'The most outstanding and individual violinist I have ever heard in my life.' - Carl Flesch
Belgian violinist, composer and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe was born in Liège on 16 July 1858 and from the age of five, studied the violin with his father. From age seven, he studied with Désiré Heynberg at the Liège Conservatoire for four years, but had to leave because of lack of progress, due to full-time work playing in local orchestras. Henri Vieuxtemps arranged for Ysaÿe to be readmitted, and this time he studied with Henryk Wieniawski, and later with Vieuxtemps.
He began his career as principal violin with the Benjamin Bilse beer-hall orchestra, then began working as a concert soloist and teacher. New works were dedicated to him, including high profile pieces by Chausson, Franck and Saint-Saëns.
He founded the Ysaÿe Quartet in 1886, and this group gave the first performance of his friend Claude Debussy's String Quartet.
Ysaÿe was diabetic, and as his health deteriorated, he turned to composition, conducting and teaching. His works include music for solo violin, violin and piano, chamber music, orchestral music and concertos, and an opera Peter the Miner, set to a text in the Walloon language. His six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op 27, incorporate unusual pizzicato and chordal effects. For four years he was conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. His pupils included Nathan Milstein, Louis Persinger and William Primrose.
Eugène Ysaÿe died in Brussels on 12 May 1931, aged seventy-two.
A selection of M&V articles about Eugène Ysaÿe
CD Spotlight. Violinistic Aggression - Herwig Zack, heard by the late Howard Smith. 'Others are more brilliant but few, if any, more powerful.'
CD Spotlight. Bring back Wieniawski! - Kelly Hall-Tompkins' violin recital, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... a sparkling account ...'
Ensemble. High Ambitions - Michael Landes was at the American Protégé Winners' recital on 14 May 2017 in Carnegie Hall
CD Spotlight. Adventurous Disposition - Sophie Rosa and Benjamin Powell, heard by Gerald Fenech. 'A wonderfully attractive recital ...'
CD Spotlight. Interpretative Compass - Jennifer Koh plays Bach and more, heard by Howard Smith. '... divine, finely-spun tone ...'
Rich Colours - Mike Wheeler listens to the Eblana String Trio and pianist Andrew Dunlop
Ensemble. Beautifully Precise - Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Ysaÿe from the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Exemplary Fashion - Francis Gouton's solo cello, heard by Howard Smith. '... a richly nuanced Gallic flair and beautiful tonal capabilities ...'
CD Spotlight. Loads of Variety - Latin music from Rachel Barton Pine, recommended by Howard Smith. '... immaculate, relaxed, resonant performances ...'
CD Spotlight. Highly Challenging - Music for unaccompanied violin, heard by Howard Smith. '... searching performance ...'
Outstanding and unforgettable - Lilya Zilberstein's recital at London's Wigmore Hall impresses Bill Newman
Record Box. A Theoretician's Knowledge - Andrew Violette's Sonata for unaccompanied violin, reviewed by Howard Smith
Ensemble. Drama and Bite - A concert by the Op 3 piano trio, reviewed by Malcolm Miller