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Johannes Brahms – Sonata for violin and piano no.3

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Johannes Brahms

Today we return to the German master, but not for his orchestral music but for his chamber music. His chamber music catalog is quite huge, sometimes so experimental (right now thinking about the trios for piano, violin and French horn) and there is something special in this chamber music I never found elsewhere. Today we’re listening to a piece written for the tiniest chamber music ensemble existing: the duo.

This Sonata op.108 in D minor was written in a 10 years lapse: between 1878 and 1888. It’s his last violin and piano sonata and unlike the previous ones (in 3 movements) the piece has 4 movements and lasts more or less 20 minutes.

For those who don’t know, I used to play a lot of Brahms’ chamber music back in my early twenties: The 2 cello sonatas, 2 of the 3 piano quartets, both Clarinet/Viola sonatas, 4 hands, and… the 3 sonatas for violin and piano. It’s always a pleasure to play such gorgeous music and I have always been very excited when someone offers me a project which involves playing these 3 sonatas. This sonata opus 108 is actually the first I played: I remember struggling with the presto agitato a little bit. I didn’t really know Brahms’ chamber music at that time and it has been a kind of eye opener. I became so hungry for his music that every time someone was asking to play with me she/he knew there will be some Brahms at some point. If you wanted me to play with you it was very easy: putting some Brahms in the program did the trick.

I guess you always remember your first: I never quite got over that colorful sonata, and even if I didn’t play it with a violinist in years, it is still haunting me. Sometimes, I open the score, put it on my stand and play it while singing the violin. I probably look pathetic but it makes me feel so good (unlike my neighbors!).

The first time I heard this sonata, it was played by Oistrak and Richter (they recorded all 3 sonatas in the 70ies if I remember well), so it seemed appropriate to put here an Oistrak/Richter version of this sonata. I hope you’ll spend a very good time listening to this! See you next week!