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Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27

Part Five Chapter 6

What is certain, however, is that at that moment, you hated your body and wanted to put an end to your life. Why didn’t you? Was it because you couldn’t resolve the paradox of wanting to kill yourself not in order to die, but rather to find a better way to live? Did your fantasy of death as a return to the womb, enabling you to be born again in a new skin, evaporate in the light of reason? Or did salvation come, when all is said and done, through your violin? Indeed, as your teacher reported, from Paganini’s Caprices you extracted the music their role as virtuoso exercises had hidden: You brought out more musicality than she had heard in many a year. And then you immersed yourself in another masterwork for the unaccompanied instrument: Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin. Alone in your room in Neuchâtel, savage in your solitude, you entered a forest of notes where nothing but the possibilities of the instrument itself, informed by the ghosts of its culture, spurred the virtuosity of the music. Confronting the composer, encountering yourself, from your fierce isolation you drew dark meditations, daring and disturbing. And thus into being you brought the music’s power and beauty, and thus you expressed your passion and soothed your soul.

Christian Rohlfs, Music: the Violinist, 1918

Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonates Pour Violon Solo – Thomas Zehetmair
ECM New Series 1835

Part Five Chapter 15

In your studio on the leafy rue Colbert, upon an evening, you’d continue to pursue the ghosts of Bach and Paganini in Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin. Despite your familiarity with the pieces, you often found yourself having to pause and lie on your bed, overcome by the beauty of the music, its inexhaustible depth and boldness of invention. At such moments you’d feel yourself vast, as vast as the ocean that envelopes the earth, and as undifferentiated.

And yet, at the same time, you’d feel with redoubled intensity that pulse in your blood that you know to be your individuality. And thus it was that your violin would simultaneously put you in touch with yourself and make you untouchable. Making love in such a state was magical: Supple, responsive, never making a wrong move, you, Inès found, were an inspired lover. For your part, you found thrilling her mix of sensitivity, skill and ability to surprise.

Frank Desch, Two Women Having Tea