The Ysaye Solo Sonatas

January 26, 2006 at 05:50 AM · I am preparing a Lecture Recital to be given this fall to complete my doctoral work in violin. My lecture topic is Ysaye and his Solo Sonatas, specifically a comparison of the Henle edition to the "first edition" now distributed by Schirmer/Hal Leonard. In addition, I hope to discuss perfomance practice while comparing available recordings of the Sonatas. I would like to invite those who have specific insight into this topic as well as anyone with inquiries to join in this discussion of perhaps the most important works for unaccompanied violin since Bach.

-Peter Wilson

Replies (98)

January 26, 2006 at 07:43 PM · Hi,

Thanks for the post. I would like to know about the various recordings that are out there as well. I have Gidon Kremer, and it is flawless, but a bit dry. I like Dmitri Berlinky's recording of Ballade much better. I wish I had a recording of all the sonatas by Berlinsky. (Does it exist?)

I am working on the Ysaye No. 4 and having trouble in the Allemanda with the high position tripplets. My fingers are just too thin and they keep falling through the gap between strings in high speeds. I guess you may not have any problems with this, but perhaps some other people may have helpful suggestions?


January 26, 2006 at 10:56 PM · Lucia,

Perhaps you are using too much left hand pressure? Only use harmonic like pressure when playing up high. There is no need to press the strings all the way down to the fingerboard. I got this advice from Josef Gingold who was an Ysaye pupil

January 27, 2006 at 01:02 AM · Peter,

Concerning performance practice, I am pretty convinced that Ysaye's left hand technique was based on a constant vibrato and connecting each note with a slide even if you do not hear the slide. When I first learned scales in 3rds with my high school teacher Josef Gingold (and an Ysaye pupil) he recommended practicing with big slides in the shifts so to develop a fluid technique. If you practice this way the hand is in constant motion and in faster tempos, the "slides" disappear. The constant vibrato loosens the hand. You can hear this in Ysaye's recordings.

By the way one does not have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get the out of print complete recordings. I was patient and left a request on Amazon and in about 3 months was able to get a slightly used copy for about $10.

January 27, 2006 at 03:34 AM · Lucia:

Thanks for your message. I think we may have overlapped at CUA, yes? You were also a student of Robert Gerle, who passed away in October. Did you know his autobiography is now available? It is a remarkable book.

Regarding the recordings of the Ysaye Sonatas, I have compiled a list, the majority of which I own, and am up to over 50 recordings--half of which are the complete sonatas. I will post this list soon (have added and ordered several CDs thanks to the help of people through this website!). I just need to do a little more updating.

As for the Allemande of the 4th Sonata, Bruce's advice is great--keeping fingers light when making contact with the string/fingerboard. In addition, it is always best to put as many fingers down at the same time--when possible--forming patterns and groupings in position. This allows for greater efficiency (therefore speed) when up to tempo. Don't think note-to-note individually so much or they will "fall in the cracks" as you said. Relaxation is the key to playing these sonatas.

Best wishes,


January 27, 2006 at 03:43 AM · Bruce:

You are absolutely correct regarding Ysaye's practice of maintaining firm contact with the fingerboard. My teacher from Northwestern was a long-time student of Gingold's as well (Blair Milton). He, my late teacher Robert Gerle, and Linda Cerone all spoke endlessly about the constant FEEL of the fingerboard--sliding with an anchored finger during shifts, etc. My understanding about Ysaye, however, is that he believed vibrato would become the enemy of music and must be used conservatively. I agree with your assessment regarding the sliding. In fact, I believe many of these slides SHOULD be audible when performing his music. This is how he intended it to be played--with that 19th century performance practice of a passionate left hand!


January 28, 2006 at 05:11 AM · Okay! As promised, here is the list I have been compiling of all recordings of Ysaye Sonatas for Solo Violin. Please let me know if you know of any I'm missing or further info regarding those with a question mark. Thanks to many members of this site, I have added significantly to my collection and this list. ALL recordings list are in my personal collection except those marked with an * or are otherwise noted as "on order."


Eugène Ysaÿe: The Six Sonatas for Solo Violin

A Complete Discography compiled by Peter Wilson

UPDATED: 27 January 2006


Ruggiero Ricci, 1974, Candide

Gidon Kremer, 1976, VMI

Charles Castleman, 1981, Music & Arts

Oscar Shumsky, 1982, Nimbus

Lydia Mordkovitch, 1988, Chandos

Yuval Yaron, 1990, Accord

Evgenia-Maria Popova, 1991, Leman

Mateja Marinkovic, 1992, Collins

Vilmos Szabadi, 1992, Hungaroton

Stéphane Tran Ngoc, 1994, REM

Frank Peter Zimmermann, 1994, EMI

Tomoko Kato, 1995, Denon

Vincenzo Bolognese, 1997, Arts

Philippe Graffin, 1997, Hyperion

Takayoshi Wanami, 1997, Somm

Leonidas Kavakos, 1999, BIS

Jassen Todorov, 2001, Gega New Ltd.

Hana Kotková, 2002, Forlane

Thomas Zehetmair, 2004, ECM

Ray Iwazumi, 2004—on order

Shunské Sato, 2005, LIVE NOTES—on order

Marianne Piketty, 2006—on order

Arisa Fujita—on order

Ilya Kaler—on order

Laurent Korcia—on order

Benjamin Schmid—on order

*Werthen ?, 1998?


Recordings of one or more of the Sonatas but not all six:


Efrem Zimbalist, 1939, Victor Album Set

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and

performed on guitar!)

Vincent P. Skowronski, 2004, Skowronski Classical


Baiba Skride, 2004?, SONY—on order

Denis Goldfeld—on order

*Victor Dantchenko, B.C.J. USSR—LP

*Julian Sitkovetski, Radio Moscow 1956—LIVE RECORDING


Aaron Rosand, 1983, Audiofon

Arturo Delmoni, 1988, JMR

Ilya Kaler, 1995, Ongaku

Nikolaj Znaider, 1997, Cypres (live recording)

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and

performed on guitar!)

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Gil Shaham, DG, (1st movement only)

*Vincent P. Skowronski, Skowronski Classical Recordings

*Grumlikova ?, Supraphon—LP


David Oistrakh, 1954, OVC/Vanguard (Cht. du M.)

Michael Rabin, 1956, EMI

Ruggiero Ricci, 1979 (Live @ Carnegie Hall), Etcetera

Eugene Foder, 1979?—LP

Josef Rissin, 1986, Sound Star-ton

Leila Josefowicz, 1995, Philips

Ilya Gringolts, 1999, BIS

Antal Szalai, 2001, BMC

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Nikolaj Znaider, 2003, RCA Victor

Nelli Shkolnikova—on order

Linus Roth, EMI—on order

Jack Liebeck—on order

Denis Goldfeld—on order

*Alfred Dubois, Biddulph?

*Igor Oistrakh—LP

*Dmitri Berlinsky?

*Pavel Berman, Myra Hess Memorial Concert Chicago


*Lola Bobesco, Fondation Eugène Ysaÿe #3002—LP

*V. Gyarmati, Qualiton—LP

*Sidney Harth, Iramac—LP

*Idem, Philips 66—LP

*Lubotsky, B.C.J. USSR—LP

*G. Octors, Gramola—LP

*R. Odnopossoff, Concert Hall—LP

*Raskin, Decca—LP


Ruggiero Ricci, 1946 (Town Hall ’46--LIVE), 111

Michael Rabin, 1956, EMI

Leila Josefowicz, 1995, Philips

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and

performed on guitar!)

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Jennifer Frautschi, 2003, ARTEK

Denis Goldfeld—on order

Josef Hassid (4.1)—on order

Mirijam Contzen, 2005, ARTE NOVA CLASSICS—on order

*Philip Newman, Private recital Brussels 24/03/65,


*Malinine, B.C.J. USSR—LP

*R. Odnopossoff, Concert Hall—LP


Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and

performed on guitar!)

*Matitahu Braun, Musicians Showcase ASIN

*Vincent P. Skowronski, Skowronski Classical Recordings


Aaron Rosand, 1983, Audiofon

Josef Rissin, 1986, Sound Star-ton

Ilya Gringolts, 1999, BIS

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

David Chan, 1996, Ambassador—on order

*E. Kamilarov, Balkanton—LP

*V. Klimov, Supraphon—LP

*F. Petronio, Alpha—LP

*Yon Voicu, Electro-record—LP


OTHER prospective recordings:

*Alexandre Da Costa (2, 3+ ?)


*Atsuko Sahara (4)

*Endre Granat (two sonatas??)

*Stéphanie-Marie Deguan?

*David Galoustov?

*Mischa Lefkowitz?

*Raymond Chevreuille?

*Lucke Andreas?

*Jacques Israelievitch, 2003, SONY CLASSICAL

*Juliette Kang, 1995




January 28, 2006 at 12:13 PM · Thanks Peter!

Looks like you've done a very good job on the CD end of things. This is really handy! One I've seen is Kowoon Yang's CD (Sony) of all 6. I think the Rudolph Werthen set is from 1996. Sherban Lupu has Nos 3 & 6 available through Continuum.

Vinyl? Well, can anyone ever have all the vinyl? Melodiya has several excellent recordings: a young Vadim Repin does the Ballade on Melodiya as does Zinovi Vinnikov and Boris Gutnikov. The latter two are on vinyl only I believe. I think the Repin is on CD. There is also a recent live recording of Repin playing the No. 3 available for listening through the French internet radio site Musiq 3. Christian Altenburger has a vinyl only (I think) recording with the No. 3 on it (Amadeo 1982). Ion Voicou recorded the No. 3 on Decca.

Yes, Nora Grumlikova recorded the No. 2 on Supraphon. Cornelia Vasile recorded No. 2 with Deutsche Grammophon. Miklos Szenthelyi does the No. 2 on Hungaroton. As you realize, since most of these are/were well-known recording artists you'll be able to find these at a good record collector shop (but on the web is the best place to start), or on eBay, and they shouldn't set you back very much. If the quality isn't that good I'd put them through a good sound processor. They can come out much improved, which unfortunately is necessary if you want to do a good critique of a crappy record. I've got a Joachim 1903 recording for instance that I've processed, and the results are quite good; far better than the original(wax?) which I got from CD.

There also exists a record of the excellent Chantal Juillet playing the No. 4, done, I think, at the CBC studios (so it should be very good recording). You should also be able to find it at a good record collector shop. I've heard a recording of one of the sonatas by Accardo but I can't remember if it's live or recorded.

I didn't know Bobesco recorded the solo sonatas. I know she was a violinist and did a few recordings and that she was also a conductor of the Ysaye Ensemble.

Both Bell and Hahn have played concerts with a Ysaye solo sonata on the program so I bet that there are live recordings somewhere out there if not bootlegs available (not that I'm condoning them at all).

Have you read any of the works by Ysaye's son? He has two books that would be of interest to you, one on the history of the 6 Sonatas and one a bio of Ysaye?

January 28, 2006 at 10:36 PM · Rick:

Thanks for your additions! Great stuff! I will look for them.

It would be great if Hilary Hahn ever records all six--she has such clean playing and she seems to be developing nicely.

John Corigliano wrote some great solo stuff for "The Red Violin," which of course was recorded by Bell. I think it would be quite something if Corigliano tried his hand at some formal unaccompanied sonatas.

On the Ysaye book by Antoine, I do have his "Ysaye, Hist Life, Work and Influence," but I have NOT been able to locate the book on the history of the Sonatas. It's out of print. Any ideas? Ebay doesn't have anything at the moment.


January 28, 2006 at 10:53 PM · Thank you Pete and Bruce for your insights. I thought that I was already doing all that you recommended, but as I was practicing yesterday, and went over every note in my mind and thinking about what you both have said, things just clicked with me. Sometimes thinking it through is all it takes. Isn't that one of the great things that Robert Gerle taught us Pete?

Great job on the comprehensive list. I just heard Ilya Kaler's recording. His playing is phenomenal. I was pretty blown away by it.


January 29, 2006 at 12:08 AM · Peter, you've probably done this but I'd contact the Conservatoire de Bruxelles first. Their library email address is

I also know that the Conservatoire Royal de Liege has a large Ysaye collection:

The entry for the 'History of the 6 sonatas' is:

Their email address is and I would hope they would be at least helpful. My experience with French colleagues is that they've been very helpful.

Do you have Lev Ginsburg's 'Ysaye'? If so, what do you think of it?

That's a great idea about Corigliano Solo Sonatas. I'd love to hear them.

January 29, 2006 at 02:47 AM · Rick:

Thanks for the French and Belgian contact info!

Yes, I do own the Ginsburg "Ysaye." Of course, the photos and other "art" are great, as per all the books of this publisher. I've been told that some of the Ginsburg book is overstated and not always reliable. It was an interesting read, though not always scholarly. Indeed, it must be in anyone's "Ysaye" collection. Thanks for reminding me of it. I just looked in the back and found Ginsburg's discography! More recordings I haven't listed!!! (Updated list soon to come . . . )


January 29, 2006 at 08:50 PM · I agree Peter. Ginsburg was a great musician and a prolific writer, just not a great writer. And yes most of the Paganiniana publications are like that, especially the 'Paganini' book. But then again I love the 'The Way They Play' Series.

And regarding Ysaye, I also like that little interview with him done in the first of the 'Violin Mastery' books.

Now let's find some of those recordings Ginsburg lists. As you can probably tell, I've been doing quite a bit of searching for Ysaye recordings (not only the op. 27 mind you, so I've obviously missed a lot by reaching so broadly).

January 29, 2006 at 10:10 PM · Hey Rick!

I don't know of this interview you mentioned from the "Violin Mastery" books! Is there a particular volume of these books I should look for? Fill me in!


January 29, 2006 at 10:11 PM · Rick,

Also, I typed in all the entries from the Ginsberg list of Ysaye recordings. Some questions were answered and others were raised! The internet helps with first names, of course, and some other issues. Onward our journey goes!


January 30, 2006 at 03:16 AM · These two volumes are a treasure!

There are two as far as I know, both edited by F. H. Martens. The first from 1919 is "Violin Mastery: Talks With Master Violinists and Teachers," the second, from 1923, being "String Mastery: Talks with Master Violinists, Viola Players and ViolinCellists." They are both simply great and a must have! And you're in luck!. The Gutenberg Project has just put out the first one as it's US Copyright has expired (other countries may be different however), and it can be downloaded here:

It has interviews on violin mastery with Auer, Kreisler, Elman, Heifetz, and all the early 20th C. greats. But notice the first and largest picture...Ysaye of course!

The second volume is not out of copyright. I picked mine up through eBay a few years ago, but I've seen them on and other used book sites.

As for the Ginsburg list I remember thinking the same thing. But hey you're now on Throw out the names and labels that dead end and see if someone here knows about them.

January 30, 2006 at 04:36 AM · RICK!

You are the MAN! This is great stuff. I'm still printing! I'm skimming through the Auer now . . .

See you in a few weeks . . .

. . . reading . . . .



January 31, 2006 at 02:15 AM · Yah, and I love the stuff where they talk about Sevcik and 'special' exercises.

January 31, 2006 at 05:37 AM · WOW Rick! THANK-YOU SO MUCH. That e-book is incredible! I was going to go to bed early tonight but I simply couldn't and I've already read a good portion of the book.


February 1, 2006 at 04:28 AM · I have the Schirmer edition. I also have an article that I got from Shar many years ago by a man named Henkle who, if memory serves, studied with Ysaye, as well as with Flesch and Auer. It consists mainly of corrections to the Schirmer edition. In the brief introduction he says "Ysaye was not consistently faithful to his own system of markings" and "the list of misprints, errors and omissions...was made without benefit of access to the original manuscripts."

Anyone have any favorite recordings/performances? Hilary Hahn gave a wonderful performance of the 1st sonata in a recent Carnegie Hall recital. I have all of the sonatas on an LP by Ricci. But I prefer #2 by Rosand, and #3 by Oistrakh.

February 2, 2006 at 06:28 AM · Hi everyone,

I thought that you all may want to hear Esther Kim (my younger sister) play Ysaye Violin Sontata No.3 "Ballade". Please let me know what you think. Any constructive criticism would be appreciated!

Or, if it doesn't work:

(ysaye is the very last link at the bottom)


Edward Kim

February 2, 2006 at 02:29 PM · Hi,

Peter - the book on the history of the sonatas, both French and English is available at the library of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore - it is the nearest location that I know of close to where you live. Maybe you can get it from there also through interlibrary loan. Here are the bibliographical info. Be warned that the English translation isn't all that great as many are.

Ysaÿe, Antoine. Historique des six sonates pour violon seul, op. 27 d'Eugène

Ysaÿe. Brussels: Les Éditions Ysaÿe, 1967.

Ysaÿe, Antoine. Historical Account of the Six Sonatas for unaccompanied violin, Op.

27, of Eugène Ysaÿe. Trans. Nadine Leblanc. Brussels: Les Éditions Ysaÿe, 1968.

The list of recordings is impressive. Thank you for that Peter and Rick.

Some personal thoughts on the sonatas. How much of performance practice depends on outlook. The above books will give interesting anecdotes. The sonatas are obviously reflecting of the players to whom they were dedicated, as well as largely reflecting Ysaÿe's approach to the violin. They also reflect different styles and aesthetics. How much that should factor in is optional. There is much indications in my opinion of what Ysaÿe sought in his choice of fingerings. If they are carried out with the approach of the time to shifts that we know from recordings, a historically informed performance could be possible. I don't think that on record it exists too much, although, Shumsky's version gives us a glimpse. Sorry about the rambling - early morning.


P.S. As an additional insight into the sonatas, I would suggest that one look at Ysaÿe's preludes for solo violin which are another testament of his art.

February 2, 2006 at 11:58 PM · Dear Mr. Kim, Since you asked specifically for something constructive, I'm afraid I have absolutely nothing to say about your sister's performance that would meet that qualification. However, I wish to congratulate her on a faultless ear, and on the illusion she has so beautifully created that this piece requires no effort whatsoever to play. I thank you both for this offering, and please tell her she can bet the next time I see her name, I'll pay attention. Truly yours, Gilles Malkine

February 3, 2006 at 09:22 AM · Eddie, I've been watching youre sister's videos for some time now. (Even dedicated my own discussion thread to her on a different site :)) She's the first person I heard play that piece, so you know I'm not going to have anyting helpful to say, except that I've admired her abilities and think she has the potential to go very far.

And she was the most animated young vioinist I've ever seen, hands down!

February 4, 2006 at 04:26 AM · Another Recording

Strad mag: July 2005.

Ysaye complete sonata by

Arisa Fujita, Intim Musik IMCD 092

February 9, 2006 at 05:55 AM · Hello again, Ysaye lovers!

I just acquired some new recordings (my already large collection has grown 50% in the last two weeks!):

Shunsuke Sato (complete set), from amazon JAPAN! It's great and the guy is only 22!

Also, Dr. Ray Iwazumi (D.M.A., Juilliard--dissertation on Ysaye) sent me HIS recording of all six--really great playing as well.

I'm also working my way through his dissertation--great stuff!

I'm compiling a list of corrections to the Henle . . . soon to come (perhaps I should publish them).



February 9, 2006 at 01:32 PM · Sato: Undoubtedly an extremely talented violinist, but personally I find his Ysaye to sound somewhat neurotic (rhythmically speaking). His tone, however, is GORGEOUS. It's obvious who his teacher is.


February 9, 2006 at 02:31 PM · Preston: VERY well put on the Sato recording. I was also a bit put off by the liberties he takes, but as you mention, his tone and clarity make up for it most of the time. Yuval Yaron has a similar problem. He can't keep a steady tempo to save his life, but the playing is amazing.


February 9, 2006 at 06:38 PM · I'm listening to Sato perform Bach A- fugue live (his website has some clips) and I feel like I'm being hit over the head with a sledge hammer....

In my opionion and training, a chord in Bach should never sound like it has the word "chord" in it. Never should it be approached like it's a rhythmic point of interest, rather a harmonic point of interest.


February 10, 2006 at 03:20 AM · Preston:

I'll check out Sato's Bach . . .

February 11, 2006 at 03:32 PM · Hey, Peter: I fully expect a comprehensive list of every Bach sonata ever recorded by next week.

February 11, 2006 at 04:51 PM · Gilles:

I'm ON IT!

I think there's a bootleg somewhere of Mozart playing the g minor fugue. It's probably on the old cylinders. I'll get back to you.


February 11, 2006 at 08:52 PM · I have it by Leopold, did Woffie record it too???

February 11, 2006 at 09:04 PM · This thread on Ysaye is most interesting ! Peter, Rick etc.. Thank you so much for all the info!

February 14, 2006 at 09:16 PM · Hello friends:

Has anyone heard Leila Josefowiz' Solo album?

I bought it some 10 years ago (I think) and just pulled it out again to listen to her "Ballade." It is simply stunning. Just wondered what anyone else thought.

I used to drive her from ENCORE to the airport back when she was 11 years old (I was in college). She was always travelling to NYC for radio broadcasts. She is quite a gifted fiddle player.


February 14, 2006 at 11:58 PM · I have Leila's recording of the Ballade. Very good playing. The other works on the disc are excellent, particularly the Schubert.

February 15, 2006 at 12:31 AM · Patrick:

I have the Kremer recording from 1976 (rereleased on CD). I don't know if it is still in print, but my CD is on a Japanese label. In fact, the entire booklet is in Japanese!


February 17, 2006 at 08:41 PM · Patrick:

Let me give the "Z" recording a good listen again. I'll get back to you.


February 20, 2006 at 01:31 AM · Hey there friends! I'm going to paste below an exchange I had with fellow member, Leo, regarding a question he had about Ysaye's "Ballade." It's a great question and I'm curious to know what any of you think about this particular measure! I will certainly discuss this among other measures in my lecture recital! Thanks!


Thanks for your question on the Ballade. I'll copy it below as a reference:

"In measure #103 (the first beat) should the accent be on the 16th instead of the 32nd, like in the second and third beat?"

First, I believe you meant to type "measure #100" (not "103), yes? Based on your question, I'm confident that you meant measure #100. Going with this assumption, it is an excellent question and great observation. I, too, noticed this inconsistency, so I checked the autographed manuscript (at the Juilliard library). As it turns out, Ysaye did in fact write an accent over the 64th-note (here again, I think you meant to write 64th and not 32nd) in the first beat and then over the 16th-notes of beats 2 and 3. Henle does NOT address this issue and apparently is sticking with the "authenticity" of the autograph in comparison with the First Edition. Unfortunately, Ysaye must NOT have corrected this even in his personal copy of the sonatas (No. 8 of the first printing, which has offered great insight into what Ysaye intended having been marked with many corrections, all noted in the Henle). My personal belief is that it WAS a misprint, was never corrected, and Henle is simply going with precedent. My recommendation at this time would be to play the accents consistently on all three 16th-notes and NO other notes of that measure.

Hope that helps! Please let me know if I misunderstood the measure to which you were referring.



February 20, 2006 at 08:13 PM · I believe you are right Peter. It makes more musical sence (sounds very animato) to have the accents consistent through out the meassure. Also it serves as a nice contrast to the dotted tripplets (where the accent always comes after the doted note).

Should there be an accent in measure 18? It is more lyrical without it, but it makes one wonder.

Let us just doublecheck our meassures. The Lento recitative is meassure 1, the new section in Molto moderato quasi lento(the first 5/4 meassure) is counted as meassure 2, correct?


February 21, 2006 at 02:32 AM · Lucia:

Excellent observation. In fact, I DO believe there should be an accent in m. 18 as there is in m. 17. It does not appear in any of the sources (including the Autograph or Ysaye's personal copy, which has many corrections in pencil by his hand). However, I believe in this case, as with several other spots, the accent missing was an oversight. In fact, of the two measures, m. 18 should be the one to have the accent OVER m. 17 since the progression CHANGES. That said, at the very least, they should both have an accent in the same place.

Your numbering IS correct. The entire Recitativo is m. 1. M. 2 begins at the 5/4 bar.



March 7, 2006 at 03:42 AM · I've "cut & pasted" the following from the "Juilliard Manuscripts" discussion because I believe it is relevant to this discussion as well. (Okay, perhaps a poor excuse for keeping this Ysaye forum alive!)

. . . I am just as passionate about the research as I am the performance of a piece. In fact, I think many performers DON'T do enough research about the pieces they perform. They typically just play them the way they were taught them and perhaps add their own "style" to the performance.

If performing a concerto, I am all about studying the entire orchestral score and researching what the composer intended, perhaps who he/she composed the piece for, stories surrounding the performance of the piece historically, etc.

I am including this kind of analysis in my lecture on Ysaye's Solo Sonatas. Before any violinist intends to perform these sonatas, I believe it is critical to have insight into (a) Ysaye's inspiration for the sonatas, (b) Ysaye's performance style, (c) the performance style of each violinist to whom each sonata is dedicated, (d) Ysaye's direction on how to perform the sonatas, etc. MOST of these aspects are IGNORED by violinists. This all is to say nothing of the errors that have been revealed in the First Edition (and even some in the Henle), which offer further insight into the performance of these wonderful sonatas.

I hope to give a thorough analysis and offer performance recommendations during my lecture in August. It is indeed a facisnating topic.


March 7, 2006 at 05:20 PM · Peter -- I think your list of CDs may have left out Ilya Kaler's complete sonatas recorded for Naxos in 2001. A very good set.

March 7, 2006 at 07:01 PM · Tom:

Thanks, I'll look it up! I have Ilya playing the "Ballade" and No. 6, but that's all I knew about.


March 8, 2006 at 04:52 AM · Hey Tom:

I think you are confusing Ilya Gringolts with Ilya Kaler. I do have Kaler's complete Ysaye Sonatas, but I don't believe Ilya Gringolts has recorded all of them (only 3 & 6). IG, you there? Can you confirm this?


March 8, 2006 at 01:21 PM · I think you are correct. NOw that I look at your list again, Kaler is listed as "on order". I was not aware Ilya had recorded them.

March 8, 2006 at 01:22 PM · Tom:

I actually have the Kaler recording now. In fact, since posting that list, I have received at least a dozen new recordings of the sonatas. Perhaps I should "publish" a new list! I'll wait until I get the Korcia recordings . . . still waiting from Amazon France!


March 11, 2006 at 04:10 PM · Kenny Choy and I have prepared a chart listing 56 works by Ysaÿe.

This gives the instrumentation, publisher and current in print status as far as we can find.

As there does not seem to be a place to post a file on members who are interested are welcome to send a private reply and we will send you the excel attachment.

~ Proof Purr-fect Research ~

Clinton F. Nieweg

(Research for Conductors, Librarians, Musicians)

March 11, 2006 at 05:25 PM · Clinton:

Thank you very much for your post! Please let me know how to obtain your Excel file on Ysaye works! I would really like to consult this document as I prepare my dissertation.



December 31, 2006 at 11:00 AM · just wanted to put this thread back on the front page again. The Ysaye sonatas are my favorite piece of music now. Most have heard/played "obsession" from #2 but #3, #4, and #6 are brilliant, especially #4, with echoes of the Chaconne. (need to get more acquainted with 5 and 1) Tough pieces to learn but the payoff is worth it. So much more rewarding musically than Paganini IMHO.

January 5, 2007 at 01:01 AM · Just heard Gilles Apap doing clips from Nos. 4 & 5. Wow! Gotta order that cd!

January 5, 2007 at 06:11 AM · So glad to see someone revisiting this discussion!

I have an update:

In October I finally gave my doctoral lecture recital on the Six Solo Sonatas by Ysaÿe, performing and discussing excerpts from the 2nd Sonata and the Ballade, and finishing the hour with the complete 4th Sonata.

I submitted a document in conjunction with the lecture that included a near-complete discography. For those interested, I'll post it below.



Eugène Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27

A Discography compiled by Peter Wilson:

(All entries are on CD except where noted; all entries are in the author’s collection with the exception of those preceded by *)


Ruggiero Ricci, 1974, Candide

Gidon Kremer, 1976, VMI

Charles Castleman, 1981, Music & Arts

Oscar Shumsky, 1982, Nimbus

Lydia Mordkovitch, 1988, Chandos

Yuval Yaron, 1990, Accord

Evgenia-Maria Popova, 1991, Leman

Mateja Marinkovic, 1992, Collins

Vilmos Szabadi, 1992, Hungaroton

Stéphane Tran Ngoc, 1994, REM

Frank Peter Zimmermann, 1994, EMI

Tomoko Kato, 1995, Denon

Vincenzo Bolognese, 1997, Arts

Philippe Graffin, 1997, Hyperion

Takayoshi Wanami, 1997, Somm

Leonidas Kavakos, 1999, BIS

Jassen Todorov, 2001, Gega New Ltd.

Ilya Kaler, 2001, Naxos (2004)

Hana Kotková, 2002, Forlane

Ray Iwazumi, 2004, iwazumi productions

Shunsuke Sato, 2004, Live Notes

Thomas Zehetmair, 2004, ECM

Marianne Piketty, 2005, Maguelone music

Benjamin Schmid, 2005, AMG

*Hyman Bress, 1967, Alpha DB-132 (France)—LP

*Arisa Fujita, ?, ?

*Laurent Korcia, ?, ?

*Rudolph Werthen, 1996, ?

*Kowoon Yang, ?, SONY

*Victor Pikaisen, ?, ? ??

*Eun-Hwan Bai, ?, ?

*Benvenuti, ?, ?

*Gidon Kremer, 1992?, ??


Recordings of single Ysaÿe Sonatas:


Efrem Zimbalist, 1939, Victor Album Set (earliest known recording of an Ysaÿe Sonata)

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and performed on guitar!)

Vincent P. Skowronski, 2004, Skowronski Classical Recordings—LIVE RECORDING

Baiba Skride, 2004, SONY

Denis Goldfeld, 2005, Zig Zag Territoires

*Victor Danchenko, ?, B.C.J. USSR (Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D17635/6)—LP

*Georges Octors, ?, Gramola GLP2510 (Belgium)—LP

*Julian Sitkovetski, 1956, Radio Moscow—LIVE RECORDING


SONATA NO. 2 “The Obsession”

Aaron Rosand, 1983, Audiofon

Arturo Delmoni, 1988, JMR

Ilya Kaler, 1995, Ongaku

Vincent P. Skowronski, 1996, Skowronski Classical Recordings

Nikolaj Znaider, 1997, Cypres (live recording)

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and performed on guitar!)

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Gil Shaham, DG, (1st movement only)

Gilles Apap, 2006, GKJ (1st mvt., 2nd mvt., and theme of 3rd movement only)

*J.F. del Castillo, ?, Fundacion Mito Juan Pro-Musica (Vol. I) (Venezuela)—LP

*N. Grumlikova, ?, Supraphon SUA10520, SV8252 (Czechoslovakia)—LP

*L. Isakadze, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D021449/50 (Russia)—LP

*K. Jakowicz, ?, Muza SXL0522 (Poland)—LP

*Lenoid Kogan, ?, Melodya CO719-20 (Russia)—LP

*A. Mikhlin, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D019331 (Russia)—LP

*Miklos Szenthelyi, ?, Qualiton LPX11677 (Hungary), or Hungaroton?—LP

*Cornelia Vasile, ?, Deutsche Grammophon 642106 (Germany)—LP

*Nora Grumlikova, ?, Supraphon—LP

*Zilliacus, ?1998


SONATA NO. 3 “Ballade”

David Oistrakh, 1954, OVC/Vanguard (Cht. du M.)

Michael Rabin, 1956, EMI

Eugene Fodor, 1974?—LP

Ruggiero Ricci, 1979 (Live @ Carnegie Hall), Etcetera

Josef Rissin, 1986, Sound Star-ton

Maxim Vengerov, 1989, Biddulph

Leila Josefowicz, 1995, Philips

Ilya Gringolts, 1999, BIS

Antal Szalai, 2001, BMC

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Nikolaj Znaider, 2003, RCA Victor

Jack Liebeck, 2004, quartz

Denis Goldfeld, 2005, Zig Zag Territoires

Linus Roth, 2005, EMI

Gilles Apap, 2006, GKJ

*Nelli Shkolnikova, ?, ?

*Sherban Lupu, ?, Continuum

*Ion Voicu, ?, Decca

*Alina Pogostkin, 2001, Podium-Wendel

*Dmitri Berlinsky, ?, ?

*Pavel Berman, 1997, Myra Hess Memorial Concert Chicago—LIVE RECORDING

*Salvatore Accardo, ?, Victor SL20245 (Italy)—LIVE/recorded—LP

*J. Dembeck, ?, CBC Radio Canada SM27 (Canada)—LP

*Alfred Dubois, ?, Columbia LCX104 (Biddulph)—LP

*Endre Granat, ?, Orion 73128—LP

*B. Gutnikov, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D010224, D010-325/8 (Russia)—LP

*V. Gyarmati, ?, Qualiton LPX1152 (Hungary)—LP

*Sidney Harth, ?, Iramac 6523 (Netherlands)—LP

*K. Jakowicz, ?, Muza SXL0522 (Poland)—LP

*M. Lubotsky, ?, B.C.J. USSR—Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga *D0145878/8 (Russia)—LP

*R. Odnoposoff, ?, Concert Hall CHS1175—LP

*David Oistrakh, ?, Colosseum CRLP150;

*David Oistrakh, ?, Philips PHM500112, PHS900112—LP

*Igor Oistrakh, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D08831/2, S0225/6 (Russia)—LP

*M. Raskin, ?, Decca FAIX3337 (France)—LP

*Zinovi Vinnikov, ?, Melodiya—Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D0145878/8 (Russia)—LP

*Lola Bobesco, ?, Fondation Eugène Ysaÿe #3002—LP

*V. Gyarmati, ?, Qualiton—LP

*Idem, ?, Philips 66—LP

*Georges Octors, ?, Gramola—LP

*Christian Altenburger, 1982, Amadeo—LP

*Vadim Repin, ?, Melodiya—LP/CD?—also LIVE on French Internet Radio “Musiq 3” Boris Gutnikov, ?, Melodiva—LP

*Bonucci, Rodolfo 020907

*(Grumiaux, Khitruk, Rehkopf, Cardenes, Preucil, Bitran, Starkman, Klimasco)???



Ruggiero Ricci, 1946 (Town Hall ’46), 111

Michael Rabin, 1956, EMI

Philip Newman, 1965? (2003), Symposium—1st movement only

Leila Josefowicz, 1995, Philips

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and performed on guitar!)

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

Jennifer Frautschi, 2003, ARTEK

Denis Goldfeld, 2005, Zig Zag Territoires

Mirijam Contzen, 2005, ARTE NOVA CLASSICS

*A. Kocsis, ?, Qualiton LPX1148 (Hungary)—LP

*Chantal Juillet, ?, CBC studios?

*V. Malinin, ?, B.C.J. USSR, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D15343/4 (Russia)—LP

*R. Odnoposoff, ?, Concert Hall CHS1175; HMV (unissued; England—78 rpm)—LP

*Repin, ?, ? (LIVE)



Juliette Kang, 1994, Discover International

Vincent P. Skowronski, 1996, Skowronski Classical Recordings

Bjarne Kristensen, 2000, Glissando (arranged for and performed on guitar!)

Matitahu Braun, 2005?, Musicians Showcase

Gilles Apap, 2006, GKJ

*Endre Granat, ?, Orion 73128—LP



Aaron Rosand, 1983, Audiofon

Josef Rissin, 1986, Sound Star-ton

David Chan, 1996, Ambassador

Ilya Gringolts, 1999, BIS

Maxim Vengerov, 2002, EMI

*V. Klimov, ?, Supraphon SUF20004; Ultraphon DM5541 (Czechoslovakia)

*M. Lubotsky, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D014587/8 (Russia)—LP

*A. Mikhlin, ?, Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga D15343/4 (Russia)--LP

*F. Petronio, ?, Alpha—LP

*Julian Sitkovetsky, ?, Melodyia 06829/30 (Cypres—Belgium?)—LP

*Ion Voicu, ?, Electrecord ECE086—LP

*E. Kamilarov, ?, Balkanton—LP

*V. Klimov, ?, Supraphon—LP

*Sherban Lupu, ?, Continuum

*Tomescu, ?, ?

*Lozano, ?, ?


If anyone has any further information regarding these recordings (i.e., those who can fill in some of the blanks) please let me know!



January 5, 2007 at 08:17 AM · I think it is fair to say that these works are the most important since Bach's S&Ps, but it is not saying much. I think these pieces are great, but to be honest, they don't have much value to people who aren't violinists. Bach could have written his work on any instrument and the appeal is quite universal. Ysaye's work is very violinistic. In comparrison to Beethoven and Mozart's piano sonatas, for example, they are incredibly unremarkable. I see people going crazy over Yaron's recording because of these different markings, but really I think Ysaye is just a treasure for us violinists, and I don't think anyone but violinists care.

I don't know if it's just me but within the last 5 years Ysaye has gotten an incredible amount of popularity, and projects like Mr. Wilson's seem to be everywhere. I think it's great that people are devoting scholarly work to such an esoteric set of works, but ultimately I don't understand what the big deal is.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on performance practice. That would be quite facinating. Perhaps it will change how we play pieces of that same timeperiod. Funny enough, very little has been done in terms of performance practice of Paganini's works, which are without a doubt infinitely more important to music than Ysaye's sonatas.

January 5, 2007 at 08:57 AM · I'd like to hear Peter's response to these comments.

Personally I prefer Ysaye's Sonatas over all but 3 of the Beethoven and over most all of the Mozart Sonatas. Nor are all of Paganini's works of great import. Sure there are a number that are very important. But some are mere gloss and almost written without any musicality in mind at all (esp. some of the later concertos).

But I don't think one can separate Ysaye the composer from Ysaye the violinist, nor from Ysaye the teacher. My favourite sonata, the Franck, might not have been written if Ysaye wasn't the person he was. Yet this applies to a number of other pieces too.

The number of technical and musical advancements for the violin put forth by Ysaye is truly remarkable. His influence on the main schools and on the main violinists, linked down to this day, is tremendous.

I see him as one of the most important, if not most important, modern violinists. Listening to his playing, for me, is always a wonder. It is so very musical. And he incorporated this musicality in his Sonatas, which does nothing if not add to their importance.

My only question about his rise in popularity is why didn't it come sooner?

January 5, 2007 at 09:45 AM · I think Ysaye was quite obviously a very important pedagogue and player. My comment on the value of Paganini's work has more to do with how it influenced instrumental writing after him. He was probably the most important performer of the early romantic period, and his compositions, no matter what you think of their musical value, influenced composers like Liszt and many others who saw the greater potential of the violin and wrote their concertos and other works accordingly.

January 5, 2007 at 01:06 PM · Hi,

Pieter - Believe it or not, I did my doctoral project on Ysaye's sonatas as well, but the focus was different than Peter Wilson's.

Violinistically, their value is like you say, important. In order to appreciate the musical aspect, one needs to remember that they are a synthesis of the musical esthetics present during Ysaye's career as a performer and of the 50 or so works that were written for him.

In a nutshell, three of the sonatas embrace neo-classicism (1, 2, 4), but a version of neo-classicism present in France long before WWI. 3, 5, and 6 are mostly romantic in spirit.

There are references to a number of works in all of the sonatas.

In terms of performance practice, Ysaye actually worked the stuff into the part. Most of his marking are just ignored by performers. His fingerings for example suggest all of the slides and shifts he would have used, but most people choose not to do them, because it is not the "modern" way of playing. There are indications in a lot of places for use of bow (where in the bow) and even where to use the whole bow (this symbol is most often misinterpreted in my opinion as it applies probably to the whole set of notes under a slur and does not imply the barfing on the violin crap that we too often hear).

I think that in essence, the performance practice is in the music - Ysaye was so detailed about it. But your point is good, because what puzzles me is why people are so eager to do performance things with Baroque music, but refuse to do so with music like this even though we know how Ysaye played!


January 5, 2007 at 01:05 PM · Hi again -

PETER WILSON - thanks for that discography! Very impressive!


January 5, 2007 at 01:33 PM · Good discussion!

I enjoy these works. They are like a window to the past...the glory days of the Franco-Belgian School of playing. That style cannot be missed in these sonatas, hard as we may try today. While I don't play in that style, I do find it absolutely neccessary to "nod" to it if the sonatas are to be played with any "soul" at all.

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Gingold play excerpts from several of them (with anecdotes). Of course, he was taught them by Ysaye. Mr. Gingold's interpretation had a memorable effect!

I was also fortunate to study #2+ 4 with him (and with David Cerone). Mr.Gingold's insights revealed a world of expressive possibilities from that age which stay with me today.

One quote from Mr. Gingold which sums up the importance of learning this expressive way of playing; "You kids today play so marvelously! You dot all your i's and cross all your t's....its so clear and wonderful...yet...somehow something is missing!" Food for thought.

January 5, 2007 at 06:50 PM · Peter--Congratulations on the completion of your doctorate!! That's a great accomplishment you should be proud of. And your thesis sounds fascinating.

January 6, 2007 at 10:46 PM · Pieter, that is exactly my point about the Ysaye Sonatas. After Paganini the evolution of violin performance next centered around France (particularly Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski) and these violinist/pedagogues were the teachers of Ysaye, who incorporated their styles and his own into the Sonatas.

January 7, 2007 at 08:42 PM · Hello fiddlers!

Again, thanks for reviving this discussion. I've spent a little time away from here as I'm preparing for my final doctoral recital--and we have a newborn in the house! In any event, I have been digesting everyone's recent entries. Let me make a few general comments/observations to address some of what has been discussed:

I certainly do not believe the Ysaÿe Sonatas to be equal or greater than Bach's S&P; however, next to the Paganini Caprices, they are the most significant and important works for solo violin since Bach. While Paganini would be easily considered the greatest violinist/composer of all time--particularly regarding his fame among non-musicians; my personal belief is that Ysaÿe represents the most important violinist in history. What Paganini did for the violin was enormous, especially for his time, in terms of taking the violin to techincal highest it had never seen before. We must remember; however, that Paganini was writing for himself. That is, he was writing to show off his own amazing abilities on the instrument.

What Ysaÿe represents, in my opinion, is the very link between the old school of violin and the modern school we know today. He was a tremendous player, but he was equally respected as a TEACHER of the violin. He was truly a master of all aspects of the instruement--AND contributed significantly to the repertoire through his Solo Sonatas (and other works for violin and other instruments). He perfected the teaching and playing of Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski and then influenced the early great violinists of the modern age: Szigeti, Kriesler, Enesco, Thibaud, as well as those who would become legendary teachers themselves like Gingold and Persinger.

I may frustrate some by saying this, but Paganini, as great a player as he was, was somewhat one-dimensional and embodied the most accurate definition of "virtuoso"--which is to say he lacked the substance we saw in the "golden age" of violinists.

Ysaÿe, on the other hand, was truly committed to not only advancing technique, but passing on secrets of mastery to future generations of violinists.

Now, let me be specific with regard to his Sonatas:

These works are revolutionary on several levels. To say they have little value to non-violinists would only be true on a technical, violinistic level. The fact is, these sonatas were both a reflection of the past as well as ahead of their time--two factors that perhaps kept them from entering the standard repertoire for longer than they deserved. Szigeti, for example, was admired by Ysaÿe because he championed Bach S&P on recitals when it was not in vogue. No one wanted to play Bach or particularly new music during the early 20th century. Recitals were made up of showpieces, one after the other, and unaccompanied works were not as popular among those who were trying to make a name for themselves.

Ysaÿe was unique in that he, as a violinist/composer, was NOT writing for himself, but rather, for the new generation of violinists. His 6 solo sonatas are each very different but employ the same concepts: (a) a relfection of Bach's masterful S&P, (b) the style of each dedicatee, and (c) Ysaÿe's own technical approach to the instrument.

The "Ballade" for example, became especially popular because it was a one-movement work that was essentially a tone-poem for the violin. Ultimately, there is a sonata in the set for everyone.

It has been accurately stated in previous postings that most players IGNORE Ysaÿe's markings. This, in my view, is a mistake. The markings (bowings, fingerings, string assignments, articulation, execution) are AS IMPORTANT AS THE NOTES THEMSELVES and to ignore them is to remove the very essence of this great music.

The techniques that Ysaÿe teaches to the player via his markings are a window into an era of playing that has all but vanished. I'm not saying these techniques should be applied to all music, but perhaps it would be prudent to explore them with regard to music that came before Ysaÿe's--for what would seem like a fresh perspective today.

--must depart, the baby is calling. I'll be back to continue my thoughts.



January 7, 2007 at 11:47 PM · Mr. Wilson,

These fantastic players with all of this "substance" (which I'm curious to know how you're guaging substance, since there are no recordings of Paganini), owe a great deal of the repertoire which allowed them to speak with such artistry, to Paganini. All the great concertos they played, the showpieces etc... were made possible by the efforts of Paganini. I think the problem with most historians is always trying to champion someone as the "most" or the "best". It seems part of this publishing game that one must always make big statements.

Personally, I think Paganini was immeasurably more important for music. Perhaps Ysaye was more important for us violinists, but composition and the entire idea of the artist as genius (in a very "Randyan" way) owes itself in some part, to Paganini.

I'd really like to read your thesis, if it becomes available. It looks like you've done a lot of good work.

January 8, 2007 at 12:26 AM · Greetings,

Mr. Wilson, many thanks for your comments on Ysaye. Really interesting and helpful stuff. I also feel that Ysaye is a case of where the manner of execution is well worth exploring. Just one example that springs to mind is his idea son scale fingering. Although this is ultimately a personal matter I have found I often prefer them for type of sound and ease of execution over shifting up the a string first which seems to be ubiquituous today.



January 8, 2007 at 02:48 AM · Mr. Viljoen,

I agree that it is not practical to make comparisons between violinists who are separated by generations. Likewise it is foolish to compare Bach to Beethoven. Each great violinist or great composer had something revolutionary to offer; otherwise, they would not be remembered.

You are also correct that I cannot speak with authority regarding the substance or lack thereof in Paganini's playing. However, if one's compositions are a reflection of one's playing as is usually the case among violinist/composers, historically, perhaps it is fair to make certain observations of one's playing STYLE. Clearly, there was no one like Paganini before him. It is well documented that his technical abilities were beyond that of earthly violinists. I would submit to you, however, that even Paganini owes a great deal himself to his predecessors like Corelli, Vivaldi, and Tartini. The depth that was introduced in Vivaldi's "Seasons" is truly remarkable, even by today's standards.

I am not out to make a perfect list of the best violinists or most significant; however, since we are discussing Ysaÿe, I find it appropriate to speak on behalf of this master of the bow particularly because he has not been received as well as Paganini in modern culture.

I would like to know how you find Paganini's music to be "immeasurably more important for music" than Ysaÿe's. Paganini only wrote Caprices for Violin and Guitar, a few string quartets (violin, guitar, viola, cello), six violin concertos, and a few other works. There were some memorable melodies among them, which have been exploited by other composers, but the majority of his music is designed to showcase the technical extremes of the instruement.

Ysaÿe, on the other hand, composed with enormous depth, sensitivity, and self-criticism. He destroyed several early concertos because he thought they were not good enough.

Paganini was also a master of marketing himself. His legend was largely promoted by himself (e.g., rumors of him selling his soul to the devil in exchange for great technique). He was probably the first musical star, certainly the first who toured, and loved the attention.

Please don't misunderstand me. I most definitely place Paganini atop all others in the history of violin playing. I, personally, find Ysaÿe more compelling a figure in significance because of his mastery of the instrument, tremendous teaching reputation, and outstanding contributions to the advancement of the instrument through his compositions. The markings Ysaÿe left in his music make the study of his sonatas virtual violin lessons that continue to teach and develop violinists with every revisiting of his music.



January 8, 2007 at 04:39 AM · "...his legend was largely promoted by himself..."

I've heard otherwise. I'm reading Alan Walker's excellent biography of Liszt and there is a chapter on Paganini (for obvious reasons). Walker states that Paganini hated being followed by lurid rumors everywhere he went, but the Romantic era being what it was, the rumors and scintillating stories were inescapable.

January 8, 2007 at 06:27 AM · I have read quite extensively on the subject of Paganini and Ysaÿe and while it would be impossible for all rumors about Paganini to have been generated by himself, he was known to enjoy many that he heard about himself and even agree with them (even when false) simply to create even more mystery and interest from the public. It is believed that some of the rumors that surrounded Paganini may have indeed come from himself. Much of this is naturally hard to prove.


January 9, 2007 at 12:36 AM · One difference between Paganini and Ysaye is that Paganini, I believe, performed mostly music he wrote himself, music designed to display his abilities but not necessarily without musical value either, while Ysaye performed mostly works composed by others. Would Paganini have been a great interpreter of the major concertos written over the course of the 19th century? Who knows? But Ysaye, by all accounts, certainly was. Comparing Paganini and Ysaye to some extent is apples and oranges. Just a thought.

January 9, 2007 at 12:55 AM · Apples and oranges for sure...

Paganini usually would play at least one piece in every concert (if you look at most of the available handbills) that was based on another composer (variations on a theme typically).

January 9, 2007 at 05:34 AM · Indeed, Gentlemen.

What is particularly interesting about Ysaÿe's Solo Sonatas IS the fact that, unlike any other violinist/composer, he never intended them to be played by himself. In fact, not only was each sonata dedicated to a different violinist, but Ysaÿe himself had all but retired from playing the violin some 5 years prior to the composition of the sonatas in 1923. Yet, his playing style (perhaps ironically) is still very much imbedded in these sonatas. Even more remarkable is how Ysaÿe didn't just dedicate these sonatas to specific fine violinists; he actually captured their very style of playing (and even their composing--Kreisler) in the music itself! It was perhaps common for composers to write FOR a specific violinist or other instrumentalist in a way that might take advantage of that player's technical abilities, but to write in the actual style of one's performance habits is, by all accounts, unprecidented until Ysaÿe's sonatas.



January 9, 2007 at 06:46 AM · Interesting. But just a small item which might be alluded to in a footnote--about composing in a "style" that crystallizes the habits, philosophies (and even mannerisms) of specific performers. I think there is a possible precedent in Schumann, although on a much less ambitious scale: namely, Schumann's Carnaval op.9, in which he refers to (and even portrays) Chopin and Paganini in two different segments. The "Paganini" isn't so successful, but the "Chopin" is dead on.

One question this raises: what did the various dedicatees of Ysaye's sonatas think about having their "styles" distilled in the compositions? Because, often, there's such a fine line between sincere tribute and caricature.

January 9, 2007 at 09:37 AM · The French were the masters of pastiche...

January 9, 2007 at 05:05 PM · "The French were the masters of pastiche..."

Ysaÿe wasn't French.

January 9, 2007 at 09:14 PM · Bill, I didn't say he wasn't.

One usually focuses in biographical discussion on the place of birth 'and' the realms of influence. This applies to other artistic genres as well, though not always to the same extent. In talking about musical training and traditions/schools and the evolution of one's growth, it is more appropriate to look at broader factors than simply the place of birth, i.e., he was born is Belgium yes, but he was a proponent of the Franco-Belgian School. French, for the early portion of the 19th C. was the official language and later it became Dutch-French (about 60/40 today).

More to the point, the Belgian literary tradition owes much to France, and is often referred to as a mirror reflection of it, mainly due to historical influences (copyright law, french rule) upon the artists. This applies to other artistic genres to varying degrees as well. The practice of pastiche, the intentional exact copying of a style of another artist (writer/painter/musician), because of the typically French (revolutionary) right of intellectual copyright (droit d'auteur - very different from the US concept of copyright), was practiced openly by numerous artists in both Belgium and France until long after the first Berne Convention.

To the question of the previous poster (Atsushi):

To have the 'styles' of other violinists incoporated into his compositions would do nothing but elate the violinists. Yet this, imho, had little to do with the fact that he could do it and that pastiche was popular, but with the fact these other violinists were good friends of Ysaye, and their comments reflected this sentiment.

January 9, 2007 at 11:51 PM · "I would like to know how you find Paganini's music to be "immeasurably more important for music" than Ysaÿe's. Paganini only wrote Caprices for Violin and Guitar, a few string quartets (violin, guitar, viola, cello), six violin concertos, and a few other works. There were some memorable melodies among them, which have been exploited by other composers, but the majority of his music is designed to showcase the technical extremes of the instruement."

Using the word "only" when discussing Paganini, is most alarming. First of all, the 24 Caprices are probably the most important solo violin compositions after Bach. I forgot them and said Ysaye was. Perhaps Ysaye is more pleasing to listen to, but they did little to advance the art of the violin.

These works that Ysaye played, which distinguished himself as such a wonderful artists of great depth, such as the Brahms, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky etc... concertos, were influenced by Paganini's virtuosic writing. I previously mentioned Franz Liszt, who himself advanced the piano repertoire through a recognition of greater possibilities of the instrument.

The Romantic period was this egoist phase in the human aesthetic. It was a time where musicians ceased to be servants. Beethoven introduced the idea of the composer as genius, rather than the lapdog or entertainer of aristocrats alone. Paganini's compositions informed the greatest violin concertos that came thereafter; the aforementioned concertos (and others that I've left out). Paganini effectively changed all of western music, by encouraging a broadening of abilities and techniques which did not exist in the public consciousness before. I am aware of Corelli and Locatelli's significance, specifically with referance to Paganini's own understanding of the violin, however he was undoubtedly the one responsible for bringing this brilliance to the public, and thereby creating certain expectations for performers and composers alike.

Writing of music in general became more extroverted and less objective. Perhaps that means self indulgence, which I don't think any Paganini enthusiast would deny, but that was very much an idea which pervaded the romantic aesthetic. Virtuosity and substantial personality in the public realm acted as an extension of this new, unabashed passionate music.

For me, I cannot see any conceivable reason why Ysaye could be considered more than a footnote in the aggregate history of music. With us violinists, he is important to be sure, but if you reduce Paganini in the way you did, you are ignoring some important facts which go beyond the scope of JUST our instrument. And unfortunately, Ysaye's influence has never reached or influenced anything but us violin players. I also wonder exacly how much influence he had on later composers. That too, cannot be even remotely comparable to Paganini.

I understand how people become so infatuated by Ysaye, and his wonderful sonatas. Most violinists, including myself, because of our vast repertoire and the importance of our instrument in western music, and the often overly focused studies on solo repertoire, severely narrows our vision of the whole world. Most violinists I know listen to mostly violin music. Therefore our world view has a lot to do with violin music. No other group of musicians or anyone for that matter will own like 10 different versions of the Paganini 24 caprices, and as many in Bach discs.

Most avid classical fans listen to much more than we do (and I am not saying that you are like this), and for them, Sibelius violin cocerto, for example, is just one great piece to listen to maybe once or twice a year, rather than having the importance of the Sun to us violinists who own like 12 copies, including all the Oistrakh versions and that obscure Kavakos recording. Therefore, I think we tend to overblow the importance of certain violinists and pieces, not recognizing that the rest of the world is not as crazy about these things as we are.

January 10, 2007 at 01:21 AM · Dear Atsushi,

Thanks for the similar example of a composer capturing a player's style in their music (i.e., your Schumann reference). That's exactly what I was hoping someone to uncover for me. I hadn't heard of another composer doing this to the degree Ysaÿe did.

To answer your question regarding the dedicatees, they were deeply honored to have Ysaÿe "single them out" if you will. You must remember that there were a large number of very fine violinists around at the time who would have paid to have been given the kind of exposure offered by Ysaÿe in his sonatas! Also, an entire generation of violinists looked up to Ysaÿe as "the master of us all," so again, to be made the focus of a sonata composed by the "master" was a tremendous honor. Four of the six dedicatee's were known to have played "their" sonatas (Szigeti, who played his frequently; Thibaud, Enesco, and Kreisler, who thought much of his was too difficult to play and asked Ysaÿe if he could change some of it!) I believe Crickboom (5th sonata dedicatee and 2nd violin in Ysaÿe's quartet) died an untimely death before having the opportunity to play his and Quiroga (6th sonata dedicatee) was hit by a car in NYC (if memory serves) and was never able to play the violin again.

Finally, the playing style of each was most definitely a TRIBUTE to each violinist, NOT a caricature.



January 10, 2007 at 01:31 AM · Well said, Rick!

It is also worth mentioning that many of the works dedicated to Ysaÿe were by French composers: Franck, Debussy, Chausson, to name a few. (Lekeu was Belgian, and Kreisler was American.)


January 10, 2007 at 01:38 AM · Mr. Viljoen,

I'm not sure why many of these discussions turn hostile in nature. I will concede that perhaps "only" was not an approprite word to use; however, I suppose I was reacting to your "immeasurably more important for music" which I simply found to be a bit of an exaggeration. I will even go so far as to say that I WAS FLAT WRONG to use the word "only" because if one looks at the relatively small number of works composed by some composers in comparison of the IMPORTANCE OF THOSE WORKS, clearly one can say that volume means nothing. What impact did this music have?--This should be the question. For example, as classical works go, George Gershwin wrote very few. However, his "Rhapsody in Blue" is perhaps THE most popular and best known American piece of instrumental music ever composed (perhaps excluding Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever!"). So, I apologize for my use of the word "only."

That said, while I appreciate the great impact Paganini had on the world of music; I mainly wish to challenge the notion that it is MORE "important" (certainly not immeasurably) than Ysaÿe's. I suppose we can agree to disagree here.

Your comparison of the Caprices to Ysaÿe's Sonatas (or Bach's for that matter) is illogical, in my view. As important as the Caprices are to the repertoire, they should never be compared to any Sonatas simply on the grounds of their differing genres. Bach and Ysaÿe were composing in the classic form that relates to the development of musical ideas and, in many cases, development among movements. The Caprices (which, by the way I would argue are probably "more pleasing to listen to" than Ysaÿe's--by the general public) are in affect, virtuoso etudes that are candy to the ears--the dessert to Bach & Ysaÿe's main courses.

I have to strongly disagree with your assessment of the evolution of the concerto with regard to Paganini's influence. I'm not sure where you read this or how you developed this theory, but Brahms' concerto was influenced by BEETHOVEN's, not to mention MOST of the 19th century concertos. One can point to the concertos of Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Mozart as well LONG before looking at Paganini as an influence on the development of the late 19th century concerto. It's not surprising that you would cite Franz Liszt because he, too, was criticized for writing with virtuosity over substantive compositions for the piano (and I love Liszt's works--"Les Preludes" is in my top 10 of favorite works for orchestra!)--I'm speaking historically regarding his critics.

"Paganini effectively changed all of western music."

Here again, if we are to use such language as "alarming" then I would submit to you that THIS above statement would fall in that category. Clearly Paganini changed the way violinists and composers approached the instrument (VIOLIN specifically) with regard to technique, but to say that ALL western music was CHANGED is simply unfounded. People like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Mahler, Ravel, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Shostakovich are among those composers would CHANGED western music.

Forgive me as I am writing my responses here while reading your entry (disclaimer on jumping around with ideas).

Clearly, Ysaÿe IS considered no more than a footnote in the history of music, I never said he was more than that. I also never meant to imply that his impact should be more than particularly significant with regard to the history of violinists. I did say, however, that his music can most certainly be APPRECIATED by non-violinists--that his music can pass the test of audience appreciation among even non-musicians. Why else would the "Ballade," for example, get such large ovations as a long encore? His Poemes are fantastic as well, just as an aside.

One aspect of Ysaÿe's life I think you are overlooking was his popularity as a conductor, particularly in the U.S. He conducted the Cincinatti Symphony for several years after his enormous success as a touring violinist, composed several works, and was a renowned teacher. He was truly a complete musician, who TODAY is underappreciated, in my opinion.

As for your final paragraph, I too have a very diverse library of music. Yes, I own dozens of recordings of the same piece by different players, but I'm also very involved in all music genres as a player and listener. While classically trained and engaged in that genre by trade, I'm also in a regularly performing classical and jazz string duo, I'm leader and fiddle player in a contemporary country music band, am active as a conductor and performance clinician, and I listen to everything from film music to Eminem, from Brad Paisley to OKGO, and from Ella & Frank to Poulenc and Schoenberg. My father is a musicologist (Berlioz and 19th century music are his specialty), so I enjoy the research side of music as well as the performing side.

Again, I never meant to offend. I was trying to engage in a healthy discussion and perhaps challenge the perceptions we have grown up hearing from our professors.

All the best,


January 10, 2007 at 02:49 AM · Hi Mr. Wilson,

I have to run right now but I read the first line of your post. I'm not at all offended, and least of all angry. I thought all along that this was just an academic discussion.

So, if there's no problems on your side, I'm fine here. I'll read the rest of what you wrote in a bit, and hopefully I can learn something.



January 10, 2007 at 03:09 AM · Greetings,

>I thought all along that this was just an academic discussion.

Pieter there is nothing more violent or pointles s than most discussions by academics. Fortunately Mr. Wilson occupies another universe;)



January 10, 2007 at 04:33 AM · Bravo Buri!

I certainly enjoy our exchanges, gentlemen.

Thanks to Laurie Niles for the opportunity.

Pieter, I'm the one learning things here.

You have inspired me to do more research on Paganini.

I suppose the most frustrating thing from an historical perspective is that so many of the greatest 20th century violinists recorded Bach and Paganini but chose NOT to record Ysaÿe. Of course the notable exceptions are Oistrakh, Rabin, and Fodor (and perhaps now Vengerov...okay, so there's also Kremer, Zimmerman, Shumsky, etc.). I just wish there were Ysaÿe recordings by Heifetz, Milstein, or Perlman. Perhaps Hilary Hahn would be willing to record them? I really like Leila Josefowicz' "Ballade" and "Kreisler."



January 10, 2007 at 05:17 AM · i second the leila josefowicz Ysaye recordings - nice to know these are among the best since i haven't heard all of the recordings Peter has.

January 10, 2007 at 05:37 AM · Jim,

Leila actually misreads a few rhythms (in the 4th Sonata); however, the music she makes, the brilliance of her sound, and her overall energy would have made even Ysaÿe himself very proud, I believe.

Her "Ballade" was the first I've ever heard where the middle section sounded like Wagnerian waves. She approaches the sonata like it's a Strauss tone poem . . . riveting.



January 10, 2007 at 11:00 AM · Hi,

"Ballade" is also available from Mr. Andreas Lucke. Visit for a listen-in.

Bye, Juergen

January 10, 2007 at 12:47 PM · Juergen,

It looks as though Lucke also recorded Ysaÿe No. 6 (Quiroga) on a different CD, after further research. Thanks for the link! I will add it to my discography.

Best wishes,


January 11, 2007 at 12:29 AM · I think it won't be too long before Bell or Hahn will release a recording with at least the Ballade on it.

January 11, 2007 at 02:25 AM · Mr. Wilson,

My apologies, I've been lazy in getting back to you. First of all, I should say that your comparison of Liszt to Paganini on a musical basis is quite dissapointing. Liszt's symphonic works, not only Les Preludes, are taken fairly seriously. He was one of the first to adopt the tone poem, and his lieder are often performed. Also, critical acclaim or abhorrence has little to no relevance to what we think of the accepted canon today. There's an absolutely littany of critical scorn of works which are now today's bread and butter, the most bankable pieces for orchestras.

On to Paganini. What I think you're failing to realize is that even though people will have looked to Beethoven's triumph of a concerto for its form, the virtuosity of violin concertos certainly increased after and during the prominence of Paganini. You see the artificial harmonics, fingered octaves, tenths, and rapid scales/arpeggios all over the concertos comming after Brahms and his ilk.

I find it interesting that you invoke Ysaye's conducting career as proof of a well rounded artist with gravitas, and do not focus solely on his compositions to extoll him. If you applied the same level of observation to Paganini, you'd learn that his influence had a great deal to do with his performance and public persona, not just the compositions.

Music is not some nebulous force that exists in its own parallel universe. It is very much the victim and perpatrator of social change. Paganini was in a small way, part of this social change. At the beginning of the 19th century, one sees a sharp increase in the middle class and a greater agency of people of non noble birth. Music used to reflect the aristocratic monopolization of "fine" music and the other "refined" aesthetics, through the subserviance of Haydn and Mozart, the two giants of the Classical era.

Like I said before, Beethoven started to break that mold and he himself became a man of great consequence, whose work stood on its own, demanding the respect of the aristocracy. Paganini created the idea of superstardom in "classical" music, because of his intrigue and abilities. No longer would it always be just about the music, but also about the man. It was about the empowerment of the non aristocrat. Now we say that we're going to see Hillary Hahn. Not hear Brahm's violin concerto. We say, "last week I saw Yo-Yo". Not, "I heard the Elgar cello concerto last week".

I've read many a time about the more selfless aesthetic predating the romantic era, and how that dissolved into a sort of egoism. Well, granted that Pagannini might very well have been the first modern virtuoso, he would have started a trend that persists today. A trend that means that the individual often overshadows the work. Their personality on the instrument preceeds them, and therefore it doesn't really matter what they're comming to play as long as it's the Mendelssohn or something else which is about as well known in the classical world as "Happy Birthday". Most of us want to hear the man or the woman, give us THEIR take on X work.

So, I think in our times where we are so caught up in celebrity even in our quaint little world of "old dead white guys", Paganini is extremely significant. His histrionics and legendary tours, the live performances, are what created a market for people like Ysaye.

Regardless of what you think of his compositions, Paganini also had a great deal to do with the many many virtuosic writings of the 19th century, not to mention the showpiece programs of the early 20th C. like you mentioned. It's interesting that you use audience reaction as a barometer for musical value, (citing how people love no3. "Ballade"). If this premise were true, then a successful reading of God Save the King or Nel Cor, which often times results in a type of praise just short of knighthood, would make your assertion highly problematic.

In the end I think it's important to consider the person's impact on society at large, all of music at large, and our little instrument as well. On all three counts, I think Paganini is the most significant, when compared to Ysaye.


Buri, I agree. I'm at university and have been struggling with my hatred of academia for a long time. I love learning and discourse, but I cannot stand its institutionalization. I cannot wait to get out of here. I used to the word "academic" because Mr. Wilson was discussing his thesis. My apologies for degrading him and myself in such a way. If I sound academic, please slit my throat when I'm not looking.

January 11, 2007 at 09:19 AM · I agree with much of what Pieter has written.

I truly admire Paganini. It was as a young boy after first hearing Ricci play Paganini's first and second violin concertos that I started reading about him and drew inspiration for the violin. Nevertheless if I were to play devil's advocate to Ysaye for a moment (interesting considering the devil was supposedly on Paganini's side), there are several things I could note.

Though it existed before him, Paganini popularized the role of the great soloist/composer and pyrotechnical playing ('superstardom' as Pieter says). His star quality, I agree, definitely cannot be extracted from society but was a part of it. That would be the part played by a literally unknown making good, without the aid of others in the genre. This had a lot of shock value, and still does.

Perhaps more importantly, it is entirely questionable as to whether Paganini invented any techniques at all. Most references I've read have shown someone else (in particular August Durant) to have first used the majority, if not all, his famous techniques. So yes, he made them famous. But he didn't invent them. He was very secretive about his compositions and about his style of playing, and this actually came back to haunt him somewhat since there is no real Paganini style of composition, nor a Paganini School. Paganini was born, played the violin extraordinarily, and died.

Ysaye carried on in this tradition of soloist/composer, yet also added a level of emotion and history to his playing that disinterested Paganini. His friends were those connected in the musical and violinistic world, among them, Joseph Joachim, Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann, and Anton Rubinstein. He wasn't that person, literally unknown, making good.

Ysaye also interpreted the then popular works (violin concertos by Mendelsohn, Brahms, and Beethoven for example) that also held no interest for Paganini (eg., the Paganini who refused to play 'Harold in Italy'). As for Liszt, he undoubtedly admired Paganini (especially when young), but there is more historical information known regarding his promoting, along with Wagner and others, of Beethoven. Ysaye incorporated these values, both as regards performance and as regards composition.

And compositionally, Paganini's works were written to show off his capabilities, little more. The orchestration of the concertos, for example, is very thin, and only exists to back up the violinist. They lack any serious degree of compositional polyphony, and are mostly drawn from the operatic themes he studied.

On the other hand, Ysaye as a composer, worked with a broader range of compositional techniques and idioms (i.e., baroque, classical, romantic, post-romantic, impressionism/expressionism) as well as deeply understanding those styles of his French associates: Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, César Franck, and Ernest Chausson.

As Gitlis said, 'there is no development to Paganini', Paganini was singular, in many ways incomparable. Ysaye came from a long tried and true line of violinists: Jean-Francois Tiby-de Beriot-Vieuxtemps-Wieniawski. This tradition includes many of the great violinists of today. And it goes back to Viotti not Paganini.

So if Paganini was a god then Ysaye was the head of the class for the rest of us mere mortals, and he was no Moses. Ysaye we know about, he has a detailed and exact history. Paganini, despite the volumes written, we can mostly only guess about. Paganini is an idea, Ysaye is something we can touch.

But then again I'm only playing devil's advocate.

January 11, 2007 at 01:03 PM · This discussion makes me think about the performance practice and technical approach of late romantic and (the beginnings of) modern violin playing.

To me, there seems to be a taboo in the violin world about 19th Century/early 20th century violin playing. We have modern players, and baroque players, and baroque violinists who play classical era pieces, and modern violinists who play with gut strings, and so on. But, so far, no one seems to be standing up and making a career out of mid to late 19th C violin playing style. Well, probably there is no money in it.

I suppose it is too close for comfort. The modern players and learners seem reluctant to look afresh at the old way of playing the violin. They feel that modern scientific approaches to technique have advanced beyond fuddy-duddy grandpa violin playing. We are better players than Grandpa was. Nice guy but...heck. Things move on.

But I like the older style (from what evidence I can get my hands and ears on). The earliest recordings reflect a mostly 19th C tradition.

January 11, 2007 at 08:36 PM · Mr. Barker,

I will maintain that I never said he invented said techniques. He merely brought them into the public consciousness, and made people copy him.

Eddie Van Halen didn't really invent tapping, but after VH1 came out, every single last guitarist in the 1980s was doing it. Malmsteen didn't invent sweep arpeggios, but again, all the 80s guitarists were doing it, and citing him as the creator and king of said technique.

January 11, 2007 at 10:39 PM ·

January 11, 2007 at 10:46 PM · I have one specific question about the "Obsession" - #2: 1st mvt., m.9. The 1st and 3rd G's are marked G#. The 2nd is marked G natural. I would not presume to tell Ysaye how to compose! Yet that G natural in the middle sounds wrong to me. It feels like they should all be G#. Any chance that it's a textual error?

January 11, 2007 at 10:41 PM · Greetings,


>To me, there seems to be a taboo in the violin world about 19th Century/early 20th century violin playing.

That is a very wide slice of time and I am not entirely onvinced it is true. One player who defintley investigates the styles of playing of the periods of music she plays is Elizabeth Walfisch. Many other player sand pertormers have investigated a lot of aspects of 19th century performance practice, particularly from an ochestral point of view. Playing Berlioz and Beethoven under Norrington was a revelaiton for me. Harnoncourt also willingly undertakes htese kidns of investigations.

There have been explorations of Paginin`s technique and others by players like Ricci who discuss these things and how they can contribute to technique. I learnt about the unhooking of the finger guitar technique a la Paginini from my teacher long before I had evern heard of Ricci.

>We have modern players, and baroque players, and baroque violinists who play classical era pieces, and modern violinists who play with gut strings, and so on. But, so far, no one seems to be standing up and making a career out of mid to late 19th C violin playing style. Well, probably there is no money in it.

It seems to me you are now offering a somewhat different time frame and I am not exactly clear it is one is supposed ot be imitating. There is a certain amount of recorded evidence and more documentray, of the way Sarasate and Joachim played .It would not be hard to imitate what they did, but can it really be said to be part of a

claerly identifiable style of playing called late 19th c. I can@t really see it. We can elarn a lot from Joachims playign and mucicianship, but records of his concerts have suggested he was wildly inconsisetent, had agreat deal of trouble with nerves and I am doubful about his ability to handle the range of styles and repertoire modern players do. Indee dhte argument is as pointless as asking `how would Paginini do in the modern world?~ The answer wold be `whatever` for the simple reason that the notion of paginini is inextricably lined with his age. We can only talk of @the modern Paginini` when we refer to player swho have had an equavalently potent revolutionary effect.

One such player was Heifetz, irrespective of whether you like his playing. But are we now saying that and Joachim are similar styles? I don@t think thats it. Szigeti talks about a generational shift brought about by Elman, Kreilser and Heifetz. So which style are you referring to that you would like musicians to explre?I could teach someone how to imitate Kreislers technique quite easily but Flesch himself many years ago warned about this kind of unique talent that was so psychically profound the transcended a manner of playing that wa sreally ratehr limited. It would take a rare talent to get by today using the bow in the eccentric and dare one say limted way that Kreisler did.

It is remarkably easy to imitate Heifetz, consider the narrative of Ayk in her book about Heifez. There is nothing worse than listenign to young player simitating their favorite violinst at the expense of their own sound and individuality.

It used to crop

up all the time except this generaton has new heroes with new quirks to copy.. But if we are not imitating them then how exactly are we researcvhing their styles and performing that way?

> The modern players and learners seem reluctant to look afresh at the old way of playing the violin.

I don@t know how this generalization can be supported. Hilary Hahn for examplesaid in an interview that , like you, she loved tyhe old guys such as HHuberman (me too). Ilya Gringolts has expressed a prefernece for Szigeti.

>They feel that modern scientific approaches to technique have advanced beyond fuddy-duddy grandpa violin playing.

So it is really rather hard, in my opinion, to identify who `they` are and I susepct opinions and ideas about violin playing exist across teh whole spectrum. A genuine virtuouso and musician never has a closed mind to any kind of violin playing or technique.Only the quality involved...

>We are better players than Grandpa was. Nice guy but...heck. Things move on.

I think one could make quite a long list of the ways violin playing has moved on.

>But I like the older style (from what evidence I can get my hands and ears on). The earliest recordings reflect a mostly 19th C tradition.

Again , it depends on your perspective, but actually I think they rfelect the beginning of 20c tradition.



January 12, 2007 at 12:36 AM · I think that's important Pieter, and my devil's advocacy of Ysaye is also in agreement.

Perhaps you are saying more here? Not that I'm saying you said this (but maybe you are)...maybe it's that technological innovation, when popularized, takes on a locus of its own and is passed on to new generations irregardless of school? I'd agree with such a statement. T. Kuhn has a theory that is widely accepted in the history of science that, more or less, says the same thing. And even though he is talking pure science I still think the analogy holds.

Yet part of the mystery around Paganini is due in part to the simple fact of his secrecy. We think, 'who knows what he could have passed on'? This is usually the problem associated with that genius which pops into being on the historical stage being, at once, both its own antecedence and consequence and having little in common while in existence.

But we just don't know. Hendrix popularized and greatly influenced pedal guitar effects. It wasn't written down, but passed on verbally (from those who imitated it) as is the medium of oral history. Yet no serious guitar software effects package is senza a Hendrix sound.

And questions and statements like these not made any more easy by the fact that the platform of technology and society are constantly changing, as Stephen notes above. How much of Hendrix is in Van Halen, for instance? Newton was a great thinker, a genius who caused a scientific revolution. But what then of Einstein?

And, as regards the history of the violin, I think there is also a Paganini sound other than that heard within his own compositions or via the many imitations of it. But what is it exactly? And even if we can describe it, how much of it can we say is in the works of, say, Wieniawski, Ysaye, Ernst, Sarasate, and Wilhelmj, and how much was their own?

Was Paganini a 'shaker and mover' or more one than the other? If he was both, was he moreso of one that Joachim? I would think that Joachim is more important as regards the current state of violin artistry than Paganini, even granting this comparison has nothing to do with pyrotechnicality. I think it has to do with the actual transmission of knowlege, the teaching of techniques, and in the final instance, with the pedagogical advancement of artisty. Those things, which unfortunately, were not in Paganini's vocabulary, neither after nor before he lost his teeth.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants. But most of us need a little help to see the best balancing point.

On a side note, it's interesting that Ysaye was probably the first to say that Paganini's compositions appeared to be composed on the guitar. I think Eliot Fisk would agree.

January 12, 2007 at 02:18 AM · Jon O,

You make an excellent observation--one to which I make a loose reference in my lecture on Ysaÿe's sonatas. My argument is that to ignore Ysaÿe's markings in his music is to essentially play them wrong. His markings are inseperable from the music for the very reason that they truly capture his STYLE of playing (and that of the late 19th century violin "school"). I am certainly not advocating the practice of applying such style to all music, even if is from the late 19th century. THAT is a decision that should be made by the performer in conjunction with their knowledge of what the composer intended.

Ysaÿe's sonatas, on the other hand, REQUIRE that style--which is clearly laid out by the composer through his markings (e.g. specific fingerings that cause a smearing between notes while shifting, using the whole bow rapidly at the beginning of a group of notes causing a swell in sound, etc.) It would be the equivalent of the mid to late 20th century composers who commonly asked violinists to slide between notes, bend pitch, etc.


January 12, 2007 at 02:27 AM · Raphael,

Great question regarding the "Obsession." I hadn't actually considered it myself and you got me thinking. First, for the record (to answer your question), the G-natural IS good. I looked again at my copy of the manuscripts and the natural symbol is clearly there by Ysaÿe's hand. At this point, while you are correct that perhaps the G# sounds "better" to the ear, one could argue that the nightmare Ysaÿe is painting here requires such alarming tones, if you will. I tried to look in context to each of the similar statements (none are identical to the one you cited), and the closest similar "alarming" tone could be the 2nd note of m. 4 (E-natural), which might sound better (more in the tonal fabric) as an F-natural. Thanks for the question!



January 12, 2007 at 04:48 AM · Thanks for the answer! I also re-listened to my recording of Aaron Rosand who does play the G natural. In fact I listened to the beginning 3 times to make sure, because that passage goes like the wind in his hands, which makes it much less jarring, and part of the whole violent sweeping away (as I interpret it) of "No, not that Bach tune again!"

January 12, 2007 at 08:01 AM · Thanks Buri and Peter for your great feedback.

Buri I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and I always look forward to your posts. I'm worn out at the moment -- I don't have an ounce of energy left so I can't respond with anything more than a pathetic effort so I won't bother. I had a job interview today, plus various other happenings.

PS I got the job!

January 12, 2007 at 01:17 PM · Hi,

Jon - your point and question are interesting. It is true that late 19th early 20th century performance practice is not fully explored.

Not many are venturing down that path. Sergiu Luca has done some projects with late 19th century strings and a period piano.

I myself did a project for Cornell University around the Joachim circle with his string setup from that period and a Graff piano. Truly was a revelation. Especially finding out through Malcolm Bilson what a lot of the markings in score actually mean instead of how we interpret them today.

I think that a lot has to do with a subjective choice. People know the 19th century style through recording and choose to reject it in favour the modern way. With baroque and classical period performances, we have only written suggestions and the equipment to show us the way, and we have created a modern version of that approach. I think that a lot has to do with that.

Incidentally, the best compliment I received after that period concert that I did above was "you have a great tone that really reminds of players from the first part of the 20th century." Still past Joachim, but it was indeed a great compliment.

I actually personally find that if one plays the Ysaÿe sonatas following his suggestions (as he mentions in the first page) for fingerings and bowings, and using a style closer to his with all the expressive devices of the time, it actually makes them technically easier to play.

My own two cents early in the morning...


January 12, 2007 at 05:00 PM · Hi,

german-japanese violinist Susanna Yoko Henkel played Ysayes Sonata no. 2 in A minor (together with Bach E major Partita, Bartok solo sonata and Yun, koenigliches Thema"). For me, it is a great recording.

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