Dallas — Eugène Ysaÿe, whose contributions were celebrated in Sunday’s Soluna Festival recital, was a Belgian violinist and composer whose most enduring compositional legacy is almost certainly his six sonatas for unaccompanied violin. Each is dedicated to a famous violinist. Each is astonishingly, intimidatingly difficult, and live performances are therefore somewhat uncommon. It takes a particular variety of self-confidence, or perhaps even hubris, to appear onstage, utterly alone, and attempt a performance of any of these sonatas. Many violinists, even many very good violinists, are not up to the task.
Dallas Symphony Associate Concertmaster Eunice Keem, however, is very much up to the task. In the vernacular of the day, she owned her performance of Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 5 in G Major, “Mathieu Crickboom.” Appearing utterly calm and confident, Keem made it look easy—all of it, even the three bars of left-hand pizzicato in the second movement for which four fingers seem inadequate.
And that was just the first 10 minutes of the hourlong recital. The remainder was given over to one of many pieces dedicated to or inspired by Ysaÿe, the Chausson Concerto in D Major for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet. The novel instrumentation of this piece presents some interpretive difficulties— is it a double concerto with string quartet accompaniment, or is it a sextet? Sunday’s performance split the difference, with violinist Alexander Kerr and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott alternating between soloist and collaborator roles. The quartet of Nathan Olson and Miika Gregg, violins, Ann Marie Hudson Brink, viola, and Christopher Adkins, cello, assisted Kerr and McDermott in a tonally lush, technically adept performance.
Dallas City Performance Hall was only about half full for this recital, perhaps due to its brevity or its unusual time of 6 p.m. And that’s a pity, because this is the kind of recital that can give the Soluna Festival a reputation as a can’t-miss event on Dallas arts calendars.