The Violinist’s Practice Desk – Resource Page for Ysaÿe and de Bériot

Posted on June 22nd, 2020 by


The violinists’ practice desk in action – 24 6 2020
Audio trasnscription of the talk – the resources mentioned are all to to be found below.

Eugène Ysaÿe – Sonate No. 4 Op 27 (dedicated to Fritz Kreisler)

4. Stricture and freedoms. Ysaÿe – 4th Sonata/ Charles de Bériot – Caprice ‘in imitation of the old masters’: The apparent contradiction between the freedom of the performer and the strictures demanded by a composer through their score is perhaps most famously to be found in Eugène Ysaÿe’s six solo sonatas, which give near-complete technical guides for performance. What does the modern player do? Are we entitled to break free? Or is liberation to be found in what Enesco called ‘dancing in chains

Ysaye’s list of signs and abbreviations. A model for any composer (if we violinists can be bothered to read them)
Charles-Auguste de Bériot – Study in Imitation of the Old Masters
Fritz Kreisler’s work dedicated to Eugène Ysaÿe before WW1
Ysaye at the time that he wrote the Solo Sonatas
Charles de Beriot in later life
PSS playing the ‘Kreisler’ Del Gesu. Library of Congress, May 2008. Photo; Richard Bram
Working with Ysaye’s detail


In the midst of practising Joseph Joachim’s ‘study in all the positions’-my hand stumbled across a passage that is recognised. I am going to offer it here, to remind myself how all composers, all performers, sing from the same hymnsheet, or as Tolkein might have it, use the same ‘wheel of stories’.  Here is the passage which struck me.  

From Joachim Study ' in the all the positions.


I have bracketed the passage in question. It is unlike the rest of the study, in that it uses a form of chromatic ‘slippage’ which Joachim has eschewed in the rest of this tonally straightfoward Etude. So it stood out-and the key of the piece alerted my attention still further. It is clearly the source for the following: Now, I do not wish to suggest for a moment that Ysaye was stealing-this is, of course, from the first page of the Solo Sonata which he dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, the fourth. The material which is related to the Joachim above bridges betwen the opening rhetoric, into the more formal thematic subsatnce of the the first movement.

MS of Ysaye 4th Sonata – Page 1

However, as is clear from this extract from Ysaye’s manuscript, he had a little trouble with this passage. I wonder, if while wrestling with this, Joachim’s little sequence popped into his mind, and provided the way out. This Sonata, after all, is fraught with references to other pieces-from Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro, to the Biber “Der Schutzengel als Begleiter des Menschen” , so this obscure riffing on a Joachim exercise, is hardly a standout. I just enjoy the idea of a quiet conversation between this two giants, as private as can be, unwittingly sharing material. Ysaye at the time that he wrote the Solo Sonatas. This is


scholarship, just an idea that popped up in the practice room, where the company of such gentle giants is always welcome….