Note from Rebecca Anderson: Ysaÿe's Ballade

This summer, violinist Rebecca Anderson will be playing the third unaccompanied violin sonata by Eugène  Ysaÿe. Here is an advance peek at the program notes she has written.

David Yang, Artistic Director

Rebecca Anderson, violin

Solo violin music has an almost mystical quality in the western classical music canon. My experience of performing solo repertoire has always struck me as similar to an actor’s monologue: there is a unique vulnerability, a different sense of specificity and place, and an implication to silences that changes once another performer is added to the stage.

Eugène Ysaÿe was one of the greatest violinists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and his Six Sonatas for Solo Violin are pillars of the solo violin repertoire. The Sonatas are both forward looking and a reflection on the tradition of solo violin music, with the comprehensive lens and insight of a composer who brought to his compositional style the deepest understanding of the craft of playing an instrument.

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

Ysaÿe wrote these Sonatas as a reflection on Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, creating musical throughlines as an homage to the tradition of solo violin performance while bringing to them a new vocabulary of the twentieth-century sound world. Each of the Sonatas is dedicated to a younger violinist within Ysaÿe’s circle of friends and includes specific references to each dedicatee’s personality, musical style, and artistic preferences. The Third Sonata (1923), titled “Ballade,” is dedicated to George Enescu, a violinist and composer known for his Romanian Rhapsody compositions.

In my experience on stage, there is a unique satisfaction and joy in performing a solo work written by a master of my instrument. The sense of “insider knowledge” is apparent throughout the six sonatas as Ysaÿe’s intimate understanding of virtuosic violin performance allows him to push the boundaries of violin technique, sound, and expression.

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