"Ysaÿe wrote the set of sonatas following a performance of the Bach g minor by Szigeti. He wrote them quickly and realized after the first sonata that he could not escape Bach, so he decided to include quotations in the first movement which is a sort of free paraphrase on the E Major Preludio. The reason for the choice of the Dies Irae is because of the melodic contour of the first four notes which is very similar to the contour of the first four notes of the opening of the E Major partita. There is a lot to say about this sonata and this movement, but this in its simplest essence is where the relationship between the two themes lie. This motif serves as a connective element to both link and separate Ysaÿe's work and Bach's, a very clever idea."
"Literary critic, Harold Bloom, has spoken of the "anxiety of influence". This certainly applies to music performance and composition, as well - and I know no clearer example of this than the 1st mvt. of this piece, called "The Obssesion", so named with good reason. Ysaye was fascinated, so the story goes, with the Bach e major prelude to the point of obsession, and it threatened to derail his whole project of 6 unacompanied sonatas. Rather than give up, he incoperated it into his 2nd sonata. He begins with a direct quote from the beginning of the prelude, sotto voce and and printed in small print. Then, as if to try to drive it away, he follows that quote with a furious passage - but to no avail. It comes back again, and is driven away again. Finally, in a most unlikely turn, the two forces are somewhat resolved into yet another quotation - the old and very haunting Dias Irae (Day of Wrath) theme. I think that this is a stroke of genius. It is actually the Dias Irae theme, also quoted by Berlioz in his Symphonie Fantastique, that proves the more abiding obsession. The Bach Prelude is set aside after the 1st mvt., but the Dias Irae rears its haunting head in all 4 mvts."
"I studied this piece with Josef Gingold who studied it with Ysaye. He told me that it was the sense of foreboding that he (Ysaye) was somehow treading where he should not tread---the audacity of a violinist writing ANOTHER 6 unaccompanied Sonatas--after Bach had done it so perfectly!!--- The Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) was the sense that "something bad would befall him". The last movement "Les Furies" is when "all Hell breaks loose" figuratively speaking. It is his "Day of Wrath" The third mvmt. "Dance of the Shadows" implied that doom was lurking...
The Dies Irae was an expression of Ysaye's guilt and foreboding of being punished by the "gods" for his audacity. It was also a sort of parody of the violinist to whom it was dedicated---who practiced the Praeludio obsessively-- and to distraction (at least to Ysaye's distraction)."
Taken from: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=20108
"Thibaud was a very close friend of Ysaÿe. Ysaÿe knew of Thibaud’s dedication to the music of Bach, specifically that Thibaud warmed up every day with the Prelude from Bach’s Partita in E major.
The title of the first movement of Ysaÿe’s sonata, “Obsession,” reflects not only Thibaud’s obsession with Bach but with the violin as well. The opening movement interweaves quotes from the Prelude from Bach’s Partita in E major, BWV 1006, and the “Dies Irae” motif.
The second movement, “Malinconia,” is a duet between two voices, setting an atmosphere of gently restrained mourning which is reinforced by Ysaÿe’s marking of con sordino. It has been said that everything Ysaÿe ever regretted in his life, he put into this movement.
The third movement, “Dance with the Shadows/Spirits,” is a set of variations. The composition’s final movement is one of the most effective dances of death ever written, the “Dance of the Furies,” which explores the idea of the three Furies by using triple stops."
Eugène Ysaÿe. Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27, No. 2 "Jacques Thibaud," 1923
3. Danse des Ombres
4. Les Furies