Sonata for Viola No.2 in E flat Op.120/122

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

Performance date: 30/06/2022

Venue: Bantry House

Duration: 00:22:12

Recording Engineer: Eduardo Prado, Ergodos

Instrumentation: va, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Dana Zemtsov - [viola]
Anna Fedorova - [piano]

Johannes Brahms [1833-1897]

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

1. Allegro amabile

2. Allegro appassionato

3. Andante con moto – Allegro non troppo

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. 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. The 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.

Francis Humphrys