Shlomo Mintz – Eugène Ysaÿe: Six Violin Sonatas Op. 27

shlomoThis 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.


2 thoughts on “Shlomo Mintz – Eugène Ysaÿe: Six Violin Sonatas Op. 27

  1. It’s still a little early for a progress report on my classical music appreciation, and I haven’t heard the album, so I’ll ask you a question. Of the biggest genres where technical proficiency is required for a fairly basic level of play, is emotional appeal more crucial in:
    a) Jazz, where you need to be able to invent things with emotion, but it’s arguably possible to fake it to a greater degree
    b) Classical, where you need to be able to pour emotion into the existing shape of the work, but the work can potentially stand without it?
    Or indeed, c) answer the question in your own unique and exciting way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dude, you have an incredible way of bringing up huge topics. There are entire fucking books on the authenticity in music and emotional appeal. But, because you gave me an option c, I’m going to rip off one of these books (Nicholas Cook) and talk about Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Show”.

      Crazy famous blues guitarist Ry Cooder is in the same dressing room as the virtuoso violinist Piginini. Even though Piginini has a fuckton of talent he can only play scales, so he hides in the closet. Eventually, Ry Cooder gives Piginini a lesson about playing from the heart, letting that shit come naturally, and how to play real music.

      I’ve talked to professional musicians (both jazz and classical) that don’t feel shit anymore when they play. It’s basically becomes math for them. I’ve listened to both these cold-hearted bastards play pretty well considering. But, when it comes to absolute excellence, I haven’t heard a heartless bastard pull it off incredibly well. It’s strange how this shit works but, from performance to composition, emotional authenticity gets the job done right for THE MAJORITY of the time. This same argument has been made comparing rock and pop. Rock, being the product of blues, was supposed to represent the emotional truthful music and pop, being written by other people and performed who-fucking-cares, was the emotionally distant genre. But, I’ve got to say, same rules apply here as well.

      Nonethefuckingless… I’ve got to give this one to jazz. If you could somehow drain all the “emotional appeal” from each musician on earth, classical music would still sound impressive. A “faked” jazz solo is like a faked orgasm. Sure, not every audience member will know when it’s faked, they might even think it’s magnificent. But everyone knows when that shit is real. It’s un-fucking-deniable.


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