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Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Biographical Details

In March 1915, whilst based at Farnborough in Hampshire, Cyril Sladden wrote to his father about a concert he was going to in Guildford in aid of the Belgian fund where the chief performer was Eugène Ysaÿe.

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931) was a Belgian violinist, composer and conductor and was regarded as “The King of the Violin”.  He was born in Liège and began violin lessons at the age of five with his father.

The following article appeared in The Surrey Advertiser of 13th February 1915:  “Messrs Clark Ltd have made arrangements for the appearance at the Borough Hall, Guildford, on Saturday March 6th of the world renowned Belgian violinist, Monsieur Eugène Ysaÿe who is at present in England after his thrilling adventures in Belgium.  When the German Army descended on Ostend he had to escape in a fishing boat after losing all his possessions, including his valuable collection of music.  Three of Monsiuer Ysaÿe’s sons are still fighting with the Belgian Army at the front.  This will be Monsieur Ysaÿe’s first appearance in Guildford and he will doubtless have the same enthusiastic reception which he has experience in Edinburgh, Liverpool and other towns in England that he has lately visited.  On March 6th Monsieur Ysaÿe will have the co-operation of his compatriot, Monsieur Van Dyck, the celebrated Belgian tenor, who is also a refugee in this country.”

In a further article of 27th February 1915 it was noted:  “Ysaÿe is described as ‘the greatest living soul that Belgium has given to music’; he is also the symbol of artistic Belgium and of broken Belgium, for in the catastrophe which overwhelmed his country his own beautiful home was destroyed.”

A report about the concert in The Surrey Advertiser of 10th March 1915 stated:  “This was Ysaÿe’s first visit to Guildford and his playing excited the admiration of the audience to such a pitch that in two instances he was recalled to the platform three times.  With a single exception, German masters had been banished from his programme, which did not suffer as a consequence; in fact, the opportunity to draw upon a wider field was all to the good.  Ysaÿe identified himself completely with the spirit of all that he played, and his programme throughout was an agreeable change from much that one hears.  He was splendidly expressive and technically brilliant, and in the imaginative passages perhaps it was more than fancy which detected a note of sadness, not unnatural, when we remember that the artist has lost nearly his all in the ward, and has three sons fighting at the front.”

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