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- 26. APR 2011, published in « Strings magazine » , Text: Edith Eisler
Eugène Ysaÿe, one of the greatest violinists of all time, wrote his six Solo Violin Sonatas to stretch the instrument’s technical and tonal possibilities and the compositional resources of writing for it. He dedicated each to a friend and fellow violinist, paying homage not only to the dedicatee’s playing, but also to his idiomatic style.
No wonder the sonatas are the kind of brilliant bravura pieces accessible only to virtuosos of the highest rank.
The performances recorded here prove that the young Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly d’Alba must be counted among that select company. She is well known in Europe, but not in this country, and her choice of these works as her American calling card is as audacious as her playing. She surmounts the unparalleled technical challenges of the sonatas with stunning ease—her tone is rich, dark, warm, and vibrant. She plays on a famous Stradivari violin (the 1727 “ex-Smith”), but her intense expressiveness is entirely her own.
True to the record’s title, she extracts every ounce of passion from the music with youthful abandon. Even her photographs in the booklet show d’Alba in extravagantly sultry, ecstatic poses. Only in the lyrical Fourth Sonata, which Ysaÿe dedicated to Kreisler, does she allow the almost unremitting tension to let up. Her playing demonstrates a remarkable degree of affinity for them. This gives idiomatic and expressive variety to a program that might otherwise have become an unrelieved display of fireworks.
Perhaps this spectacular recording will bring d’Alba to the attention of a wide American public