Recorded on 07/06/2011, uploaded on 01/26/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Brahms spent the summer of 1886 at Hofstetten bei Brienz on Lake Thun in Switzerland. Invigorated by the company of friends and the young German contralto Hermine Spies, he produced three of his most beloved chamber work in rapid succession—the F major Cello Sonata, the Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, and the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major. This latter work, the shortest yet most demanding of Brahms’s three sonatas for the instrument, is a radiant work with a joyful mood that is never dimmed throughout, reflecting the good spirits of the composer during his vacation. Like the previous G major sonata composed nearly a decade earlier, the A major Sonata is predominantly lyrical and draws some of its material from contemporary Lieder. As with his other sonatas, Brahms also officially titled the work “Sonata for Piano and Violin” instead of “Sonata for Violin and Piano.” Brahms’s choice of word order hearkens back to the traditions of Mozart and Beethoven and emphasizes that the piano and violin are equal collaborators, instead of the dominance of a soloist implied by the latter. Interestingly, the sonata is sometimes referred to as the “Meistersinger” Sonata because of the similarity between the first three notes of the first movement and those of “Walther’s Prize Song” from Richard Wagner’s Der Meistersinger. Though Brahms and Wagner were painted as musical rivals, the war between them was largely fought by their supporters and both men admired the other’s music.
Marked with the somewhat unusual indication of Allegro amabile, meaning fast and loveable, the first movement is relaxed and lyrical, beaming with good cheer. The piano takes the initial lead in setting out the movement’s material. The second subject is developed out of a motif taken from the lied Wie Melodien zieht es mir, a song where the poet compares melodies to the scent of flowers. For the sonata’s middle movement, Brahms achieves the semblance of a larger four-movement structure by combining the roles of Adagio and Scherzo in contrasting sections. The opening Andante tranquillo in F major is contrasted against a D minor Vivace. Each is heard twice before the Andante returns for a third time to evenly round out the movement’s form. However, it is the Vivace that has the final say. Finally, a relaxed and graceful Rondo serves as the sonata’s finale. Joseph DuBose
Jojannes Brahms Violin sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100
Brahms spent the summer of 1886 at his favorite retreat at Lake Thun, near Interlaken in Switzerland. There he concentrated on writing lieder and chamber works, among them the second violin sonata in A Major. The A Major Sonata is probably the most lyrical of Brahms's three sonatas for violin and piano. The reigning characteristics of the second violin sonata reflect Brahms's personality - his shyness and introspection, his originality and his intensity, sometimes all at once.
The sonata begins with a direct and immediate theme, first presented by the piano and then taken up by the violin. Serving as an antecedent to the dramaturgical line that is to unfold in the rest of the piece, the melody is sweet in its simplicity and powerful in spite of its lack of bombast.
Whereas in the first movement one theme flows directly into the next, and the conversational interchange between the two instruments is intriguing, the second movement can be separated into two alternating sections. Beginning with the bucolic Andante, the folk-like Vivace enjoys a slight hint of humor. The movement ends in a short, light blaze of excitement.
The finale, Allegretto grazioso, is unusual in that it is devoid of the usual bravura excitement in Romantic-period works. The graceful and elegant rondo begins with a soulful line expressed in sustained legato. Mid-movement, there is a rather sudden passionate outburst and emotional upheaval. However, the poignantly calm theme of the opening returns to end the work in an expression of triumphant dignity. Kobi Malkin
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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