Classical Music | Violin Music

Claude Debussy

Sonata for Violin and Piano  Play

Siwoo Kim Violin
Rachel Kudo Piano

Recorded on 11/09/2017, uploaded on 11/09/2017

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Claude Debussy set out to compose a set of sonatas on his deathbed. Within the macro structure of the sonata form perfected by figures such as Brahms, Debussy seemingly improvises his way through each section in a wash of sensual harmonies and colors. Impressionism and jazz were all the rage in Paris at this time, so you can hear their influences. It’s a joy to journey through this work because of a particular lesson I had with Almita Vamos, my former teacher, who said, “Siwoo, think of the bow as a paintbrush.” Besides the violin, I loved to draw and paint as a child; Mrs. Vamos still has a drawing I gave her when I was 6-years old, framed in her apartment. 

Rachel and I both studied at the Music Institute of Chicago before we moved to New York to study at The Juilliard School. We’d like to dedicate this performance to Roland and Almita Vamos, Emilio del Rosario, our parents and to the city of Chicago for well-equipping us for a life in music.    Notes by Siwoo Kim


Violin Sonata in G minor, L. 140    Claude Debussy

In his later years, Claude Debussy planned a series of six chamber sonatas under the title Six sonates pour divers instruments. Only three of the planned works, however, materialized—the two solo sonatas for violin and cello, and the chamber sonata for flute, viola and harp. Each is a testament to Debussy’s skill in the realm of chamber music, but also examples of the composer’s gradual progression toward absolute music and abandonment of the overtly visual and textual elements that had dominated nearly all of his earlier music.

The Violin Sonata in G minor was completed in 1917. It was Debussy’s last completed composition before he died in March of the following year. The work’s premiere took place on May 5, 1917 with Gaston Poulet on violin and the composer himself at the piano in his final appearance as a performer. Like the Cello Sonata before it, the Violin Sonata consists likewise of three movements, and possesses a distinctive brevity. , The structure is also perhaps somewhat more rigid with the customary breaks between each movement.


Though marked Allegro vivo, much of the first movement seems much slower in tempo due to its broad, lyrical melodies. Indeed, much of its energy comes from the piano’s arpeggio figurations, which only in time seem to infect the solo part with its restlessness. Perhaps not feeling the need to include a slow movement because of the lyrical quality of the opening Allegro, Debussy instead inserts a scherzo-like middle movement with gypsy-inspired and improvisatory passages for the violin. Lastly, the finale opens with a direct reference to the opening theme of the first movement, before plunging headlong into a sprightly stream of sixteenth notes. During the movement’s central episode, the animated music gives way briefly to a lyrical and expressive melody. The lively music returns carrying the listener onward to the sonata’s conclusion, an unusually exuberant end for the composer. Debussy confessed that this finale had caused a great deal of frustration during its composition and never materialized quite in the way he envisioned it, yet we can hardly imagine this movement any other way or how it can be considered less than its companion movements.     Joseph DuBose