Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
Performance date: 04/07/2018
Venue: Bantry Library
Composition Year: 1886
Recording Engineer: Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ
Instrumentation: vn, pf
Cédric Tiberghien -
Alina Ibragimova - [violin]
Johannes Brahms [1833-1897]
Sonata for violin and piano No.2 in A major Op.100 
1. Allegro amabile
2. Andante tranquillo – Vivace
3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante)
In the 1880s Brahms chose a charming villa on Lake Thun for his annual holidays. During these sojourns he wrote a number of important works, often revealing a leisurely richness well-suited to a great composer on his Summer vacation. However there is nothing trivial about many of these compositions, in particular this Violin Sonata, from 1886. It was written 17 years after his first essay in the form and exhibits all the mature grandeur of the composer at his romantic best. Indeed, some would regard it as one of his most melodious works, with a friend of the composer calling the whole Sonata one caress. It has gained a number of nicknames: best known is The Prize Song, because the first three notes of the opening melody are the same as the Prize Song in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.
The piano opens with The Prize Song motto, the violin at first just adding lazy comments but gradually becoming more involved and then providing a complete version. The second subject also has echoes of one of the songs Brahms wrote at this time, Immer leise. The hallmark of the movement is its amabile (loveable) marking. This music breathes contentment and charm. There are clever features, such as the use of five-bar phrasing, with an instrument adding a sixth bar to the other’s original five like an echo, and the impressive ending or coda, which drew a comparison with cloud-capped towers from the great musicologist, Sir Donald Tovey.
The second movement is unusual but not unknown in Brahms: alternating a slow melody with bursts of material more suited to a jaunty Scherzo. This faster section appears twice, using similar notes in each case but delivered at a far more rapid pace the second time around, with lively pizzicato phrases. The finale is a thoughtful rondo, returning to the amabile mood of the opening movement. The rondo theme is darkly coloured with graceful, arching phrases. The episodes between the return of the rondo theme are in a similar vein and the usual lively contrast, typical of a rondo finale, are not to be heard in this ruminative and warmly melodic movement. There is a weighty A minor theme in the central episode and Brahms must have been specially fond of it, as he reprises it in the contented coda that concludes this delectable Sonata.
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