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Philippe Graffin discovers a lost Ysaÿe, then performs it. Week two at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival

French violinist Philippe Graffin performs the seventh Ysaÿe sonata at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival this week. The work was unknown until Graffin discovered it in 2017.

French violinist Philippe Graffin performs the seventh Ysaÿe sonata at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival this week. The work was unknown until Graffin discovered it in 2017.

For great violinists, the ultimate lineage traces back to Eugène Ysaÿe. The great Belgian composer and legendary performer (1858–1931) left behind challenging and rewarding works, and as a teacher began a line of musical greatness that runs through players like Nathan Milstein, Jascha Brodsky and Josef Gingold. 

That lineage continues through French violinist Philippe Graffin, who studied in the ’80s with Gingold, and who makes his debut appearance at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival this Thursday evening at the Shalin Liu Performance Center to begin week two of the festival.

Ysaÿe composed formidable works for his instrument—including six sonatas. Graffin discovered a seventh sonata just two years ago, working through some of Ysaÿe’s manuscripts in the Brussels Conservatoire. Not just fragments of a sonata either—three carefully sketched out movements, with only a few measures left incomplete—“98% Ysaÿe’s work,” Graffin says.

Graffin has studied, performed, recorded and staged festivals around Ysaÿe’s music since he was a student of Gingold, who, as a student of Ysaÿe, premiered the original third sonata. Graffin has recorded the newly found work, on Avie Records, as part of his collection called “Fiddler’s Blues.” This will be the New England premiere.

Graffin will perform the discovered sonata as part of Thursday evening’s program, along with works by Ysaÿe’s 20th century European contemporaries like Dohnanyi, Enescu and Chausson, in a tribute to the great Ysaÿe. Pianists Marisa Gupta and Piers Lane, along with the Festival Quartet, will join Graffin.

Graffin found the new work after it had lain hidden in plain sight for more than half a century. “Other violinists had seen the sonata,” he said, “but it was labeled ‘6ème sonate’ (Sixth sonata), and there already was a sixth sonata. But once I began to play it, I realized it was a different work.

“I really don’t understand why it was hidden for such a long time,” he says. “The ‘Canzona’ is one of the greatest movements in his whole sonata cycle, amazingly inventive. We are lucky to have this.”

The weekend also includes the complete Chopin Nocturnes, performed by Lane, on Friday evening, and cellist Pieter Wispelwey’s RCMF debut on Saturday evening. A free screening of the film “Mountain” on Friday morning, a late-night cabaret on Saturday with music of Beethoven and Dudley Moore, and “Hosted by Glenn Gould”—with vintage video of the great pianist—a program conceived by Andrew Burashko’s Art of Time Ensemble, on Sunday, close out the busy weekend schedule. 

The festival runs through July 14. For tickets and information visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.

Keith Powers covers music and the arts for GateHouse Media and WBUR’s ARTery. Follow @PowersKeith; email to keithmichaelpowers@gmail.com.

RCMF Week Two Schedule at a Glance

Thursday, June 20, 8:00 p.m.

Homage to Eugene Ysaÿe

Philippe Graffin, violin

Marisa Gupta, piano; Piers Lane, piano; Festival Quartet (Benjamin Bowman and Danny Koo, violins; Barry Shiffman, viola; Tom Wiebe, cello)

Graffin not only discovered the manuscript and completed Ysaÿe’s solo sonata, he performs it in this program of 20th century string works (Dohnanyi, Chausson, Enescu as well).

Friday, June 21, 8:00 p.m.

The Complete Chopin Nocturnes

Piers Lane, piano

Twenty-one of the composer’s signature compositions, composed over the course of his life. Australian-born, London-based Lane explores the great nocturnes.

Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.

Pieter Wispelwey, cello

Pei-Shan Lee, piano; Benjamin Bowman, violin

Great Dutch cellist makes his first RCMF appearance. Solo and duo sonatas by Brahms, Debussy and Ravel.

Saturday, June 22, 10:00 p.m.

Piers Lane, piano; Andrew Burashko, piano; Barry Shiffman, viola

Featuring works by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dudley Moore. That Dudley Moore.

Sunday, June 23, 5:00 p.m.

Art of Time Ensemble

Andrew Burashko, piano; Pieter Wispelwey, cello; Pei-Shan Lee, piano; Festival Quartet

Vintage video by the great Glenn Gould introduces a Beethoven cello sonata and the Shostakovich G minor piano quintet. 

The Other Cape: Scott Fraser, executive director of the José Mateo Ballet Theatre

Cristina Zavalloni highlights opening weekend of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival