The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: Performances of substance from a young Chinese violinist
Musicians: Tianwa Yang (violin)
Composer: Ysaÿe

There’s always the danger that violinists will get caught out by the mould-breaking technical invention of Ysaÿe’s visionary six solo sonatas. Or that, having surmounted their almost insuperable challenges, the performer exploits them as a vehicle for technical display. Though not yet 30, Tianwa Yang manages to avoid either of these camps.

These are not especially edgy performances – others may capture a wilder, headier spirit, and even embrace a wider range of touch. But what makes this release so distinctive is Yang’s unfailing purpose: every note counts, even within the densest thickets of finger-contorting contrapuntal lines, with the result that one can’t help but devour the disc in a single sitting. The first movements of no.2, ‘Obsessions’, and no.5, ‘The Dawn’, are testament to Yang’s unfailingly balanced voices. The fullness of her sound is brilliantly captured, spotlighting smooth and classy playing that has no interest in parading the works as a compendium of technical challenges.

Yang embraces the grandeur and muscularity of Sonata no.1’s first-movement Grave and deftly voices the string-crossing in the latter part of Sonata no.3’s Sarabande. Indeed, throughout, these are clearly thought-through performances of eyebrow-raising substance.

Clip: Ysaÿe Violin Sonata no.1 in G minor 1st mvt - Grave

Edward Bhesania