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Video of the Week:

Manuel Quiroga - the Forgotten Virtuoso
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It is in remembering the Spanish violinist’s playing style, which reminded him of Sarasate, that the master conceived his last Sonata for unaccompanied violin. Here, even more than in the others, the master endeavors to adapt the violinistic writing to the playing of the artist to whom the work is dedicated  – Eugène Ysaÿe

“A master violinist,” wrote Eugène Ysaÿe, “must be 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.”  Many an aspiring violinist has despaired of mastering the tehcnical tour-de-force that is Ysaÿe’s Op. 27 Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, which the Belgian violinist and composer sketched out in the space of 24 hours after hearing violinist Joseph Szigeti perform an all-Bach solo recital a century ago in 1923.

Ysaÿe dedicated each one of his six sonatas to the great violinists of his time, paying tribute to their musical personalities in each. No surprise, then, that Szigeti was the dedicatee of the Bach-flavored First Sonata.  And for the final sonata in the series, Ysaÿe looked southward, honoring the Spanish violinist Manuel Quiroga. Partly due to an accident (his arm was injured by getting hit by a passing truck while crossing Times Square), and the fact that his career was at its peak before the advent of modern recordings, Quiroga is not so well-remembered today.  But in his heyday Quiroga was considered the “heir to Sarasate.” and was lionized in Europe and both North and South America.  And rather ironically, never played this sonata in public!  As the online journal Interlude notes,

The 6th Sonata pays respects to Quiroga’s brilliant playing, and by using fewer Bach inflections, it is much more closely aligned with Paganini. Ysaÿe was generally modest about his own compositions, but with his Six Sonatas for violin solo he created a work of harmonic originality, virtuosity, and passionate expressiveness that communicated his immense love of music and the violin for posterity.

Besides being on the great violinists of his era, Manuel Quiroga Losada (1882-1961) was also an accomplished oil and charcoal artist, prone to caricatures and self-portraits. 

Now take a look and listen to 15-year old violinist Fiona Khuong-Huu performing the “Manuel Quiroga” sonata from a Stars of Tomorrow Concert at the Heifetz 2022 Festival of Concerts.