Press Reviews

VI – Nov. 21, 2016

Vancouver Island Symphony: The Power of Romance

Canadian violinist Karl Stobbe took the stage then, but he really didn’t “just play the violin” for the Bruch Violin Concerto; he played the hearts of every enamoured member of the audience. He pulled us into his interpretation with all the power that some sort of performing black hole would draw in a passing beam of light. To think that such a tiny box of wood could so take control of the stage despite all the musicians sharing that stage. It remains something of a paradox for me.

A.J. Mittendorf

Winnipeg Free Press – Nov. 4, 2015

The concert opened with Giya Kancheli’s ethereal V & V, a haunting one-movement work composed in 1995 for solo violin, string orchestra and recorded tape, that also marked the second of two works by the Georgian composer being performed by the orchestra this season.

It also became a showcase for MCO concertmaster Karl Stobbe, whose solo performances have grown noticeably stronger with each passing year. The musician ably performed glassy harmonics, gossamer-light trills and wisps of melodies that resonated like shards of memory with utmost sensitivity during the elegiac piece.

The multi-layered work unfolds as a fascinating dialogue between Kancheli’s stated Eternal (the Divine Voice) represented by the recording of late Georgian singer Mr. H. Gonashvili, and the Real, which is the soloist with orchestra. Kudos to the MCO for bringing this stirring work to light.


La Liberté – May 1, 2015

La Liberté review

Entre le Moz­art et le Beeth­oven, le violon solo du MCO Karl Stobbe a inter­prété la Son­ate en mi majeur, op. 27, no 6 du viol­on­iste et com­pos­iteur belge Eugène Ysaÿe….. Son inter­préta­tion de la son­ate fut bril­lante. Elle a révélé la beauté de la musique d’Isaïe et les grandes qual­ités de l’instrument fab­riqué par M. Lee, qui était présent au concert.


The Northern Echo – Aug. 7, 2014

Ysaye: Sonatas for Solo Violin, Karl Stobbe (Avie AV2310)

Ysaye’s Solo Violin Sonatas take the instrument to the limit of its capabilities in a unique way. Violinist Karl Stobbe plays with energy and drive and meticulous care to detail, while maintaining a cogent narrative flow throughout. An ideal introduction to these works.


The Strad – July 1, 2014

Ysaÿe’s 6 Sonatas for Solo Violin op.27 – Spotless accounts of these solo violin masterpieces.

With Ysaÿe’s sonatas one has the choice of performances that spell out the virtuosity required, or those that brush aside such problems. Canadian violinist Karl Stobbe’s falls right between the two, with an approach that mixes in ideal proportions the music’s primary and subtle hues. He doesn’t use the bow to dig deep into strings to heighten excitement, as in the First Sonata finale, but instead highlights those magical moments when excellent control of the bow can, in an instant, move from drama to mercurial lightness.

Stobbe’s left-hand dexterity, as demonstrated in the ‘Les furies’ finale of the Second Sonata, is remarkable. And his accuracy of intonation, even in those long and fiendishly difficult passages of double-stopping in the Third and Sixth Sonata, is never in question….

…. Stobbe provides a highly persuasive and immaculately presented alternative account in excellent sound.


The Classical Reviewer – June 30, 2014.

Canadian violinist, Karl Stobbe gives exceptionally fine performances of Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas, op.27 for solo violin, that combine virtuosity with poetry on a new release from Avie Records.

The Belgian violinist, composer and conductor, Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931), was renowned as the finest violinist of his time. His compositions, such as his Six Sonatas for solo violin, are often viewed solely for their virtuosic qualities, though it is often overlooked that he did write a broader range of works such as orchestral works, chamber works and even an opera. Indeed, his own playing is remembered as much for its virtuosic skill as for its poetry.

His Six Sonatas, op.27 for solo violin certainly do contain much that is extremely virtuosic but there is often a deeper quality to them, something which is brought out by the Canadian violinist, Karl Stobbe, on a new recording of these works from Avie Records

Written in 1923, these sonatas are each dedicated to a famous violinist, Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973), Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953), George Enescu (1881-1955), Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), fellow Belgian, Mathieu Crickboom (1871-1947) and Manuel Quiroga (1892-1961).

In four movements, Sonata No.1 in G minor ‘for Joseph Szigeti’ opens with Grave where, despite the brilliant violinistic display of the opening, this performance expertly balances the poetic with the virtuosic. The Fugatodevelops some terrific layers of contrapuntal sound before the Allegretto poco scherzoso where Karl Stobbe weaves the many strands of musical invention with lovely phrasing, fine clarity and much feeling, providing some lovely colours from his instrument. Stobbe throws himself straight into the Finale: Con brio, keeping up the pressure throughout in playing of tremendous virtuosity.

In the first of the four movements of the Sonata No.2 in A minor ‘for Jacques Thibaud’Obsession: Prelude, who will not recognise the Bach quotations combined with equally well known Dies Irae plainchant theme, skilfully woven by Ysaÿe and equally skilfully played by Stobbe. Again Stobbe’s fine playing and clarity of texture brings many rewards. The dark Malinconia sees Stobbe revealing the intense emotions of this movement and, in juxtaposition with the first movement, revealing an emotional instability overall. The Dies Irae appears again at the end. It is the Dies Irae that is worked over in the third movement, Danse des Ombres: Sarabande., a set of variations on the plainchant, surely something of a wonder with its combination of violin technique and emotional power shown to perfection here and broadening beautifully at the end. There is virtuosity galore in the finale, Les Furies, with the Dies Irae again seen appearing in many guises, using many violinistic techniques, superbly played by Stobbe.

The single movement, Ballade: Lento molto sostenuto – Allegro in tempo giusto e con bravura, of the Sonata No.3 in D minor ‘for George Enescu’ opens slowly before building in complexity and virtuosity. Here Stobbe not only sails over the difficulties with apparent ease, he provides so many varieties of tone that add so much, making this much more than a mere showpiece.  Stobbe’s quieter passages are full of intimate detail. But what a showpiece it is nevertheless.

There are three movements to the Sonata No.4 in E minor ‘for Fritz Kreisler’. Allemanda has a flamboyant opening that soon leads on to the main Allamanda theme with Stobbe bringing much fine technique. He weaves a lovely poetic, gentler middle section before allowing the music to unfold beautifully in the later stages. Continuing the dance theme the second movement is a Sarabande that opens with the theme picked out pizzicato before gently developing in a lovely, melancholy melody. There is a fine sweep and breadth from Stobbe in the opening of the Finale before the music rushes forward, furiously, but with so much fine clarity. The middle section is beautifully phrased before a terrific final section.

Sonata No.5 in G major ‘for Mathieu Crickboom’ has two movements. In L’Aurore there are some lovely dissonant harmonies in the slow opening, brought out so finely by this violinist. Stobbe’s view that this sonata is very French is absolutely right, particularly in the way that he conjures up so many French colourings and textures. Danse rustique is a terrific dance movement made all the more difficult by all the layers of the music. There is a rather quixotic middle section before a runaway ending in this really fine performance.

The single, Allegro giusto non troppo vivo movement of the Sonata No.6 in E major ‘for Manuel Quiroga’ is full of Iberian warmth and flamboyance with Stobbe bringing a lovely feeling of improvisation to the little flourishes and details. Virtuosity sits side by side with Spanish rhythms making this a fine end to these sonatas.

To take all six of these sonatas into the concert hall, as Stobbe has done, is a considerable achievement and challenge and a strong foundation on which to take these works into the studio. These are exceptionally fine performances that combine virtuosity with moments of great poetry.

The recording from St John’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is rather close but extremely detailed. There are informative notes by Karl Stobbe.


Grammophone – June, 2014

YSAŸE Six Sonatas for Solo Violin

Ysaÿe’s Solo Violin Sonatas explore the instrument’s capabilities in an entirely original way. The score of the Sonatas has meticulous indications for bowing and fingering, making it clear how every bar was conceived with the violin to hand. With such precision, it’s surprising what different approaches we can hear on record.

Karl Stobbe stays close to the text, giving strongly projected performances that are full of spirit and energy. He approaches the high virtuosity of the Sixth Sonata in an exciting, fearless manner; it’s an account with enormous momentum. Similarly, he creates a powerful sense of narrative in the Third Sonata, subtitled ‘Ballade’….

….Stobbe has the measure of this music, plus all the necessary enthusiasm and technique to present it convincingly.


The Sunday Times – June 15, 2015

YSAŸE Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27

Karl Stobbe, Avie 2310

Better known across “the pond” as a concert master and chamber musician, the Canadian Stobbe reveals himself as a master soloist, recalling the golden age of violin-playing enshrined in these solo sonatas dedicated to some of the composer’s contemporaries (Szigeti, Enescu, Kreisler et al). Ysaÿe attempts a dazzling synthesis of Bach’s sonatas and partitas, of the “diabolical” Paganini’s Caprices and of recent (in 1923) French and Spanish music. Stobbe is unfazed by the challenges, producing a breathtaking range of tone colours.


CBC Music – May 29, 2014

Classical disc of the week: Karl Stobbe plays the six Ysaÿe violin sonatas

Here’s your classical disc of the week for June 1. Each week CBC Radio 2’s In Concert looks at new classical music releases and selects one recording that you need to know about.

Karl Stobbe is a lover of all things violin. He studies and lectures on its history, gets under the hood to understand its mechanics, fixes and restores the instrument and teaches others to play it. So, naturally, when he picks up a violin to play it, there is the deepest possible love and understanding of the instrument and how it can make music.

It’s no wonder, then, that Stobbe chose to devote his latest release to the music of Eugène Ysaÿe. The great 19th century Belgian violinist and composer, known as the “king of the violin” and arguably the one to establish a definitive modern violin technique, is surely a kindred spirit.

Ysaÿe wrote six sonatas for solo violin, each one with significant technical and musical challenges only conceivable by a composer who played and knew the instrument inside-out. Violinists savour these works. But an artist and violin connoisseur like Stobbe must surely love them even more for their being a gift to the instrument itself. They show all the beauty, sonority and dazzling display that the violin is capable of producing. Stobbe’s joy in playing this music is palpable.

When a true master and devotee of the violin meets Ysaÿe’s perfect vehicles of violin display, the result is magical.


Winnipeg Free Press – January 27, 2014

Lively kickoff for WSO festival

….WSO associate concertmaster Karl Stobbe tossed off Canadian composer Owen Pallett’s Violin Concerto with fierce concentration, including its nail-biting moto perpetuo sections alternating with introspective, pensive reflection…..


Winnipeg Free Press – March 16, 2013

Performance filled with love, passion

WSO associate concertmaster Karl Stobbe gave a masterful reading of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major. Not every musician can step from the ranks to be a convincing soloist. Stobbe proved in spades he has the goods to do just that. Musical, sensitive and technically impressive, he played fearlessly, burning up the strings in the allegro. His intensity and concentration were inspiring. This was a clinic in the art of playing the violin.

Stobbe lent a little playful touch to the speedy scherzo, buzzing right along, attacking with full force — totally committed. The final movement was stately but light and while not showy, Stobbe is a performer who compels his listeners.


Winnipeg Free Press – March 15, 2013

The concert also included Stravinsky’s L’Histoire Du Soldate (The Soldier’s Tale) featuring Winnipeg actor Arne MacPherson, who spun his Faustian tale as a master storyteller. Guest conductor Earl Stafford — again, filling in on scant notice — led the seven-piece ensemble through Stravinsky’s rhythmically treacherous, episodic score with precision and fearless pluck.

Kudos to MCO concertmaster Karl Stobbe for his solo passages packed with double and triple stops, especially during Three Dances, which morphs into a tango, waltz, and ragtime dance. Other highlights included Royal March with trumpeter Guy Few tossing off complex riffs like child’s play, and MacPherson’s animated, biting delivery during The Devil’s Song.


Winnipeg Free Press – January 12, 2012

Beauty in the Bleak

….Canadian composer Serge Arcuri led the way with his 2001 work for solo violin and orchestra, Épisodes. Concertmaster Karl Stobbe filled the bill, showing his undeniable worth as soloist in this ever-changing piece. The first movement began slowly and mysteriously, as if warning of impending doom. It picked up speed and intensity, Stobbe playing galloping double stops that soon melted into a lamenting cry. This was solid, assured playing.

Seamless legato highlighted the second movement, while in the third, there was an urgency in both orchestra and soloist, as they pounded through frenzied passages. Arcuri, unlike many 21st century composers, still employs the violin’s best assets. With an accomplished soloist like Stobbe, this carried listeners along, maintaining their interest in the unpredictable storyline. The gentle ending seemed a fortunate resolution of sorts…..


Winnipeg Free Press – May 20, 2011

Solos make MCO season-ender a night to remember

….It was a joy to hear English composer Vaughn Williams’ meditative The Lark Ascending with concertmaster and violinist Karl Stobbe as soloist. His Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra colleague Gwen Hoebig lays claim to one of the most-played versions on CBC Radio, but she’d better watch her back. Stobbe’s rendition was a treat for the senses.

This demanding and virtuosic piece leaves the soloist wholly exposed, evoking the gentle bird, vocalizing as it sits perched on a branch in the English countryside. Stobbe’s tone was pure and fresh; his vibrato nicely subdued. His playing, while firm and steady, was imbued with emotion, phrases never seeming to end.

There were some lovely woodwind solos, although the French horn was a bit too insistent. Nevertheless, we could easily imagine the lark in this poetic reading. Manson infused the music’s folk aspects and atmospheric swells and ebbs with warmth.

Stobbe saved his best for last — a carefully crafted final solo passage that was superbly poignant. Bravo!


Winnipeg Free Press – Sept. 25, 2010

O’Connor and Stobbe were duelling violins.  Stobbe more than held his own, answering back with assuredness, signature musicality and solid technique.


Macleans – July 2, 2008

Manitoba Chamber Orchestra

…. fresh repertoire, a fine soloist, an unspectacular but attentive guest conductor, a chance to discover an accessible but not schlocky young Canadian composer, an ensemble that handles slow and quiet passages with far more authority than many larger and more prominent orchestras, and a concertmaster [Karl Stobbe]who brings great drama and musicality to the ensemble sound.


JWR – June 30, 2008

Happy broadcast to you!

…The finale of Bartók’s treacherous Divertimento was delivered in a raw-and-ready fashion that afforded concertmaster Karl Stobbe the opportunity to further demonstrate his considerable technique and spot-on intonation…


San Francisco Classical Voice – Oct. 6, 2008

…Special gratitude belongs to Concertmaster Karl Stobbe, whose soulful musicianship was especially plaintive and poetic…