Les Neiges d'antan
Professor Gérard Poulet and student Edith Cnockaert explore Les Neiges d’antan by Belgian composer Eugène Ysaÿe in this violin masterclass. Poulet advises his student to play the piece in a more contrasted way and to respect the written nuances. Cnockaert must strive to maintain the tempo and play more brightly. In addition, the professor expresses that Ysaÿe’s piece is a clever mix of poetry and muscle -- it is expressive but also technical.
Furthermore, the young student is instructed to avoid cutting off the sentences and to lift her violin in the virtuoso passages. Poulet adds that the piece can be played louder, slightly faster, and that the performer must avoid slowing down during the glissandos. Cnockaert is encouraged to add some substance to the piece, rather than simply playing something that is "pretty."
Keeping up the tempo and energy level.
Finding a balance between the piece’s poetic and technical nature.
Lifting the violin in virtuoso passages.
Respecting the composer’s written nuances.
Playing the phrases from beginning to end.
Over the course of his life, violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe composed numerous works, particularly for string instruments, including eight Poèmes for string instruments accompanied by orchestra. Ysaÿe wrote that a Poème is “free from all the restrictions imposed by the hallowed concerto form” and “a picture painted without a model.” As such, the Poèmes tend to be short, one-movement works that express a variety of emotions. It is possible that Ysaÿe decided to focus on writing works of short length because he began to suffer from tendinitis and could no longer easily play substantial works. Neige d’Antan, which translates to “Snow of Yesteryear,” was the fifth Poème, composed for solo violin and string orchestra in 1914 and dedicated to Ysaÿe’s granddaughter. It opens with a wistful yet lush melody in the solo violin over pizzicato. The orchestral accompaniment builds in volume and substance as the piece continues, helping lead to climactic moments. The piece ends sparsely with the solo violin in its very highest register.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Gérard Poulet’s feedback and comments.
At the age of 18, he won the 1st Grand Prix of the Paganini Competition in Genoa.
Gérard Poulet began as a child prodigy. His father, violinist and conductor Gaston Poulet had the privilege of premiering Debussy’s Sonata in 1917, with the author at the piano. Gérard entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris at the age of eleven, and graduated two years after being awarded First Prize, unanimously. At age eighteen, he won the First Prize at the Paganini Competition in Genoa.
He performs worldwide today with the finest orchestras, and in the most prestigious musical seasons, including that of Radio France and the Musée d’Orsay. No less than an eminent concert player, he is one of the greatest pedagogues of our time. Since April 2005, Gérard Poulet has been an invited professor at Tokyo's National University of Fine Arts and Music, after teaching for many years at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, as well as at the Conservatoire National de Région de Paris, and the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. Presently, he is professor at the Showa University of Music in Japan since 2010.
In addition to giving masterclasses all over the world, he is also a member of many juries of major international competitions.
He was awarded with the Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1995 and Commandeur in 2019, as well as the Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 1999.
Eugène Ysaÿe was a Belgian genius violinist and composer, and was born in Liège in 1858. His whole family was musically inclined, and he started learning the violin at an early age, with his father. After learning music in his home country, he moved to Paris to pursue his studies.
He toured intensely as a solo artist for prestigious orchestras and assumed a teaching position, which he kept for many years. Many famous composers dedicated some of their major works to him. He married fellow-Belgian Louise Bourdau in 1886, and together they had five children. When Louise died in 1924, he re-married with 44-year his junior violinist Jeanette Dincin, who cared for him as his health declined, until he passed away in his home in Forest, Belgium in 1931.
He left behind an impressive musical catalog: six Sonatas for Solo Violin op. 27, the unaccompanied Sonata for Cello, op. 28, one Sonata for Two Violins, eight Poèmes for various instruments (one or two violins, violin and cello, string quartet) and orchestra (Poème élégiaque, Poème de l'Extase, Chant d'hiver, Poème nocturne, among others), pieces for string orchestra without basses (including Poème de l'Exil), two piano trios, a string quintet, and an opera, Peter the Miner. His Eugène Ysaÿe Collection, which can be found in the Royal Belgium library, also includes many scores, letters, photographs, films, and recordings.