V.com weekend vote: What is your favorite Ysaÿe Sonata?

July 14, 2023, 11:56 AM · This week violinist Hilary Hahn released her new recording of Eugene Ysaÿe's Six Sonatas for Solo violin, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of their composition. So I thought it would be a good time to talk about the Ysaÿe Sonatas. Do you know them? Which is your favorite?

Ysaye Ballade

As Hilary explained in our interview with her, Ysaÿe was inspired by Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. He was also inspired by his contemporaries, dedicating each sonata to a violinist: Joseph Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, Mathieu Crickboom and Manuel Quiroga (in that order).

If you would like to listen to them, I'd certainly recommend her new recording - you can start here, the entire thing is on Youtube - here is the playlist:

As for picking a favorite - it's a tough call. At one point I might have picked No. 3, the "Ballade," which is just so compelling. But I also really, really love No. 5 "L'Aurore," which is a musical depiction of dawn - it's a slow burn, but in the end, a truly glorious sunrise! But then, there's No. 2 "Obsession" - with the Dies Irae dancing with Bach.

So it's hard to decide, but what is your favorite, at least today? And if you only know one, it's okay to just pick that one. And if you don't know any, have a listen, and pick one! Then tell us your thoughts, in the comments. Do you play these works? What do you like about them? What do you find challenging?

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July 14, 2023 at 10:31 PM · Really miss the 'I don't know them' bailout on this one! I confess, I picked one at random ;)

July 15, 2023 at 04:30 AM · You can listen to them for free! Try the Ballade, Elise. Then you can vote in good conscience, lol!

July 15, 2023 at 02:19 PM · Although I don’t really have a favorite, I did vote for 2. I find the first 2 movements catchy, and it’s not too hard to maintain a sense of key. The 3rd movement is just one part of these sonatas that reminds me a little of the violin solos Richard Strauss wrote for his symphonic poem Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”).

HH gets a great sound here. I’ve played the whole album - plus a few repeats of selected tracks within the playlist.

July 16, 2023 at 03:08 AM · I voted for 2, but I have to be honest: it's the only one I'd heard before I saw this poll.

July 16, 2023 at 03:56 PM · Glad to introduce you to them!

July 16, 2023 at 06:58 PM · I've been listening to the Ysaye Sonatas back when the only LP I could find at the record store (remember those?) was the one recorded by Charles Castlemam, who coincidentally, is now teaching at the University of Miami, just across the street from the now-defunct record store I used to shop at (Spec's Music) decades ago.

July 16, 2023 at 09:24 PM · When I was young in Cincinnati people still talked in hushed tones regarding Ysaye.

They said he was one of their own and for 4 years while conducting there, indeed he was.

He was well loved and appreciated there.

July 17, 2023 at 02:53 PM · they are much more fun to play than to listen to

July 17, 2023 at 04:38 PM · Ilya Kaler's recording on Naxos is very impressive. I'm looking forward to hearing how HH matches up.

July 17, 2023 at 06:51 PM · My copy of the Ysaye set is gathering dust at the bottom of the Etude stack, next to the Paganini and the Wieniawski. For some unfortunate reason, perhaps from being older and on the wrong side of the learning curve, I don't enjoy listening to violin solos that are far beyond my skill level. Rhetorical question; would a clarinet or trumpet player want to buy that recording?

July 21, 2023 at 12:20 PM · Bach + Reger + Sarasate = Ysaÿe. I like all of them; hard to decide on a favorite. And another endorsement of Ilya Kaler’s recording on Naxos - very clean, polished, and thoughtful interpretations, as always. HH does a great job in her new recording…

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