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Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata n° 1 in G minor, “Obsession” (à J. Szigeti) – Sonata n° 2 in A minor (à J. Thibaud) – Sonata n° 3 in D minor, “Ballade” (à G. Enescu) – Sonata n° 4 in E minor (à F. Kreisler) – Sonata n° 5 in G major (à M. Crickboom) – Sonata n° 6 in E major (à M. Quiroga)
Kejia He (violin)
Recording: College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, Ohio (January 4-6 and April 8, 2018) – 71’49
MSR Classics MSR 1774

Performing works by Eugène Ysaÿe can be intimidating for any violinist due to their extreme convolutions, pitfalls and over arches. In this first release, however, Chinese violinist Kejia He tackles these six sonatas with remarkable resolve. What’s striking in M. He’s technique is his resolute diction, impeccable texture, clean lines and methodical approach. However, a deeper enrichment can be found when listening to headsets in order to capture the full spectrum of arresting details and also finding the subtle complexities that are buried deep inside the music. Each of the six Sonatas was dedicated to either one of Ysaÿe’s contemporaries or disciples; therefore, the journey within each one is separate and distinctly unique.

Kejia He stylizes the first four selections with strong conservativism and a strict reading of dynamics. But M. He’s liberty buds more broadly inside those two compositions that Ysaÿe wrote in major keys. The most poignant example of Kejia He’s sophistication and articulation is discovered during the two-movement Sonata n° 5, dedicated to Walloon-native Mathieu Crickboom: it’s anthropologically folksy with a spreadable outreach of amiability, weightier freedom and quixotic turns. It’s as if to say Ysaÿe’s notes are a local bloom of country color...at times, frivolous, especially when punctuated by pizzicato, lackadaisical-esque slides, cemented ostinato and wood taps…it appears the violinist relishes this orb.

In similar vein, music depicting Manuel Quiroga opens with a template of virtuosity that glances upon Pablo de Sarasate. But the habanera, wedged into the middle section, is slightly sour and mildly seductive, but as it closes, the music keeps broadly fighting for greater affability and a need to break out of a rut of cynical ambiguity.

Choosing œuvres by Eugène Ysaÿe in his debut recording deserves full accolades. One can sense a firm chemistry between composer and performer, and for Kejia He, it’s a stunning entrée of greater things to come. Strongly recommended.

Christie Grimstad




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