Alina Ibragimova has made many fine recordings in recent years, but this solo Ysaÿe disc must count as one of her most memorable achievements. She gives full value to the sonatas’ varied expressive character, their virtuosity, and the imaginative and poetic way Ysaÿe wrote for his instrument. And she makes the music sound quite beautiful: we never feel the medium of unaccompanied violin is at all limiting; the sonatas speak to us unimpeded, without any sense of strain.
Ysaÿe composed the set in 1924, when his illustrious performing career was almost over. He dedicated each of the six to a different colleague among the fraternity of violinists, and we can follow their characteristics through the set – the First Sonata for Joseph Szigeti substantial and serious, and reflecting his prowess as a Bach interpreter; the Third Sonata commemorating the free, romantic style of Enescu, the Sixth Manuel Quiroga’s Spanish heritage, and so on. Ysaÿe sought in all six works to merge the Baroque tradition of solo violin-writing exemplified by Bach with the virtuoso styles of Paganini and Ernst, plus newer ways of writing of his own, leaning towards Impressionism.