- Sonata for violin solo No. 2 in A minor ("Obsession"), Op. 27/2
- Sonata for violin solo No. 3 in D minor ("Ballade"), Op. 27/3
- Sonata for solo violin No.4 in E minor (dedicated to F. Kreisler), Op.27/4
- Sonata for violin solo No. 6, Op. 27/6
- Sonata for violin solo ("Echo"), Op. 69
- Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
- Balalaika, Op. 100
Maxim Vengerov plays Eugène Ysaÿe's solo violin sonatas so superbly, one wishes he had included all six of them here. Alas, we must content ourselves with four -- though those Vengerov chose are arguably the most interesting of the set. These fiendishly difficult unaccompanied pieces were inspired by Bach's solo sonatas and partitas, and in fact, Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 2 actually quotes liberally from Bach's E Major Partita (with a bit of the "Dies irae" chant thrown in for good measure). The Sonata No. 3 is fantastical and intensely lyrical, with something of a Gypsy flavor (it was dedicated to the Romanian violinist/composer Georges Enesco). The elegant Fourth Sonata (written for Fritz Kreisler) is based on dance forms, and the Sixth (dedicated to the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga) is more overtly showy and includes a sexy habañera at its center. The program is rounded out with Rodion Shchedrin's dramatic Echo Sonata -- also inspired by Bach and also immensely challenging to the performer -- and an arrangement of Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue for organ. (The authenticity of the latter work has been called into question, and it has been suggested that it in fact originated as a showpiece for solo violin.) The disc concludes with a live performance of Shchedrin's playful Balalaika -- a pizzicato tour de force that has the London audience laughing out loud. In the other works on the disc, however, Vengerov's virtuosity is cause for jaw-dropping awe rather than laughter. His intonation is virtually flawless, and although he is not such a daredevil as Gidon Kremer in his recording of the complete Ysaÿe sonatas (currently unavailable), his tone is much more satisfying in its richness and variety. Fiddle fans should snap this one up fast.