Tai Murray

Eugène Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin

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In the CD version of this release, annotator Gavin Plumley situates the Eugène Ysaÿe's 1924 set of Six Sonatas for solo violin, Op. 27, in the decadent arts scene of 1920s Brussels. There are other ways to look at them: Ysaÿe was an international figure by that time, having spent five years in America, and the unique dual set of references embedded in the sonatas (they look back to Bach and the French Baroque, and outward to the other violin virtuosi of Ysaÿe's own time) speaks to a synoptic intent. Nevertheless, it's certainly reasonable to look at the sonatas as a kind of collection of sensuous extremes, and it would be hard to find a better exemplar of this view than American violinist Tai Murray, here making her debut on the Harmonia Mundi label. These sonatas, experimental without being atonal, have exploded in popularity, and there are performances that trace the Bach quotation of the Sonata No. 2 and the Dies irae references through the music more subtly. There are few, however, that exceed Murray's for sheer passionate intensity, which carries the performance through the great variety of the six sonatas, written to evoke the styles of Joseph Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, the almost unknown Matthieu Crickboom (a member of Ysaÿe's string quartet), and Manuel Quiroga. Perhaps the high point is the utterly bizarre "L'aurore," the first movement of the Crickboom sonata, which mixes pizzicato and arco in an unprecedented and still unimitated way. Murray will have you on the edge of your seat here, and she's clearly a major talent in the making.

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