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Sonata for Solo Cello in C Minor, Op. 28

Eugène Ysaÿe (b. 1858 - d. 1931)

Composer
Eugène Ysaÿe (b. 1858 - d. 1931)
Composition Year
1923
Work Movements
1. Grave
2. Intermezzo
3. In Modo Di Recitativo
4. Finale Con Brio
Artists
Camille Thomas [cello]

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda


In contrast to the six violin sonatas, those monumental musical portraits of his younger contemporaries, Ysaÿe’s only solo cello sonata seems an introverted work, a short and tentative sketching out of possibilities that is all too brief. Yet despite the works solitary status and concision, it demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the instrument derived from Ysaÿe’s close relationship to the cellist Pablo Casals with whom he often played chamber music at his home on the banks of the river Meuse, where local inhabitants and passing motorists would crowd the garden to listen in the gathering darkness. The finger and bowing markings in the original manuscript were devised by Ysaÿe himself, indicating a deep familiarity with the workings of the cello. He admirably overcame his conviction that to write for an instrument I did not play myself seemed impossible, writing that after Casals initiated me into some of the secrets of the instrument I decided to put my knowledge to the test. The manuscript itself is dated to the summer of 1923 and dedicated to Maurice Dambois, the cellist of the Ysaÿe string quartet.


The first movement is played lento e sempre sostinuto, slowly and always sustained, the opening melody languidly and delicately drifting through gradual and subtle shifts of tempo and volume. A softly animated crescendo disturbs the sense of contemplative stasis, yet passages of quiet flurrying are played without haste, and the marking cédez repeatedly appears, calling on the player to yield, to step back from excitement and sink back into more sombre sentiments until the movement fades into silence with beautifully sustained bowing accompanied by left hand pizzicato.


The Intermezzo combines the levity of a baroque dance with a quiet introversion, rarely rising in volume. A rhythmic melody accompanied by droning strings is marked as a loure, a French dance form of the 17th and 18th centuries named after a bagpipe from Normandy, also incorporated into Bach’s E major Partita for solo violin.


The Recitativo is a transient vignette, a momentary swelling of emotion that passes almost before it can be acknowledged. The Finale is played with vigour and a firm tempo, its open jaggedly accented phrases leading into rapid passages that sweep the strings in broad strokes. A contrasting section provides some fleeting repose, recalling the contemplative sentiments of the opening movement, before a turning to the dramatic rhythmic chords that usher in the energetic conclusion.

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Sonata for Solo Cello in C Minor, Op. 28

Composer: Eugène Ysaÿe (b. 1858 - d. 1931)
Performance date: Friday 30th June 2017
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Eugène Ysaÿe (b. 1858 - d. 1931)
Work Title Sonata for Solo Cello in C Minor, Op. 28
Composition Year 1923
Work Movements 1. Grave
2. Intermezzo
3. In Modo Di Recitativo
4. Finale Con Brio
Language English
Artist(s) Camille Thomas [cello]
Performance Date Friday 30th June 2017
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Opening Concert
Duration 00:12:59
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Solo
Instrumentation vc
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda


In contrast to the six violin sonatas, those monumental musical portraits of his younger contemporaries, Ysaÿe’s only solo cello sonata seems an introverted work, a short and tentative sketching out of possibilities that is all too brief. Yet despite the works solitary status and concision, it demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the instrument derived from Ysaÿe’s close relationship to the cellist Pablo Casals with whom he often played chamber music at his home on the banks of the river Meuse, where local inhabitants and passing motorists would crowd the garden to listen in the gathering darkness. The finger and bowing markings in the original manuscript were devised by Ysaÿe himself, indicating a deep familiarity with the workings of the cello. He admirably overcame his conviction that to write for an instrument I did not play myself seemed impossible, writing that after Casals initiated me into some of the secrets of the instrument I decided to put my knowledge to the test. The manuscript itself is dated to the summer of 1923 and dedicated to Maurice Dambois, the cellist of the Ysaÿe string quartet.


The first movement is played lento e sempre sostinuto, slowly and always sustained, the opening melody languidly and delicately drifting through gradual and subtle shifts of tempo and volume. A softly animated crescendo disturbs the sense of contemplative stasis, yet passages of quiet flurrying are played without haste, and the marking cédez repeatedly appears, calling on the player to yield, to step back from excitement and sink back into more sombre sentiments until the movement fades into silence with beautifully sustained bowing accompanied by left hand pizzicato.


The Intermezzo combines the levity of a baroque dance with a quiet introversion, rarely rising in volume. A rhythmic melody accompanied by droning strings is marked as a loure, a French dance form of the 17th and 18th centuries named after a bagpipe from Normandy, also incorporated into Bach’s E major Partita for solo violin.


The Recitativo is a transient vignette, a momentary swelling of emotion that passes almost before it can be acknowledged. The Finale is played with vigour and a firm tempo, its open jaggedly accented phrases leading into rapid passages that sweep the strings in broad strokes. A contrasting section provides some fleeting repose, recalling the contemplative sentiments of the opening movement, before a turning to the dramatic rhythmic chords that usher in the energetic conclusion.