Sonata No.1 for Cello and Piano in E minor Op.38

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

Performance date: 03/07/2010

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1862-5

Duration: 00:26:01

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Kirill Gerstein - [piano]
Anja Lechner - [cello]

Sonata No.1 for Cello and Piano in E minor Op.38

is strange that the first duo sonata that Brahms wrote should be for
cello and piano rather than the more popular combination of violin
and piano, especially when he was such a close friend with the
leading violinist of the age, Joseph Joachim. However many of his
contemporaries had followed Beethoven’s example in writing for
cello and, in particular, a cello sonata in E minor by a respected
Hamburg composer Bernhard Romberg seems to have been his starting

commentators feel that Brahms wrote his two magnificent string
sextets as a way of escaping the prospect of writing a string
quartet, just as he waited until he was forty two before writing his
First Symphony. He probably found the cello sonata a less daunting
challenge and he was able to repay a favour by dedicating it to the
amateur cellist Josef Gansbacher. He had also just completed the
Second String Sextet with its cello-rich score so he was clearly
bursting with more ideas for the instrument. He solved the Beethoven
problem by going back to Bach’s Art of Fugue for his inspiration. The
work took three years to write and on the way it lost the Adagio

of its original four movements. So the work we know today is in an
oddly proportioned three-movement form: a very large moderately paced
first movement followed by a dance-scherzo in the manner of a minuet
concluding with a vigorous but severely worked fugue. The missing
Adagio found its way into the F major Sonata twenty years later.

of the most striking features of this work is his concentration on
the lower registers of the instrument. This gives a rich brooding
quality to the music, enhancing the darkness of the key of E minor.
The opening melody starts down on the cello’s C string to a gentle
accompaniment of off-beat piano chords. This grave and dignified
theme leads immediately to a more lyrical voice full of yearning.
Before the second subject appears the theme is restated in C major,
its darkness momentarily banished, only to be followed by the even
more passionate second theme, now in B minor. The movement ends
calmly with music of restrained, dark beauty. The
delicate and wryly ironic with a deliciously hesitant
in a haunting romantic tracery. The Finale is a fugal homage to the
spirit of Bach, where the piano is very much the dominant partner
with the cello sometimes striving to make himself heard. Nevertheless
the energy of this movement is irresistible as Brahms celebrates his
contrapuntal command in triumph.