Ysaye was born at Liege, Belgium, July 16, 1858.
He studied first with his father, and then with Massart (viola) and Dupuis (harmony) at the conservatory, gaining a second prize with Ovide Musin in 1867.
In 1873 he had an opportunity of studying with Wieniawski, and three years later he became a pupil of Vieuxtemps. Vieuxtemps was especially impressed with Ysaye’s style, and besides giving him lessons obtained for him a three years’ subsidy from the government. Ysaye also won for himself the friendship of Hiller, Raff and Clara Schumann.
In 1886 he was appointed Violin Professor at the Brussels Conservatory, but in 1898 retired on account of his many engagements. He had made very many tours, and has been several times to America.
As a violinist he has marked individuality, and has especial faculty for securing variety of “color”. He makes considerable use of the
tempo rubato, but though his playing is fiery, it is kept well under control.
Ysaye has had many critics, especially in Germany, where his warmth of temperament offended the older school of musicians. Nevertheless, his genius is now fully acknowledged, and he stands with the great ones, Joachim, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, Kreilser, Saraste, etc., differing from these only as they differ from each other.
He has used both a Strad and a Guadagnini violin, but now uses a Guarneri. He has been a good friend to younger composers, and to neglected composers of the older school.