The French call it Jeu Perlé – literally “pearly playing,” a sparkling piano technique that according to the Cross-Eyed Pianist blog emphasizes “staccato playing that creates the tiniest sense of separation between each note – like the knots between the pearls in a necklace.”
Our latest Video of the Week features one of composer Camille Saint-Saëns pearls, purloined for the violin by the 19th-century virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe As our 19-year-old Heifetz 2017 violinist Sein An explains, Ysaÿe was a big guy, with an even bigger reputation as the leading violinist in Paris. How big? Cesar Franck’s Violin Sonata, Ernest Chausson’s Poème, and Debussy’s String Quartet, among many other works, were dedicated to the big Belgian fiddler.
But Ysaÿe wasn’t content to sit back and wait for others to write for him – he was a fine arranger and composer in his own right. And when he discovered a dazzling jeu perlé piano etude by Saint-Saëns called En forme de Valse (“In The Form of a Waltz”) , Ysaÿe decided to fit it to his fiddle.
Thus was born one of the longest-titled violin pieces in the violin repertory: Caprice d’après l’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns, a stunning arrangement of the sixth of Saint-Saëns’ Op. 52 Etudes for piano. Watch it get expertly navigated by Sein An and pianist Dina Vainshtein!