Day 316: Violin Sonatas, Scherzo in C Minor

BrahmsCD10I’ve been listening to Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 1 and Violin Sonata No. 2 for the better part of the last hour and I not only couldn’t tell you which is which I couldn’t prove that I’d heard anything at all.

The music absolutely did not stick with me, except for a bit of for Movement I (“Allegro amabile”) of Violin Sonata No. 2.

The piano in that piece reminded me of Chopin or one of Beethoven’s wistful compositions. And the violin has some emotionally penetrating moments.

Still, a mere 10 minutes later, I couldn’t hum a few bars of it.

I think I know the perfect analogy: Brahms is like Chinese food. An hour later and I’m hungry again.

The musicians on today’s CD are:

Kristof Barati violin (tracks 1-10)
Karla Wurtz piano (tracks 1-10)

Tasmin Little violin (track 11)
John Lenehan piano (track 11)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78

From its entry on Wikipedia:

The Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78, for violin and piano was composed by Johannes Brahms during the summers of 1878 and 1879 in Pörtschach am Wörthersee. It was first performed on 8 November 1879 in Bonn. Each of three movements of this sonata shares common motivic ideas or thematic materials from the head-motif of Brahms’s two songs “Regenlied” and “Nachklang”, Op. 59, and this is why this sonata is also called Rain Sonata (Regen-Sonate).

Brahms was 56 when he composed this music.

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 100

From its entry on Wiki:

The Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (“Thun” or “Meistersinger”) by Johannes Brahms was written while spending the summer of 1886 in Thun in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

It was a very fertile and refreshing time for Brahms. His friend the Swiss pastor and poet Josef Victor Widmann (1842-1911) lived in Berne and they visited each other. He was also visited by the poet Klaus Groth and the young German contralto Hermine Spies. Both Groth and Brahms were somewhat enamoured of Spies. He found himself so invigorated by the genial atmosphere and surroundings that he said the area was “so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any”. In a short space of time, he produced, in addition to this violin sonata, the Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99, the Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 101, and various songs.

The 2nd Violin Sonata is the shortest and is considered the most lyrical of Brahms’s three violin sonatas. It is also considered the most difficult of the three to bring off successfully, and to exhibit its balance of lyricism and virtuosity. It maintains a radiant, happy mood throughout.

That’s the best description for what I’m hearing that I’ve yet read on Wiki.

Violin Concerto No. 2 is Continue reading

Day 229: Violin Sonatas IV

BeethovenCD34What a terrific way to start a day!

Movement I (“Adagio sostenuto – Presto”) from Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Op. 47 “Kreutzer” is a corker. Brisk, expressive, and dynamic; it’s everything a Beethoven composition should be.

The performers are the same as they’ve been for the past few Violin Sonata CDs:

Kristof Barati violin
Klara Wurtz piano

But there’s something especially magical about this sonata, a fun melody that alternates between the violin and the piano as it expresses itself. It has that ask-and-answer quality that I like where one instrument will play a short passage and then the other will repeat it, back and forth.

This movement almost has a kind of Hungarian feel to it.

And pizzicato! Yes, pizzicato, my old friend. Toward the end of Movement I, as things are really syncopated and dynamic, the violin plays a bit of pizzicato as the counterpoint to the piano’s dynamics. It’s particularly arresting. It happens around the 10:45 mark in the piece.

I have to say, this movement, from this Piano Sonata, could very well be one of my favorite pieces from Beethoven. This is tremendously compelling music.

The above YouTube clip is not from this morning’s listening. Featured on that clip are violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. The recording on the YouTube clip is from 1973. It’s a fine recording, and they are fine musicians. But, truth be told, I prefer the dynamics of Kristof and Klara for this piece.

By the way, in the YouTube clip, my favorite part comes around the 9:25 mark.

It’s time to let my fingers do the walking into Google Land for a moment. I need to find out more about Piano Sonata No. 9 in A Op. 47 “Kreutzer.”

Ahh, and so I discover what Continue reading

Day 227: Violin Sonatas II

BeethovenCD32Two violin sonatas await the lucky listener on today’s CD:

Violin Sonata No. 4 in A Minor Op. 23 (composed 1800-1801; Beethoven was 30-31)

Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Op. 24 “Spring” (composed 1801; Beethoven was 31)

Both are performed eloquently by Kristof Barati on violin and Klara Wurtz on piano.

I should have looked up Klara Wurtz sooner because what I found out about her is interesting:

Klára Würtz (Budapest, 1965) is a Hungarian pianist. She is married to the Dutch label manager Pieter Shop Brilliant Classics, and since 1996 living in Amsterdam. Würtz teaches at the Utrecht Conservatory.

Her career has ups and downs; periods of action are interspersed with silences. After the birth of her daughter (2004), it may not play because of tendinitis in her hands for a year. But according to her is not her ambition to “a toppianiste” to be., As they say themselves,

Her many musical recordings covering mainly the Classical and Romantic period: Mozart , Beethoven , Brahms , Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky.

That was translated using Google translations for the Wikipedia article. So it’s not precise in its wording. But I think we get the gist of it.

What I found most interesting is that she’s married to the man who manages Brilliant Classics, the record label on which this recording resides.

In the Classical music world, two labels used to rule Continue reading

Day 226: Violin Sonatas I

BeethovenCD31Today’s CD represents a very nice change of pace from the previous series of Piano Trios and Cello Sonatas.

Musicians are:

Kristof Barati violin
Klara Wurtz piano

They are exceptional, and an inspired pairing.

Compositions are:

Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Op. 12 No. 1 (composed 1797-1798; Beethoven was 27 or 28)

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 12 No. 2 (composed 1797-1798; Beethoven was 27 or 28)

Violin Sonata No. 3 in E Flat Op. 12 No. 3 (composed 1797-1798; Beethoven was 27 or 28)

This is entertaining, compelling, lively music…and soulful, pensive, melancholy music.

In short, Beethoven’s violin sonatas are perfect for whatever mood you’re in.