If you want proof that Eugène Ysaÿe was one of the most influential violinists ever, just look at the friends he wrote his sonatas for. They include Kreisler, Thibaud, Enescu—and Szigeti, who gave a performance of Bach in 1923 that inspired Ysaÿe to wonder why nobody had yet attempted to follow that composer’s set of unaccompanied violin works, and then to sketch his own six responses in just one day.
Each was written for a specific player, flattering his skills and, in Thibaud’s case especially, poking fun at his foibles; why his Sonata No 2 abounds in quotes of the Dies Irae is a mystery, but almost certainly a private joke.
Together, the sonatas form a freewheeling ride to the limits of violin technique, often recalling Bach but more often not. Alina Ibragimova is a superb advocate; nothing here sounds like a mere showpiece, and her performances brim with lyricism and wit.