Sonata for Clarinet/Viola No.2 in E flat Op.120/2

Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
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Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)

Performance date: 03/07/2014

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1894

Duration: 00:19:46

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation: va, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Lawrence Power - [viola]
Simon Crawford-Phillips - [piano]

Throughout his career Brahms composed music
that showed his love of the viola, beginning with the two gorgeous string
sextets, which contain what often amounts to solo parts for both violas – as
you can hear in the Festival Finale this year. In numerous other places we find
Brahms picking out the viola, for instance the two string quintets, the two
exquisite viola songs and the third movement of his Third Quartet. So when he
was inspired to write the four late clarinet works, it was quite natural for
him to provide alternative viola parts. This worked particularly well for the
two sonatas.

The E flat Sonata is a fantasia-like
conception in three movements, none of them really slow, an unusually relaxed
sonata form followed by an unexpectedly powerful scherzo concluding with a
glowing set of variations. It opens with a gently undulating melody that immediately
sets the mood for this gentle work. Impassioned outbursts are firmly quelled
and the flow is not interrupted by any obvious divisions between exposition,
development and recapitulation. With the need for lyricism already assuaged,
Brahms dispenses with a slow movement and goes straight to the scherzo. This is
in the minor mode but sweeps by full of confidence. The Trio is built on a
proud but noble
sostenuto melody
first declaimed by the piano and then softening for the entry of the viola. It
develops a fine climax before fading out and letting the scherzo sweep back.
Andante con moto is a set of five
variations on a classically poised and richly harmonic theme of fourteen bars
with no repeats. The first four variations seem primarily concerned to simplify,
paring the theme down to its smallest note values. Finally Brahms throws his
restraint to one side and the fifth variation bursts out passionately before
flowing directly into the tranquil coda that returns to the major before a
final brief display of virtuosity in both instruments.