With this Ysaÿe recording, Alina Ibragimova enters a surprisingly well-populated field—and she's up there with the best. Her tempo for the opening movement of the First Sonata may be slower than some but it emphasises the solemn mood. And there's much of the tonal and dynamic palette that this music needs, characterising the forceful and passionate, as well as the shadowy and understated. She has a good feel for organic rubato, which never loses the underlying pulse, and can change mood and colour almost instantaneously, especially important in a movement like 'Obsession' from the Second Sonata, where quotes from Bach are angrily interrupted by Ysaÿe's own disruptive thoughts. The whole melancholy feeling, dominated by the theme of the Dies Irae, is strongly projected.
In the single-movement Third Sonata, the sometimes teasing phrases are shaped as compellingly as its more violent episodes, and the neo-classical dances of the Fourth Sonata (dedicated to Kreisler) are light on their feet, but also have a flexibility and of phrasing and rubato which chimes in with the more Romantic harmonies and textures. One of Ysaÿe's most perfectly imagined moments is the depiction of dawn in the Fifth Sonata, where Ibragimova's tone and vibrato gradually warm with the sunrise, although she could make a little more of the pauses in the first half. But the Spanish tang of the brief Sixth Sonata is joyous and life-affirming.