Eugène Ysaÿe, classical music composer

Eugène Ysaÿe image

Eugène Ysaÿe


Eugène Ysaÿe was one the greatest violinist in the history of the instrument, a rare talent that but only a few has ever approached. Born in Liège, Belgium on July 16, 1858, Ysaÿe received his first lessons on the violin from his father, whom he would recognize later in life as the foundation for everything he knew about his instrument. He progressed well enough on the violin to be admitted to the Conservatoire at Liège at the age of seven, where he studied with Désiré Heynberg. Surprisingly, however, he was later kicked out of the school for lack of progress, which was partly due to his having to support his family by playing full-time in two local orchestras. Nevertheless, Ysaÿe persevered. He continued to practice and learn the repertoire of the violin. At the age of twelve, his playing drew the attention of the famous Henri Vieuxtemps. Impressed with the young lad's skill, Vieuxtemps took Ysaÿe under his wing, first assigning him to study with his assistant, Henryk Wieniawski, and later with himself.

Under Vieuxtemps tutelage, Ysaÿe became a part of the Franco-Belgium school of violin performance, which focused on elegance and a precise left hand technique. His own personal style, however, would find the golden middle ground between the austerity of Joseph Joachim and the superficial virtuosity of Pablo de Sarasate. At the age of twenty-seven, Ysaÿe began his career as a concert artist. Though due to health reasons, his performing career would last only a quarter of a century, he left an indelible mark on the history of the instrument, and influenced several notable artists. His interpretations of the works of Bach and Beethoven were highly regarded, and he was a great supporter of the late 19th century composers. Several composed works especially for Ysaÿe to performed, including César Franck who wrote his beautiful Sonata in A major as a wedding present for Ysaÿe. In 1886, he established the Ysaÿe Quartet which would later premiere Claude Debussy's String Quartet.

As complications from diabetes gradually interfered with his ability to perform, Ysaÿe turned more to teaching and composition. Many of his compositions were for strings, either in a chamber or orchestral setting. Among his most well-known works are his six sonatas for unaccompanied violin, intentionally modeled after Bach's sonatas and each dedicated to a famous contemporary violinist. Apart from his works for strings, Ysaÿe did compose one opera, Piére li houyeû (Peter the Miner), which was well-received but failed to become a part of the standard repertoire. Diabetes continued to take its toll on Ysaÿe's health in his later years. He died at his home in Brussels on May 12, 1931.

Composer Title Date Action
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata for Violin solo, “Ballade" in d minor, Op.27, No. 3 03/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata No. 3 in d minor for solo violin, "Ballade" 05/07/2009 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata No.4 05/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Poème élégiaque for Violin and Piano in d minor, Op. 1 01/27/2009 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata No. 2 in A minor 12/11/2009 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata for Violin solo, “Ballade" in d minor, Op.27, No. 3 07/20/2011 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata no.3 op.27, "Ballade" 12/29/2011 Play
Eugène Ysaÿe Caprice d'après l'Etude en forme de Valse de Saint-Saëns, Op. 52 11/29/2012 Play Add to playlist
Eugène Ysaÿe Sonata for Violin Solo, Op. 27, No. 6 09/22/2013 Play Add to playlist