Giovanni Guzzo performs Six Sonatas for Solo Violin by Ysaÿe

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COMPOSERS: Ysaye
LABELS: Rubicon
ALBUM TITLE: Ysaÿe
WORKS: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin
PERFORMER: Giovanni Guzzo (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: RCD 1005

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Ever since its creation in 1923, Ysaÿe’s remarkable solo cycle – with each sonata inspired by one of his master-violinist contemporaries – has been essential listening for string-players and aficionados. The overarching impression of Giovanni Guzzo’s fine recording is that it also offers serious pleasure well beyond this kind of specialised territory. The First Sonata (‘Joseph Szigeti’) puts down a marker for the music’s wide creative reach, matched by its performer’s deftly deployed range of tonal and technical options: the opening movement’s Baroque-style figuration, articulated in a dry-ish, minimal-vibrato style that suits it nicely, is followed by a masterfully worked two-part fugato punctuated with free-flowing episodes, all delivered by Guzzo with a sonic winsomeness that beguiles the ear. The brilliance of his playing is involving rather than hectoring, and he sounds untroubled throughout the cycle by its formidable virtuoso demands – as in the Presto ‘perpetuum mobile’ that concludes the Fourth Sonata (‘Fritz Kreisler’).

The accompanying booklet note is perfunctory, with the music described only in the most generalised terms. We’re told that Guzzo plays the music on a 1709 Stradivarius violin, whereas the jewel-case back cover specifies a 1759 Gagliano; it would be nice to know which is correct.

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Malcolm Hayes