This video displays a performance of the “Ballade” from Eugene Ysaye’s Solo violin Sonata No. 3 by the German violinist Augustin Hadelich.
Hadelich grew up on a farm in northern Italy, where his parents were both musicians who tended a vineyard on the side. He showed incredible musical promise at a young age and was touring Germany and Austria as a soloist at age 10. In a tractor explosion accident while working on the farm at age 15, young Augustin was severely burned on the entire left side of his body. As you will see in the video, his face is very scarred on the left side, and even his left hand has burn marks on it. After a remarkable recovery and two years of tireless practice and study, he made his emergence onto the international stage by winning the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. Since then, he has risen to international acclaim and is widely known as one of the greatest talents of our time.
Eugene Ysaye was a late 19th/early 20th century violinist and composer who was the unchallenged monarch of the violin world. His fabulous skill as a performer and staggering technical abilities often left audiences too dumb-founded to applaud. Adding to this effect was his massive 6′ 7″ frame and the overwhelmingly powerful sound that he could command from his Stradivarius violin. He wrote six violin sonatas that are more difficult than even the famed Paganini Caprices but are somehow almost entirely unknown to the public. This Ballade is the most well-known movement of the entire set of sonatas, and it’s furious ending displays the technical ferocity that Ysaye was renowned for.
Ysaye’s music bridges the gap between the Romantic and Modern eras of classical music, and you can hear elements of both periods in this sonata. His composition of these six sonatas in 1924 was the first major addition to the solo violin repertoire since Bach’s six sonatas back in the late 1700’s. The Ballade incorporates everything that Ysaye is known for into one movement – dark, wandering, lyrical lines and furious technical prowess mashed into a rich and complex harmonic structure. The difficulty of this piece lies not in its speed, which can often sound difficult but isn’t; what tests the mettle of the violinist is the unbelievable number of complicated chords and harmonizations that the instrumentalist has to use to create up to four separate voices with only one hand. By using such a wide range of difficult chords, Ysaye is able to take the lone wandering voice that begins the Ballade and slowly build it, harmonically and emotionally, to a massive finale with all four strings involved at almost every moment. It concludes with a harrowing, almost violent flourish, having copmleted its journey from one voice to four and releasing its immense emotional energy in one final attack.