The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: A subtle approach to Ysaÿe’s acclaimed cycle of solo sonatas
Musicians: Tai Murray (violin)
Composer: Ysaÿe

The young American violinist Tai Murray is among those who are so technically gifted that they needn’t spell out the fiendish difficulties of Ysaÿe’s sonatas. Instead, she ingenuously shapes them into works of considerable beauty. She avoids digging into strings to heighten dramatic moments, such as the conclusion to the First Sonata – her chords are warm rather than aggressive, and she adds whimsicality to the hesitant opening of the Second Sonata. Many passages have a peaceful serenity as if she is musing for her own pleasure, as can be found in the third movement of the Second Sonata.

Murray also produces a wealth of colour and more dynamic shading than you will find elsewhere. She reveals a sparkling left-hand pizzicato in the finale of the Fifth, and her vivacity in the Sixth is as brilliant as any other recording. Throughout, her intonation is impeccable, the playing is cleanly delineated even in the most mercurial passages, and her c.1690 Giovanni Tononi sounds gorgeous in a recording quality that is as good as any I have heard.

That said, I still prefer a more overtly electrifying approach to the sonatas, such as that by Thomas Zehetmair (ECM), but the subtleties of this newcomer should not be ignored.