Eugène Ysaÿe sketched out his six sonatas for solo violin in just 24 hours, after hearing a concert by the violinist Joseph Szigeti in which the latter played the G Minor Sonata BMV 1001 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The 65-year-old Ysaÿe dedicated each of his op. 27 sonatas to a different violinist – he portrayed their characters in the sonatas, but also showed whom he ideally wanted as interpreter for each work.
Johann Sebastian Bach can be clearly felt as a model in many passages in Ysaÿe’s sonatas, whether in the relationship between major and minor, in note-for-note quotes or in the movements’ structures. However, whereas Ysaÿe’s op. 27 sonatas are full of the sagacity of age, Bach’s sonatas and partitas are very early works. Bach was just 31 years old when he composed these masterpieces of the violin literature. But they still capture “the whole of life in its unbelievable complexity,” says Antje Weithaas.
Recording Ysaÿe’s sonatas together with the solo sonatas and partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach, thus placing them in direct contrast with one another, was Antje Weithaas’ own idea. “The Bach works are very well known. But those by Ysaÿe? He is always being put in the virtuoso category, but also always wanted to be considered a serious composer. And in my eyes, he is!”