YSAŸE Neiges d’antan and other poems
The poème, wrote Eugène Ysaÿe, ‘is free from all the restrictions imposed by the hallowed concerto form; it can be dramatic and lyrical, it is by nature romantic and impressionistic…it is, in a word, a picture painted without a model’. I couldn’t have come up with a better description of the three poèmes (he wrote seven in total) that form the backbone of this collection of Ysaÿe’s shorter works for violin and orchestra.
The shape of all three is similar: an opening shrouded in Wagnerian gloom, the violin soaring free, the orchestra surging in response, a stormy climax about two thirds of the way in and an extended coda. They’re all in a single movement and all about 10 15 minutes long (Ysaÿe’s tendinitis may have been one reason for writing these shorter works, though apparently he played them relatively infrequently). The nostalgic Neiges d’antan and the slightly lighter, more dance-like Divertimento are poèmes in all but name, and if you love lush, overcast late Romanticism of the Franck or Chausson variety, this disc will be bliss. Sceptics might find Ysaÿe’s ideas a bit samey: chacun à son goût.
Two solo violinists share the honours but there’s no information about either of them in the glossy hardback booklet. Amaury Coeytaux has the slightly sweeter, more focused sound of the two, but they’re both well-suited to Ysaÿe’s quiet corners and soaring climaxes, and Svetlin Roussev’s broad, rich tone is marvellously expressive in the opening sequence of Extase. Jeremy Nicholas praised Kantorow’s Liège orchestra on an earlier Ysaÿe disc (10/14), and I’d second that: they’re stylish and responsive, and the recorded sound is atmospheric. A worthwhile collection of some (still) fairly rare repertoire.