YSAŸE Harmonies Du Soir Et Autres Poèmes
Ysaÿe’s six sonatas for solo violin are well represented on disc. Not so his concertante works – more than 16 of them (plus, apparently, a number of unpublished violin concertos lying somewhere in someone’s vault waiting to be exhumed). The most notable of these are his seven Poèmes, mostly for violin and orchestra, a form which Ysaÿe seems to have invented. The third of these, Chant d’hiver, is the best known (though not part of this selection) while the first, Poème élégiaque, was the direct inspiration for Chausson’s famous eponymous work of 1896.
This handsomely produced release will introduce most of us to six of these rhapsodic, harmonically rich Romantic works including the Poème élégiaque (the slow section of which, we learn from the excellent four-language booklet, was played at Ysaÿe’s funeral in 1931). The performances of the young soloists under Jean-Jacques Kantorow’s direction bring real commitment to these scores, and exactly the right mix of warm-hearted lyricism and passion needed to show them at their best. Émilie Belaud and Olivier Giot don’t reach quite the same level of intensity in Amitié as David and Igor Oistrakh in their live 1961 recording, but then the Russians’ is an altogether less relaxed view of this, the longest work (16'43") on the disc.
Amitié and Harmonies du soir (for string quartet and orchestra) are works from the mid-1920s when Ysaÿe had long since despaired of the gulf that had opened up between him and the new generation of composers. His physical powers were waning too, a distress that is vividly captured in Exil (1917). Scored for an ensemble of violins and violas, it rises to an anguished climax that well illustrates Ysaÿe’s note on the manuscript: ‘Torment, despair, New York 1917’. This release is another feather in the cap of the fine Liège orchestra after their superlative set of the complete Vieuxtemps concertos (Fuga Libera, 10/11).