The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: Spotless accounts of these solo violin masterpieces
Musicians: Karl Stobbe (violin)
Composer: Ysaÿe

With Ysaÿe’s sonatas one has the choice of performances that spell out the virtuosity required, or those that brush aside such problems. Canadian violinist Karl Stobbe’s falls right between the two, with an approach that mixes in ideal proportions the music’s primary and subtle hues. He doesn’t use the bow to dig deep into strings to heighten excitement, as in the First Sonata finale, but instead highlights those magical moments when excellent control of the bow can, in an instant, move from drama to mercurial lightness.

Stobbe’s left-hand dexterity, as demonstrated in the ‘Les furies’ finale of the Second Sonata, is remarkable. And his accuracy of intonation, even in those long and fiendishly difficult passages of double-stopping in the Third and Sixth Sonata, is never in question. My one reservation is a want of a more sombre approach to the ‘Malinconia’ of the Second Sonata.

If he lacks those moments when, for instance, Tai Murray (Harmonia Mundi) muses over the sheer beauty of Ysaÿe’s concept, or the white heat of Thomas Zehetmair (ECM), Stobbe provides a highly persuasive and immaculately presented alternative account in excellent sound.