Innovation Created From History

After hearing Joseph Szigeti perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin in g minor, Ysaÿe was inspired to compose six violin solo sonatas inspired by J.S. Bach, but representing a modern style. He dedicated each to a violinist he admired. An excellent violinist himself, he used Bach as a model, employed contemporary and very difficult techniques, and emphasized the importance of technical proficiency balanced with musicality. In various statements, he made it clear that one could not exist without the other. Ironically, we are lucky to have those Bach sonatas, since the original manuscripts were almost sent to a factory as wrapping for butter, so the story goes. Ysaÿe inspires me by uniting historically important works with his own creativity. Also, though he certainly possessed the playing ability to perform his own works he had each premiered by a different violinist, essentially setting the work free, standing back as the composer, and letting the performer add their own inspiration. Maxim Vengerov gives my personal all time favorite performance of this work.

Karine Stone