Most music lovers, if they know any music by Eugène Ysa e, know only the six Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin. The works on this disc are good companion pieces for those. I had never heard any of them before but must say that I have been won over for them, particularly the first work on the disc, the Sonata in A Minor for Two Violins, Op. Posth. Written in 1915 and dedicated to his violin student, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, the work is in three movements. Its textures are particularly rich with frequent use of double stops so that one's ear often hears what sounds like a string quartet. The first movement contains in its middle section a grand fugue which constitutes the movement's emotional climax and is played rippingly here by Henning Kraggerud and Bard Monsen. The middle movement is an island of almost impressionistic repose with a particularly memorable lyrical main theme. The finale is a rondo that ends in a blaze of virtuosity. The disc's performers used Ysa e's autograph score as, according to the notes written by them, the published score has a number of inaccuracies.
The String Trio 'Le Chimay', Op. Posth., is from 1927 and is named after the site of its first performance, the seat of the Prince of Chimay (Belgium), a patron of the arts. Ysa e's language has advanced from that of the two violin sonata and one hears a mixture of impressionism, chromaticism that extends tonality to its limits without ever becoming atonal. There are also hints of expressionism. The work is in one eighteen-minute movement that has six sections. One is struck by the skillful use of tone color not easily explained in a work that uses only three stringed instruments. Kraggerud is the violinist, Lars Anders Tomter the violist, and Ole-Eirik Ree the cellist. It is hard to imagine a better performance.
The Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 28, was written in 1923, during the time Ysa e was writing his solo violin sonatas. It comes only a few years after Kodaly had written his solo sonata, probably the twentieth century's most famous work in that form, and is equally attractive. Ysa e's sonata is fairly terse, almost monothematic, and densely argued. In its twelve-minute duration it comprises somber, lyrical, narrative and brilliant sections. The finale in particular is virtuosic in the extreme. A striking, original and engaging work played gorgeously here by cellist Ree.
If you know and love the Ysa e solo violin sonatas, you will want to add this disc to your collection as the works here are cut from the same cloth as the more familiar violin sonatas, and they are given marvelous performances here. There is no real recorded competition for these works.