As is well known, the Third Reich drove many of its gifted composers into exile, to early deaths or to the concentration camps. But a significant responsibility devolved on another group, who became ‘internal exiles’, remaining in Germany, but refusing to become cultural ornaments of the Nazi regime. Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905–1963), in Bavaria, consistently kept the spirit of modernism and human commitment alive in his own work.
The six Sonatas for solo violin of Eugène Ysaÿe are essential works in his catalog, inspired by the sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach, and composed as a tribute to the violinists Joseph Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, Mathieu Crickboom, and Manuel Quiroga. These pieces suggest a Janus-like combination of retrospection and the avant-garde, hearkening to the past through allusive figurations and direct quotations (e.g., references in the Sonata No. 2 to Bach's Partita No. 3 and the Dies Irae), but looking to the future in the use of extended violin techniques and novel sonorities. Alina Ibragimova's 2015 release on Hyperion is an absorbing performance, concentrated in tone and accomplished in technique, yet wonderfully ambiguous in expression, in keeping with Ysaÿe's quirky mix of playfulness and high-minded seriousness. Recorded in the concert hall of Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, in May 2014, Ibragimova has great clarity and presence, and the acoustics provide enough resonance to soften the violin's sometimes overly rosinous sound.
With the exception of the late Fantasy in C major, D. 934, Schubert's works for violin and piano are little played. Most of them are early works; several were published as sonatinas, and they all were issued as pieces for piano with violin accompaniment in the Mozartian manner. They have the flavor of student works, but at times the Schubert of daring long-range harmonic organization pokes its head through. Violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien deliver a low-key performance of the whole set that nicely matches the household ambiance in which these works would have been performed. They are alert to the characteristic Schubertian structures that lurk even in the three earliest sonatas, and they master subtle dynamics in building up the harmonic architecture of the Fantasy in C major.