Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, “Ballade”: Shunsuke Sato

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Belgian violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931), was regarded as “The King of the Violin.” The conductor, Sir Henry Wood said, “The quality of tone was ravishingly beautiful…He seemed to get more color out of a violin than any of his contemporaries.” Commenting on the naturalness and flow of Ysaÿe’s rubato, Wood said, “Whenever he stole time from one note, he faithfully paid it back within four bars.” Ysaÿe lived by the motto, “Don’t always vibrate, but always be vibrating,” and strove for “emotion, poetry, heart.”

Among the over 200 works written for Ysaÿe are Ernest Chausson’s Poème and César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major, which was presented to the violinist as a wedding gift. As a composer, Eugène Ysaÿe left an equally important mark. Most notable are his Six Sonatas for solo violin, composed in July of 1923. Following the model of J.S. Bach, they unleash dazzling contrapuntal lines which push the technical boundaries of the instrument. At the same time, Ysaÿe insisted that the performer “must be a violinist, a thinker, a poet, a human being, he must have known hope, love, passion and despair, he must have run the gamut of the emotions in order to express them all in his playing.” Ysaÿe dedicated each Sonata to one of his fellow contemporary violinists.

Sonata No. 3 in D minor, subtitled “Ballade,” was dedicated to the Romanian violinist and composer, George Enescu. It unfolds in a single movement, divided into two sections. The introduction (Lento molto sostenuto) is a passionate soliloquy which resembles a recitative. It is filled with falling half steps which suggest lamenting sighs and intimations of the whole tone scale. The Allegro in tempo giusto e con bravura which follows is set in 3/8 time, with spirited dotted rhythms, double and triple stops, and nervous leaps in register. Throughout the piece, there is a sense of gradually building tension, all of which is released in the virtuosic fireworks of the coda.

The Impressionistic nature of Ysaÿe’s music is evident in this performance, featuring the Japanese-born violinist, Shunsuke Sato. It is an excerpt from a recording of the complete Ysaÿe Sonatas, released in 2004. Equally at home in Baroque and modern repertoire, Sato served as concertmaster and artistic director of the Netherlands Bach Society from 2018 to 2023. Monday’s post features his blazing performance of Bach’s Violin Concerto in D minor, 1052, in which Baroque performance practice is combined with a thrilling sense of passion. Sato’s fascination with the violin began at the age of two when, during a family outing, he was captivated by the sounds coming from a Suzuki violin studio.


  • Ysaÿe: Sonata for Solo Violin in D minor ‘Ballade’, Op. 27, No. 3, Shunsuke Sato cdsvinylijapan

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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