“Eugène Ysaÿe – a towering musical figure of his era. Revered by both his contemporaries and future generations alike, he was an exceedingly ‘modern’ violinist who had a vital influence on violin playing as we now know it. However, his musical aptitude also extended to composition, in which he immersed himself especially later in his life as his physical state deteriorated. His art would culminate in this very set of six solo sonatas, perhaps the most important contribution to the solo violin repertoire since the writings of Bach and Paganini.
Growing up, I was always aware of Ysaÿe’s reputation, but never would I have expected from devoting myself to in-depth study of these sonatas that they would end up having such an essential impact on my artistic identity as a whole. I could think of two main reasons why this set quickly became such a passion project of mine.
Firstly – the naturalness and potency of his musical language. Ysaÿe, in the way only a great violinist could, seamlessly combines Paganini-like virtuosic elements as well as his own technical innovations with a profound and multilayered expressivity. The fact that he took only some twenty-four hours to sketch out these sonatas almost suggests that the music was aching to pour out of him. These works are firmly rooted in the past in ways even Bach would recognize, and yet feel especially fresh and relevant in today’s times.
Secondly – these sonatas give me the overwhelming impression of being personal. When faced with such an honest quality, I became oblivious to the fact that these sonatas are, first and foremost, incredibly demanding pieces to play and that a performance of all six in succession qualifies as a fiendish physical feat. The sheer substance and emotional weight present throughout make it seem as if we’re trespassing on the most private of Ysaÿe’s inner thoughts. In addition, his dedication of each sonata to six of his younger colleagues and the mindful manner in which he manages to capture certain qualities of each on the page bring forth six authentic and intimate musical portraits.“