Edited: January 12, 2020, 7:18 AM · I bought Zehetmair's Ysaye sonatas on a recommendation, but I don't think they do anything for me emotionally. Maybe I wasn't listening closely enough. What about you?

Replies (28)

January 12, 2020, 8:09 AM · Yuval Yaron
Edited: January 12, 2020, 9:27 AM · The emotion the Ysaye sonatas stir in me is FEAR
-- ever since a European-conservatory-trained violinist friend gifted me her copy of the sheet music about 20 years ago.

I passed that copy on to an different violinist friend a few years later, but he returned it to me last year when he lost his sight (went blind). I have not looked at it since.

Listening to recordings of this music raises feelings of admiration for the players' ability - but that's about it.

I attended a Midori-led 4-player master class a couple of years ago where one of the college age players offered one of the Ysaye sonatas (she was impressive). This player was the only one of the 4 for which Midori had no constructive comments and for which she did not even remove her own violin from its case and demonstrate something.

P.S. I just ordered the Yuval Yaron recording. Maybe I will find the emotion.

January 12, 2020, 9:17 AM · Andy, for fun, you might try No. 2. It's not that hard.
January 12, 2020, 9:26 AM · Lydia, Thanks I'll give it a try when I find the music. My hands are getting awfully old for the twists and turns of Ysaye!
Edited: January 12, 2020, 11:40 AM · The Ysaye sonatas are the antithesis of what an erstwhile contributor to this forum would call "catchy." My theory is that Ysaye sat down with his pen and asked himself, "What can I write that would be sort of like the Bach S&P but harder to play and harder to listen to?"

Ysaye isn't the only one to catch this disease. There's also Shostakovich Op. 87.

Edited: January 12, 2020, 1:46 PM · Yuval Yaron at £65 I'll decline, thanks!


January 12, 2020, 2:25 PM · I just looked at no. 2 in IMSLP. Consumer warning: When Lydia says something is "not that hard" it is still very difficult!
January 12, 2020, 2:56 PM · Yuval Yaron - one of the most amazing violinists ever.
January 12, 2020, 3:51 PM · I've been enjoying the Kavakos recordings recently. No shortage of emotion in there, though he does seem to be doing his best Ned Flanders impression on the cover!

Edited: January 12, 2020, 4:25 PM · Yaron is amazing. Some of his set is on Youtube. Oscar Shumsky also recorded the set-- I don't have firm opinions on that vs all the others, though. Michael Rabin did record #3 & 4.

I also saw a masterclass featuring Ysaye-- the Ballade #3. Joseph Silverstein was running it, and (as he often did) spent a fair bit of commentary on the historical context. He did have some technical advice, though. IIRC, scales in fourths were one way to get the hands around some unfamiliar intervals.

Edited: January 13, 2020, 2:43 AM · @Paul "What can I write that would be sort of like the Bach S&P but harder to play and harder to listen to?"

Yes. I wonder how similar Busoni is in this respect. I've always had him down as a professional gilder of the lily, but others think there is more to him.

January 13, 2020, 3:08 AM · What I don't see on this thread is somebody advocating these sonatas--not maybe to play but to listen to. Any takers?
Edited: January 13, 2020, 4:02 AM · I like them! I have them by Ricci on LP.
Various artists play them on U-Toob.

Late Romantic styles on solo violin require intensive listening. Flesch criticises Reger's solo works for this reason. Imagine arranging the prelude to Tristan & Isolde for solo violin..

January 13, 2020, 9:43 AM · I really like the Ysaye sonatas, and I find them to be rather exciting. I will likely never have the ability to play a single one of them, which makes me sad.

Yeah, if Lydia insists something is "easy" then we need to ask: easy for what level of player? Not easy for a purgatory member such as myself, I'm sure of that.

Edited: January 13, 2020, 11:31 AM · A recent peer-reviewed scientific study concluded that people who listen to the Ysaye sonatas fall into these categories:

35% -- People who heard it as part of a recital, who would have much preferred to hear almost anything else, but who decided it would have been rude to just leave.
30% -- Violinists who might want to play them someday or who will never play them but are curious to know what all the fuss is about.
20% -- Open-minded music lovers who buy them on a CD and listen to about half of it one time before switching quickly to a Mozart symphony to keep from going insane,
10% -- Music lovers who profess to love absolutely everything and who force themselves to listen to stuff like the Ysaye Sonatas over and over to prove to themselves that they're bona fide intellectuals,
5% -- People who actually, honest-to-God, like it.

January 13, 2020, 11:36 AM · Hahaha Paul. I think I saw a similar breakdown about Bartok on here a while back. I honest-to-God like Ysaye (and Bartok), AND I'd love to be able to play them - for the fun-challenge of it. But I'm not so unrealistic as to think that this would be possible at this stage of the game.
January 13, 2020, 11:53 AM · I've never got much pleasure from listening to (still less, attempting to play) virtuosic violin music. However I think Ilya Kaler's recording of the Ysaye sonatas is wonderful.
January 13, 2020, 11:55 AM · The Ysaye sonatas are brilliant, transcendent works. I love them to death. My favorite recording of them is Kaler's on Naxos (probably because that's the first recording of them I ever heard). There's a video on youtube somewhere of Augustin Hadelich playing Number 3 ("Ballade") that makes my jaw drop. Wait, here it is if I can make this work:


Also fantastic are the Reger solo sonatas. I love the recordings by Ulrike-Anima Mathé (again, possibly because they are the first recordings of these works that I ever heard). I think the Reger sonatas are generally superior to the Ysaye in terms of interest for the listener, but they don't have that quality of suspended time one gets with the Ysaye. YMMV.

Edited: January 13, 2020, 12:05 PM · @Pamela

Well Lydia didn't use the word "easy", but from a relative perspective Ysaye 2 is far and away the easiest of the bunch (well, except the 4th movement has some pretty obnoxious finger stretches).

I would say someone that can execute Mendelssohn, Bruch or Lalo (and as well provided you can hit a tenth) could make a good attempt at Ysaye 2.


I am the 5%!

January 13, 2020, 1:01 PM · James, on average, about one out of 20 people will be in the 5%. LOL
January 13, 2020, 1:15 PM · I'm in the 5% (with a dose of the 10%..)
I also like Bartok. All of it!
January 13, 2020, 1:47 PM · You can call me mister 5% too. But Paul isn't far wrong; even amongst violinists I don't know many who'd listen to this repertoire for enjoyment's sake. Some hardly ever listen to classical music at all unless they're playing it. Laurie, this might make for a revealing weekend vote...

But Reger eh? I guess I'll have to give him another chance.

January 13, 2020, 1:50 PM · It occurs to me self-identifying as someone in Paul's 5% is exactly what someone in his 10% of "bone-fide intellectuals" would say.

I come to this forum to have fun, not get existential self-reflection.

January 13, 2020, 3:20 PM · When I was looking at no. 2 to find out how difficult it is I listened to it while reading along. I found the first movement enjoyable, a parody of Bach's E-Major Preludio titled "obsession" (in a-minor, the dominant of which is E-Major). The second movement is titled "malinconia" which seems an obvious allusion to Beethoven op. 18/6 but the music did not reflect that. This was disappointing but otherwise I enjoyed the piece, in slow 6/8, though I did not feel it to be particularly melancholic. The following movements were all fine except for the last which overstays its welcome by a long stretch and seems dedicated only to violinistic trickery. I have listened to one or the other sonata before and the results were always in this sort of middling way, no hate and no love.

It seems that I belong to those who aren't opposed to the pieces nor big fans either, a group that is missing in our statistics.

January 13, 2020, 5:01 PM · I always get kicked off of forums I have fun on.
January 13, 2020, 5:38 PM · James wrote, "It occurs to me self-identifying as someone in Paul's 5% is exactly what someone in his 10% of 'bone-fide intellectuals' would say."

Now we're getting somewhere. :)

January 14, 2020, 4:49 AM · The "10%" can be just snobs, but they can also be "curious", or "adventurous"!

Any way, there is music like one's favorite armchair, and music like fell-walking on a windy day.

January 14, 2020, 2:53 PM · Hi,
For me ,Vengerov is the best Ysaÿe sonatas'interpreter.You can also look at Vengerov's masterclass on Ysaÿe sonatas , it's quite funny
I think you should have a look at it .

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