Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931), of Liège, was one of the paramount violinists of his day. His early tutelage was guided by internationally renowned violinists Henri Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawski. Ysaÿe’s exceptional performance artistry attracted musicians of accomplishment, including Joseph Joachim (for whom Brahms wrote his violin concerto), and the pianists Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann, and Anton Rubinstein. Prominent composers Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, César Franck, and Ernest Chausson all dedicated works to him.
A sense of his mastery can be gleaned from his recording of the final movement of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto (with the orchestral part in piano reduction).
The six 1923 sonatas for solo violin, Op. 27, are amongst his best regarded works. Each of the six sonatas is dedicated to a contemporary violinist: Joseph Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, Mathieu Crickboom, and Manuel Quiroga. Each sonata in written in the dedicatee’s style. All require the highest degree of virtuosity, knowledge of 20th century stylistic attributes, and the mastery of spiritual and emotional insight that must invest and enable expression.
Manuel Quiroga, the Galician violinist regarded as the heir of Pablo de Sarasate, was also held in high esteem by musicians such as Fritz Kreisler, George Enescu, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Igor Stravinsky, and Jan Sibelius. The sixth sonata, written for Quiroga, is in the form of a habanera. The score can be examined here.
I have been fortunate to hear this sonata performed, in Edmonton in November, 2014, by Edmonton’s distinguished concert violinist and teacher, Dr. Guillaume Tardif, when he was a featured representative, along with novelist Todd Babiak, of Edmonton’s artistic excellence and reach, at the annual general meeting of the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, of which I was co-chair.
Ilya Kaler, who taught Guillaume Tardif at Rochester, and who is one of the violinists he admires the most, recorded this sonata in fine emulation and replication of Ysaÿe, and it is presented here: