a given but shouldn’t by any means be taken for granted, but also in essence true to the spirit of the sonatas. If you want to hear what I mean, turn to Sonata No.5, where Kolly d’Alba creates a marvellous atmosphere, responding to every marking in the score to superb effect.
Rachel Kolly d’Alba is a special talent of whom we will be hearing more, of this you can be assured. This CD is accompanied by her intelligently written programme notes for each of the sonatas, and despite a few fluffy pictures is a release of substance, restraining from becoming one of those personality promo discs."
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
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