Six Sonatas for solo violin (Ysaÿe)

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Eugène Ysaÿe's Six sonatas for solo violin, Op. 27, is a set of sonatas for unaccompanied violin written in July 1923. Each sonata was dedicated to one of Ysaÿe’s contemporary violinists: Joseph Szigeti (No. 1), Jacques Thibaud (No. 2), George Enescu (No. 3), Fritz Kreisler (No. 4), Mathieu Crickboom (No. 5), and Manuel Quiroga (No. 6).

General background[edit]

After having heard Joseph Szigeti perform Johann Sebastian Bach's sonata for solo violin in G minor, Ysaÿe was inspired to compose violin works that represent the evolution of musical techniques and expressions of his time. As Ysaÿe claimed, "I have played everything from Bach to Debussy, for real art should be international."[1] In this set of sonatas, he used prominent characteristics of early 20th century music, such as whole tone scales, dissonances, and quarter tones. Ysaÿe also employed virtuoso bow and left hand techniques throughout, for he believed that "at the present day the tools of violin mastery, of expression, technique, mechanism, are far more necessary than in days gone by. In fact they are indispensable, if the spirit is to express itself without restraint."[2] Thus, this set of sonatas places high technical demands on its performers. Yet Ysaÿe recurrently warns violinists that they should never forget to play instead of becoming preoccupied with technical elements; a violin master "must be a violinist, a thinker, a poet, a human being, he must have known hope, love, passion and despair, he must have run the gamut of the emotions in order to express them all in his playing."[3]

Sonata No. 1, G minor, "Joseph Szigeti"[edit]

Sonata No. 1, in four movements, was dedicated to Joseph Szigeti.

  1. Grave
  2. Fugato
  3. Allegretto poco scherzoso
  4. Finale; Con brio

Sonata No. 2, A minor, "Jacques Thibaud"[edit]

Sonata No. 2, in four movements, was dedicated to Jacques Thibaud, a friend of Ysaÿe's.

  1. Obsession; Prelude
  2. Malinconia
  3. Danse des Ombres; Sarabande
  4. Les furies

Sonata No. 3, D minor, "Georges Enescu"[edit]

This sonata is a ballade in two sections entitled:

  • Ballades; Lento molto sostenuto
  • Allegro in tempo giusto e con bravura

The first performance of this sonata was given by Josef Gingold.

Sonata No. 4, E minor, "Fritz Kreisler"[edit]

  1. Allemanda
  2. Sarabande
  3. Finale

Sonata No. 5, G major, "Mathieu Crickboom"[edit]

  1. L'Aurore
  2. Danse rustique

Sonata No. 6, E major, "Manuel Quiroga"[edit]

The dedicatee never played this sonata in public. It is written in the style of a Spanish habanera, with a turbulent middle section, and notable for rich texture and chromaticism and scale passages. It is a one movement work, with the marking of "Allegro giusto non troppo vivo".


The complete "Six Sonatas" have been recorded by: Ruggiero Ricci (Vox-Candide, 1974); Gidon Kremer (Melodiya, 1976); Charles Castleman (Music & Arts, 1981); Oscar Shumsky (Nimbus, 1982); Rudolf Werthen (EMI, 1985 / reprint: Pavane Records, 1988); Lydia Mordkovitch (Chandos, 1988); Yuval Yaron (Accord, 1990); Evgenia-Maria Popova (Leman, 1991); Mateja Marinkovic (Collins, 1992); Vilmos Szabadi (Hungaroton, 1992); Stéphane Tran Ngoc (REM, 1994); Frank Peter Zimmermann (EMI, 1994); Tomoko Kato (Denon-Japan, 1995); Vincenzo Bolognese (P&P Classica, 1991 / reprint: Arts Music, 1997); Tomoko Kato (Denon, 1995); Philippe Graffin (Hyperion, 1997); Takayoshi Wanami (Denon-Somm, 1997); Leonidas Kavakos (BIS, 1999); Laurent Korcia (Lyrinx, 2000); Ilya Kaler (Naxos, 2001); Jassen Todorov (Gega New, 2001); Benjamin Schmid (Oehms Classics/Naxos, 2002); Hana Kotková (Forlane, 2002); Arisa Fujita (Intim Musik, 2004); Shunsuke Sato (Live Notes-Japan, 2004); Thomas Zehetmair (ECM, 2004); Marianne Piketty (Maguelone-France, 2006); Fanny Clamagirand (Nascor, 2007); Ray Iwazumi (Japan CD, 2008); Henning Kraggerud (Simax, 2008); Rachel Kolly d'Alba (Warner Classics, 2010); Wojciech Koprowski (Accord/Naxos, 2010); Judith Ingolfsson (Genuin, 2011); Wanchi Huang (Centaur Records, 2012); Tai Murray (Harmonia Mundi USA, 2012); Tedi Papavrami (Zig-Zag Territoires, 2012); Kristóf Baráti (Brilliant Classics, 2013); Žiga Brank (RTV Slovenia Klasika, 2013); Tianwa Yang (Naxos, 2014).

Among other notable recordings, of separate Sonatas, are: Efrem Zimbalist (No.1 - Victor, 1939); Ruggiero Ricci (No.4 - live Town Hall, One-Eleven, 1946; No.3 - One-Eleven, 1978 live; Etcetera, 1979 live); David Oistrakh (No.3 - Melodiya 1947; 1955 live; 1966); Michael Rabin (Nos.3, 4 - EMI, 1956); Ion Voicu (No.3 - 1960s; No.5 - Decca, 1965; No.6 - Electrecord, 1965); Aaron Rosand (Nos.2, 6 - Audiofon, 1988); Maxim Vengerov (No.3 - Biddulph, 1989; Nos.2, 3, 4, 6 - EMI, 2002); Leonidas Kavakos (No.6 - Début Koch International, 1990); Ilya Gringolts (No.3 - BIS, 2000); George Zacharias (No.6 - Divine Art, 2009); Vadim Gluzman (No.2 - BIS, 2012).


  1. ^ Martens, Frederick H. Violin Mastery – Talks with Master Violinists and /teachers. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Co.,1919.p.6
  2. ^ Martens, Frederick H. Violin Mastery – Talks with Master Violinists and /teachers. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Co.,1919.p.7
  3. ^ Martens, Frederick H. Violin Mastery – Talks with Master Violinists and /teachers. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Co.,1919.p.12


  • Hoaston, Karen D. Culmination of the Belgian Violin Tradition—The Innovative Style of Eugene Ysaÿe. 1999.
  • Martens, Frederick H. Violin Mastery – Talks with Master Violinists and /teachers. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Co.,1919.
  • Ysaye, Antoine. Ysaye, by his son Antoine. England: W.E.Hill and Sons, 1980.
  • Sleeve notes from CD Carlton Classics, Ysaye: Six Sonatas for Violin Solo, Ruggiero Ricci. Notes by Bill & Gill Newman.
  • Barati, Kristof Ysaÿe: Sonatas for Solo Violin Brillian Classics, 2013