Eugène Ysaÿe

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

Nationality: Belgian
Born: July 16, 1858, Liège Died: May 12, 1931, Brussels (age 72)

Sonata in d minor, Op. 27, No. 3, Ballade (for solo violin)

(for solo violin)
Lento molto sostenuto (In modo di recitativo) - Molto moderato quasi lento - Allegro in tempo giusto e con bravura
Duration: 7 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1923 (age 64-65)
Published: 1924 (age 65-66)
Dedication: George Enescu
10 recordings, 10 videos
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7:02
Paul Huang
5:36
Ruggiero Ricci
6:44
Michael Rabin
6:27
David Oistrakh
5:43
Arthur Grumiaux
7:02
Rudolf Werthen
6:55
Paolo Ghidoni
6:57
Oscar Shumsky
7:33
Ilya Kaler
5:45
Madoyev
From Kai Christiansen

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

Sonata in d minor, Op. 27, No. 3, Ballade, 1923 (Dedicated to George Enescu)

Eugène Ysaÿe Eugène Ysaÿe was at least generation or so older than George Enescu. A Belgian violinist, composer and conductor, Ysaÿe was widely regarded as among the greatest violinists of his age particularly as an exponent of the Franco-Belgian school. Known as the “King of the Violin” and even “The Tsar”, famous musicians and composers lauded him with superlatives. He performed and taught throughout Europe receiving eminent praise in the form of composers’ dedications for such works as César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A and Ernest Chausson’s Poème while, as a member of the Ysaÿe Quartet, he premiered Claude Debussy’s String Quartet. As his technique faded with age, Ysaÿe turned to teaching, composing and serving as artistic director with the Cincinnati Orchestra at which time he made some recordings.

Ysaÿe eventually resumed his early love of composing and produced, among other things, his famous set of six solo sonatas for violin, each one dedicated to a famous violinist of the day. In these works, Ysaÿe intended not only a tribute to the mastery and style of each dedicatee, but also to showcase the latest virtuoso techniques available to performer and composer for a new sophistication of expression he considered absolutely necessary for contemporary music of the time. Ysaÿe composed all six of these brilliant sonatas in the summer of 1923 with the following dedications: Joseph Szigeti (No. 1), Jacques Thibaud (No. 2), George Enescu (No. 3), Fritz Kreisler (No. 4),Mathieu Crickboom (No. 5), and Manuel Quiroga (No. 6).

George Enescu The third sonata, titled Ballade, is dedicated to Enescu and in this single-movement fantasia, one senses a specific nod to the Romanian violinist in the passion, complexity, impetuous virtuosity and even the vocabulary of the music. Like all of the sonatas, as with those of his esteemed predecessor and influential model Bach (one thinks of the D Minor Chaconne in particular), Ysaÿe’s Ballade is practically virtual chamber music packed with multi-voice textures, contrapuntal devices, simultaneous melody and accompaniment, all rendered by amazing sleight of hand by a soloist. What is more, there is an astonishing complexity and virtuosity within any one of the individual voices. All of this is nicely contained in a kind of etude-rondo form with a clear arc of development as the tempo, rhythms and passion of the violinist accelerate from a simmering recitative to a bold allegro and onward towards a fiery conclusion. It is the only sonata Ysaÿe’s six in a single continuous movement tempting a comparison with Enescu’s seamless and eminently contrapuntal octet.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.