Rachel Kolly, violin

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- 3. JUL 2010, "Classical Music"

Questions & Answers: Rachel Kolly d’Alba

Congratulations on your recent recording of Ysaÿe, they are massive works, what made you want to take them on?
I’am comfortable with the world of French music at the beginning of the (20th) century - the unpredictable music that you begin to find with the music by Wagner, or in Poulenc, or Ravel. But you don’t have a lot of soloistic repertoire for the violin, we don’t have a violin concerto by Debussy or by Poulenc. We have one by Fauré, but it’s not finished. We have this missing link between the music of Wagner, Bruckner and the beginning of this French music, and it is in Ysaÿe. He wrote a lot of soloistic works for violin or violin and Orchestra, almost two hours of music that is never played, and the scores are almost impossible to find.

Having uncovered them, will you record more?
Oh yes!

Where does the balance lie between Ysaÿe the performer and Ysaÿe the composer?
The thing is, he always composed, and he was a student of Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps. You have Bach for the violin, you have Paganini, and then you have Ysaÿe. Sometimes you have chords in Ysaÿe’s music of six notes, and you just have to have another way of thinking, another technique, in a way. It’s not a percussive technique like Paganini, it’s more warm, using flatter fingers. He’s not a virtuosic composer making only music for his instrument. He was totally convinced about the music of his time - he was the first to perform the Debussy string quartet, the Chausson Poème, the Lekeu Sonata, the Franck Sonata - and he was pushing with his talent and charisma several not-so-well-known composers.
He never suffers comparison with other composers of the same time. I recently recorded some Saint-Saëns and Ysaÿe together, and you don’t have the impression that there is one major composer and one small one, it is the same musical world, the same possibilities.

So did he compose on his instrument?
I spoke with Jacques Ysaÿe, his grandson, and he told me that his grandfather was always composing at his table, completely without the violin. At the time he wrote the 6 sonatas he did not play anymore.

He never played them?
No. Not only that, but the dedicatees of the sonatas, Kreisler, Jacques Thibaud, and the rest, not one of them played the sonatas.

So what after your good self, are the main interpreter, historically speaking?
You have a more virtuosic way of playing the sonatas by Kremer, or very clean, very beautiful way by Zimmermann, a very thrilling way by Korcia. Every version has something.
The third sonata is so often played, sometimes as an encore, because in six minutes you have everything you can do on a violin. There are good versions, but there is so much more than playing like a virtuoso, and seeing only that...

« Passion Ysaÿe » by Rachel Kolly d’Alba is available now on Warner Classics and Jazz.

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