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Violin Sonata No.2 in A major Op.100

Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)

Lawrence Power (photo credit: Jack Liebeck)

Lawrence Power (photo credit: Jack Liebeck)

Composer
Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
Composition Year
1886
Work Movements
1. Allegro amabile
2. Andante tranquillo - Vivace
3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante)
Artists
Lawrence Power [viola], Simon Crawford-Phillips [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

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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Violin Sonata No.2 in A major Op.100

Composer: Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
Performance date: Thursday 3rd July 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Johannes Brahms (b. 1833 - d. 1897)
Work Title Violin Sonata No.2 in A major Op.100
Composition Year 1886
Work Movements 1. Allegro amabile
2. Andante tranquillo - Vivace
3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante)
Artist(s) Lawrence Power [viola], Simon Crawford-Phillips [piano]
Performance Date Thursday 3rd July 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Crespo Recital Series
Duration 00:18:38
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation va, pf
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

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.