Hergova Violins, old French Violins & bows
The violin has attracted some of classical music's most virtuosic and flamboyant soloists over the last 500 years. There are literally hundreds who could be described as truly great violinists so it's not easy picking out a particular group as being the very best. However, what one can say, is that they have all brought a great love and feeling for music to this wonderful, unique instrument that can frustrate, tease, torment, cajole and mesmerise all at the same time! We suggest you look here for a wonderful version of Max Bruch's Violin Concerto in G minor.
We want to highlight some of those players from the past and remember why, in their heyday, they were regarded as being particularly special and how, although musical tastes change, the instrument they played so well has remained pretty much the same over its' long history. It continues to dazzle and intoxicate modern audiences as much as it did 100, 200 or even 500 years ago.
Violinist of the month Eugène Ysaÿe (1858 - 1931)
Eugène Ysaÿe 16 July 1858 – 12 May 1931) was a Belgian violinist, composer and conductor. He was regarded as "The King of the Violin", or, as Nathan Milstein put it, the "tsar" and came from a family of artisans much involved with music. Born in Liege, he began violin lessons with his father at the age of 5. In his early years he studied with some of the finest players of the time including Henri Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawksi.
Studying with these teachers meant that he was part of the so-called Franco-Belgian school of violin playing, which dates back to the development of the modern violin bow by François Tourte. Qualities of this "École" included elegance, a full tone with a sense of drawing a "long" bow with no jerks, precise left hand techniques, and bowing using the whole forearm while keeping both the wrist and upper arm quiet.
He was regarded as the foremost interpreter of the string works of French and Belgian composers of his time and became the Professor of Violin athe Brussels Conservatory in 1886.
In 1894 he began in Brussels a series of orchestral concerts that introduced much new music. He also founded the Ysaÿe Quartet to which Claude Debussy dedicated the string quartet he wrote. From 1918 to 1922 Ysaÿe was conductor of the Cincinnati (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra.
Ysaÿe’s playing was known for its virtuosity, expressiveness, and intensive use of vibrato. He inspired works by César Franck (who influenced his early style), Camille Saint-Saëns, Vincent d’Indy, and Gabriel Fauré. Although Ysaÿe was a great interpreter of late Romantic and early modern composers — Max Bruch, Camille Saint-Saëns, and César Franck, who said he was their greatest interpreter — he was admired for his Bach and Beethoven interpretations. His technique was brilliant and finely honed, and in this respect he is the first modern violinist, whose technique was without the shortcomings of some earlier artists.
As a performer, Ysaÿe was compelling and highly original. Pablo Casals claimed never to have heard a violinist play in tune before Ysaÿe, and Carl Flesch called him "the most outstanding and individual violinist I have ever heard in my life." The conductor Sir Henry Wood said of him, "The quality of tone was ravishingly beautiful.... He seemed to get more colour out of a violin than any of his contemporaries."
An international violin competition in Brussels was created in his memory: in 1951, this became the violin section of the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition.
Among his own best compositions are six sonatas for unaccompanied violin, containing novel chordal and pizzicato effects. He also wrote eight violin concerti, chamber works, and an opera in Walloon dialect, Piér li Houïen (1931; “Peter the Miner”).
Further information about Eugène Ysaÿe can be found on the Eugène Ysaÿe widepedia page.