This is the sound of a violin fucking your face with complete beauty, control, and precision.
When a violinist steps up to play these sonatas, it means some serious shit. Back in the days of the late 18th and early 19th century, Eugène Ysaÿe was the king of the violin. Seriously, this was the motherfucker’s appellation: King of the Violin. And he didn’t come by that name by accident. He was born and bred in the violin world and a violin family. There are even legends on how his family got its first violin way back when. Check it: Young boy, after hearing about this legendary instrument called the violin, wakes up from some crazy magical sex dream to look upon his wall and, holy shit, his viol has changed into a violin. That’s the legend. Granted, it’s a shit legend. But, for some reason, it’s also a well-known legend. So the King of the Violin writes six sonatas, each one dedicated to the greatest violin players of the day: Sonata 1, Joseph Szigeti; Sonata 2, Jacques Thibaud; Sonata 3, Georges Enescu; Sonata 4, Fritz Kreisler; Sonata 5, Mathieu Crickboom; and Sonata 6, Manuel Ouiroga. If you assume that the King of the Violin’s sonatas, each specifically dedicated to the greatest motherfuckers to touch a bow, are difficult to play, well, no shit. But it’s not just the adept blur-worthy fingering of these pieces that make them hypnotic. These shits are strangely dissonant. They live somewhere in between a nightmare and a sex dream. It’s not the music of flowers, butterflies, and romance. These notes needed to be caught and netted by a team. They’re nefariously constructed and, if done well, unexpectedly tamed for the duration of the piece. If someone steps up to play these six sonatas, it means they’re either really good or incredibly fucking stupid.
Shlomo Mintz is not stupid.
If you’re not up in that violin game, Shlomo isn’t just good, he’s un-fucking-believable. What he has done to pieces like Sibelius Violin Concerto, Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No.2 makes them so good it’s unnerving. If I had to rank Shlomo next to the other pure violin ballers that have played these pieces (Leonidas Kavakos, Yang Tianwa, Alina Ibragimova and Frank Peter Zimmermann), I just can’t fucking do it. At this point? It’s about personal taste and style. And Shlomo’s got buckets of it. He’s raw, rough, and, somehow, smooth? I’ve listened to versions of these sonatas that are cleaner, but fuck it. I don’t even like my peanut butter creamy. These pieces are intended to be edgy, intimate, and raw. These songs exude, with their hyper-violinic speeds and disjointed cording, an ineffable part of humanity. A certain chaos that looms and slumbers within everyone. And Shlomo? He plays these pieces like the monster he is. This album is a thorough, heartfelt, and intimate ear-fucking.