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TITANIC JOHANNES BRAHMS THE VIOLIN SONATAS ANASTASIA KHITRUK VIOLIN DAVID KOREVAAR PIANO Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 1. I: Vivace ma non troppo 11:03 2. II: Adagio 7:27 3. III: Allegro molto moderato 8:16 (27:03) Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100 4. I: Allegro amabile 8:06 5. II: Andante tranquillo – Vivace 6:03 6. III: Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante) 5:13 (19:38) Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108 7. I: Allegro 8:18 8. II: Adagio 4:41 9. III: Un poco presto e con sentimento 2:54 10. IV: Presto agitato 5:20 (21:32) Total Time: 68:39 7 8 9 10 4 5 6 1 2 3

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Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 1. I: Vivace ma non troppo 11:03 2. II: Adagio 7:27 3. III: Allegro molto moderato 8:16

(27:03)Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100 4. I: Allegro amabile 8:06 5. II: Andante tranquillo – Vivace 6:03 6. III: Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante) 5:13

(19:38)Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108 7. I: Allegro 8:18 8. II: Adagio 4:41 9. III: Un poco presto e con sentimento 2:5410. IV: Presto agitato 5:20

(21:32)Total Time: 68:39











Johannes Brahms, Mastersinger and Chamber Musician

Unlike most violin sonatas in the modern concert repertoire, Johannes Brahms’s transcend the realm of “absolute” or non-program music. Indeed, his sonatas allude to Romantic poetry and Wagnerian opera, thus embodying the tension between word andtone basic to German Romantic music. For Brahms and Wagner alike, the word-tone dialectic was key. Their respective positions onthis issue, considered antagonistic during the nineteenth century, are deemed complementary by many music historians today. Beforeexploring how this idea relates to the sonatas themselves, however, some additional words of introduction.

Except for Richard Strauss’s 1888 work, Brahms’s violin sonatas are the sole exemplars of the genre composed in German-speaking Europe from 1875 to 1900. One must venture outside the region to find comparable works (Fauré, Franck, Grieg) routinelyperformed today. Why? German composers between 1850 and 1900 strove less to cultivate the Classical sonata priniciple than totransform it into Wagner’s “music of the future,” namely opera or program music. There arose at this time a feud waged by the Wagner-Liszt partisans (“New German School”) against those of the Schumann-Mendelssohn persuasion, the latter of whom divined in Brahmsa powerful nemesis to Wagner. Brahms, while inimical towards Liszt’s music, was clearly no Wagner nemesis. His unwillingness to playthis role helps one better understand, among other works, the Second Violin Sonata.

A ruthless self-critic who burnt two-thirds of his music, Brahms essayed several violin sonatas before publishing his First ViolinSonata. The Brahms works catalog lists three such lost compositions, excluding the “Scherzo” of the “F-A-E” Sonata co-written withRobert Schumann and Albert Dietrich. Despite their modest dimensions, the three extant sonatas make a good introduction to Brahms’smusic as a whole. Not only do they integrate his vocal and instrumental works, they illuminate his art of transition, the linking of onetheme to the next. His transitions are so finely wrought that they can be (and have been) mistaken for actual themes. Such technique,above all, undergirds the music’s delicate balance of “passion and precision,” which John Daverio (citing Robert Musil) calls “the essenceof German Romanticism.”

With respect to the word-tone dialectic mentioned above, Brahms, in his first two violin sonatas at least, transplanted poetry andmusic drama to the wordless domain of absolute music. In so doing, he realized (paradoxically) the Hegelian ideal of musicalRomanticism, namely that music had the “maximum possiblity of liberating itself from any real text as well as the expression of anydefinite content” (Aesthetics). The premier Lieder composer of the post-Schumann generation, Brahms viewed himself quintessentially assong writer, even when composing for instruments. From this standpoint, he is more Schubert’s heir than Beethoven’s or Schumann’s.Brahms’s (in)famous remarks that “any jackass” could relate the finale of his First Symphony to that of Beethoven’s Ninth and thatSchumann taught him only “to play chess” are revealing.

On at least one occasion, however, he averred, “Even the tiniest Schubert song has something valuable to teach us.” Taking hiscue from Lied-flavored instrumental works such as the “Trout” Quintet (D. 667) and “Wanderer” Fantasia (D. 760), Brahms transmutedsong into a repertoire of “absolute” works, including the First Piano Sonata and the First Violin Sonata. This achievement is fruitfullycontrasted with that of another Schubert aficionado, Franz Liszt. A gifted song writer himself, he rendered his own or others’ vocal musiceither as virtuoso piano transcriptions or as concert paraphrases but never fashioned them into sonatas or formal variation sets.

In Brahms’s violin sonatas, his genius as a Lieder and chamber music composer is reincarnated in the dynamic repartee betweenthe performers. Listeners enjoy the sheer variety of instrumental role-playing in these works, how the themes are variously introducedand developed by violin and piano. In order to track the themes, the listener is advised to consult the following table.

Formal Outlines of the Three Brahms Violin Sonatas“Subject” denotes here either a single theme or group of themes subordinated to that “subject.” The abbreviations “S” symbolize “subject” and “T” theme, so that “S1/T2,” for example, means “Subject 1, Theme 2,”(that is, the second component of “Subject 1”). The themes are further tagged by measure numbers as found in the score. (Various musical examples are found throughout the text.).

TABLE 1A — Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78

I. Vivace ma non troppo (Sonata form): FIRST SUBJECT (1-21) TRANSITION (21-35) SECOND SUBJECT (36-60) THIRD SUBJECT (60-81) DEVELOPMENT (82-147) RETRANSITION (148-155) RECAPITULATION (156-222) CODA (223-243) Theme 1 (S1/T1, 1-10) Theme 1 (S3/T1, 60-69) Theme 2 (S1/T2, 11-19) Theme 2 (S3/T2, 70-81)

II. Adagio (ABA form): A (1-24) BRIDGE (Più andante, 24-39) B (30-56) BRIDGE (57-67) A (67-91) CODA (91-122)

III. Allegro molto moderato (Rondo form): A (Refrain, 1-28) B (29-52) BRIDGE (based on A, 53-60) A (61-83) C (84-112) BRIDGE (based on A, 113-123) A (124-139) CODA (links A and C, 140-163) Theme 1 (S1/T1, 1-9) Theme 1 (29-36) Adagio Theme 2 (S1/T2, 10-13) Theme 2 (37-40)

TABLE 1B — Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100

I. Allegro amabile (Sonata form): FIRST SUBJECT (1-30) TRANSITION (39-50) SECOND SUBJECT (50-78) THIRD SUBJECT (79-87) DEVELOPMENT (89-149) RETRANSITION (150-157) RECAPITULATION (158-218) CODA (219-280)

II. [A] Andante tranquillo (1-15) [B] Vivace (16-71) [A] Andante tranquillo (72-93) [B] Vivace di più (94-149) [A] Andante (150-61) [B] Vivace (162-68)

III. Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante) (Sonata rondo form):Rondo form: A (Refrain, 1-31) B (31-62) A (63-89) C (89-111) A (112-122) B (123-136) CODA (137-158)Sonata form: FIRST SUBJECT/FIRST THEME (1-12) [then varied 21-31] SECOND SUBJECT (31-62) S1 (63-89) DEVELOPMENT (?) (89-111) RECAP, S1 (112-122) S2 (123-136) CODA (links A and C, 137-158)

TABLE 1C — Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108

I. Allegro (Sonata form): FIRST SUBJECT (1-23) TRANSITION (23-46) SECOND SUBJECT (48-73) THIRD SUBJECT (74-83) DEVELOPMENT (84-119) RETRANSITION (120-28) RECAPITULATION (130-208) CODA (219-64)

II. Adagio (free strophic form): A (1-36) A' (37-73)Theme 1 (1-19)Theme 2 (19-36)

III. Un poco presto e con sentimento (modified scherzo): A (1-110) B (Bridge, 111-19) A (119-34) CODA (155-81)Theme 1 (1-53) Theme 1Theme 2 (53-110)

IV. Presto agitato (Sonata rondo form):Rondo form: A (Refrain, 1-16) B (39-72) C (73-113) A (114-129) D (130-193) B (213-251) C (252-292) A (293-310)Sonata form: FIRST SUBJECT (1-16) TRANSITION (17-38) SECOND SUBJECT (39-72) THIRD SUBJECT (73-113) S1 (114-129) DEVELOPMENT (130-193) RETRANSITION (194-217) RECAP: S2, S3, S1 (218-310) CODA (links A and D, 311-337)

First Violin Sonata, Op. 78

Translation of Brahms’s Regenlied (“Rain Song”), Op. 59, No. 3

Plash down, rain, plash down,Awaken in me those dreams,That I dreamt in childhood,

When the wetness foamed in the sand!

When the weary summer sultrinessfought lazily against the fresh coolness,

And the pale leaves dripped dew,and the fruitful fields took on a deeper blue.

What joy to stand in the downpourat such times with bare feet,

To dance in the grass,And to grab with one’s hands the foam.

Or else to catch on one’s burning cheeks the cool drops,To open one’s childhood heartto the newly awakened scents!

Like the flower’s chalices,That were dripping there,

So stood the soul wide open and breathing,Like the flowers drunk with fragrances,

Engulfed in the heavenly dew.

Quaking with pleasure, each dropCooled you down to your very heartbeat,

And the holy web of CreationPenetrated your innermost being.

Plash down, rain plash down,Awaken my old songs

That we sang in the doorwayWhen the drops tapped outside!

I would gladly hear them again,to their sweet moist rustling,My soul, tenderly bedewed

With that holy, childlike awe.

— poem by Klaus Groth

The above poem inspired a song of the same title written by Brahms in 1873 (Ex. 1) and conveys what the German Romanticscalled Heimweh, a feeling straddling homesickness and nostalgia. That Brahms used Regenlied as the thematic basis of his First ViolinSonata led Clara Schumann to dub the work “Regensonate.” Composed during the summers of 1878 and 1879 in the Austrian village ofPörtschach, the sonata was premiered in Bonn, November 1879, by violinist Robert Heckmann and pianist Marie Heckmann-Hertig.Like Schubert’s treatment of his song Der Wanderer (D. 489) in the Wanderer Fantasia, Brahms’s song permeates his entire sonatastructure. In the first movement of Op. 78, one readily hears how the song’s long-short-long-short motif (“Wal-le re-gen”) colors all themovement’s themes, but here within a more fluid 6/4 meter (compare Ex. 1 and Ex. 2). The witty pianist and former Brahms pupil,Elisabet von Herzogenberg, observed, “And then there is that dear ‘ ’ which almost deludes one into thinking that Brahms‘discovered’ the dotted eighth-note.”

Each of the Vivace ma non troppo’s themes permutes the long-short-long-short idea, unifying the movement’s thematic content.Timothy McKinney has noted, moreover, that the opening bass figure of Brahms’s Lied inspired other thematic elements of the sonata,such as the descending series D-C-B-G-D of S1/ T1 (Ex. 2). For present purposes, we need only mark the long-short-long-short idea as



q. q q

it traverses the sonata. Both S1/T1 and S1/T2 (Ex. 3) follow this pattern, though the second reworks it as a “3/2" cross-rhythm [2+2+2half-note beats] played against the piano’s 6/4 [3+3 dotted half-note beats]. S2 turns the original rhythmic motif inside out into a short-long-short-long figure (Ex. 4). S3/T1 (Ex. 5) once more uses the original pattern but in a chorale-like way, and S3/T2 (Ex. 6) playfullyinverts the rhythm into a waltzing short-long-short-long. Brahms’s array of themes, spanning the wistful S1 to the exhuberant S2 to thedreamy S3, is couched in pluvial rhythms, the most suggestive being the accompanimental eighth-notes of S3/T2. And one can easilyhear how other poetic images speak through the themes: “streaming rain” (S1/T2, piano part), “old songs” (S2) and “holy awe ofchildhood” (S3/T1).

The Adagio revisits the poem’s “old songs” and “pattering rain” in the opening piano cantilena, S1 (Ex. 7). Thereafter, the pianosubsides into a distant murmur as the furtively entering violin broods on the opening theme. The più andante (Ex. 8), bridge to the “B”







(middle) section, leads us by way of the long-short-long-short idea to S2 (Ex. 9), whose drama recounts similar moments in the ViolinConcerto, Op. 77. (For Brahms scholar Michael Struck, the compositional chronology of this funeral-march segment suggests thatBrahms may have been contemplating the impending death of Clara Schumann’s son, Felix.) In the reprise following, the violin plays S1in double stops, thereby thinning the triadic fullness of the piano’s opening statement. The resulting succession of fifths and sixthsevokes distant horn calls, a symbol of Heimweh prefigured in works such as Beethoven’s “Les Adieux” Sonata (same key) and Schubert’ssong Der Lindenbaum. In the last seven measures, Brahms imbues the horn calls with a sonorous majesty that brings the movement to apeaceful close (Ex. 10).

The finale Allegro molto moderato quotes Regenlied most literally of all the movements (compare Ex. 1 and Ex. 11). The quotationinforms the refrain of a rondo form (see below) and is then answered by a second idea (Ex. 12), absent in the Lied version. In the Lied,we note, Brahms sets the poem musically as an ABCA form, where C sprouts a new theme in a new meter (3/2) — perhaps he wasmoved by this “digression” to cast his finale in rondo form. The rondo, a common way to close instrumental works after 1780,comprises a recurrent subject or “refrain” (marked “A” on TABLE 1) alternating with digressions called “episodes.” The spry firstepisode (“B,” Ex. 13a/Ex. 13b) engages Groth’s “To dance in the grass . . . .” And the dramatic second episode (“C,” Ex. 14) issufficiently complex to mimic the development of a first-movement form. Two significant developments indeed occur. First, the violin







quotes the Adagio’s A subject in its original Eb major (compare Ex. 7), now supported by an accompaniment recycling the horn calls ofthat movement’s coda. Second, these horn calls are themselves spun out over a complex modulation from Eb back to G minor. Morethan a mere déjà vu, the episode transforms Heimweh into both a compositional tour-de-force and into an autobiographical confession,namely Brahms’s well-documented yearning for the past.

In the coda, all thematic elements “A” and “C” are reconciled in G major, key of the first movement. This peroration brings to lifethe poem’s “thrill and quiver,” culminating in a radiant pentatonic frisson. Brahms fashions not a cyclical form à la Franck, but rather adouble retrospective (or Rückblick, as Brahms titled a prescient moment in his Piano Sonata, Op. 5): an allusion to an earlier movement andto an earlier composition, a chapter of his past. A more lucid demonstration of “Brahms the Classical Romantic” would be hard to find.

Second Violin Sonata, Op. 100

Walther’s “Prize Song” (in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act III, Scene 2)

Walther von Stolzing:“Shining in the sunlight of the dawning day, the air full of blossoms and scent with beauties beyond imagination a garden bademe enter.”

Hans Sachs:That was a Stollen [“stanza”]. Now, make sure that one just like it follows . . .

Walther von Stolzing:“Joyfully towering from that holy spot offering the healing abundance of rich golden fruit a glorious tree, its fragant branches attheir very tips awaking my desire.”

Hans Sachs:You did not end in the same key: that insults the Mastersingers; but Hans Sachs has learned something from this, for this is whatSpring’s all about. Now compose an Abgesang [“aftersong”].

Walther von Stolzing:What does that mean?

Hans Sachs:If you’ve succeeded in finding the right pair, their offspring will show it. Like the Stollen but not the same, it [the Abgesang] isrich in its own rhymes and tunes . . . it will close your Stollen so that nothing will fall out of place.

Walther von Stolzing (continuing his song):“Listen to the radiant wonder that befell me: a woman stood by my side, so fair and beautiful as I had never seen; she gentlyentwined me like a bride; with gleaming eyes she pointed her hand towards what I so fervently desired, the precious fruit of theTree of Life.”

Hans Sachs:Now that’s an Abgesang. See how well the whole piece has come off! But you are a bit free with the melody, though I would notdeem that a fault; only it is hard to follow, and that ruffles our old curmudgeons.

***Translation of Brahms’s song Wie Melodien zieht es mir

(“Like a Melody It Roams”), Op. 105, No. 1

Like a melody it roamssoftly through my mind,

Like a flower in spring it blossomsand hovers like a fragrance.

Yet the Word comes and seizes itand brings it before my eyes;

Like a gray mist it palesand then fades like a breath.And yet concealed in rhymes

is a fragrance well hidden,that from the quiet budcan a moist eye awaken.

— poem by Klaus Groth

During the summer of 1886, Brahms wrote the Second Violin Sonata in Thun, Switzerland, while visiting a writer friend, J.V.Widmann. The composer and violinist Joseph Hellmesberger premiered this sunny work in Vienna in December the same year. Faroutreaching Op. 78 in its literary associations, Op. 100 incorporates both Wagnerian opera (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg) andBrahmsian Lied. Brahms’s stance towards the “New German School,” remember, was trickier than many of his followers wished (or weresavvy enough) to admit. Though he decried Liszt’s music, he glorified Wagner’s. He confided to a friend, Rudolf von der Leyen: “I am a farolder Wagnerite than all the rest of you put together. When Richard Wagner died, my first impulse was to send a fine wreath to Bayreuthfor his grave. Only think, even that was misinterpreted as scorn . . . . It was wonderful to see what lengths men’s tactlessness and blindnessare capable of going . . . .” He pored over Wagner’s scores and musical essays as well; one even finds a quotation from Wagner’s operaticmanifesto, Oper und Drama, in Brahms’s literary diary. And despite Wagner’s stingy praise for his younger contemporary’s variation works(“He’s no joker”), Brahms volunteered to copy orchestra parts for a concert of Wagner opera excerpts given in Vienna, 26 December 1862.The Brahms-Wagner connection runs still deeper. As this writer has shown in a 1986 article, Wagner’s Tristan and Brahms’scontemporaneous song Liebe und Frühling II were affined in procedures of text, setting and harmony. And in an essay of 1990, DavidBrodbeck identified harmonic structures in Tannhäuser reinterpreted by Brahms in his Third Symphony.

Similarly, Brahms scholarship over the last hundred years has discussed the thematic relationship between Die Meistersinger andBrahms’s Second Violin Sonata. Richard Specht, one of his early biographers, recorded a comment he made thereto pertaining: “Do youthink me so narrow that I, too, cannot be enchanted by the gaiety and grandeur of Die Meistersinger? Or so dishonest as to conceal my

opinion that I consider a few bars of this work worth more than all the operas that have been composed since?” Disarming in theirsincerity, Brahms’s words are also autobiographically significant: he never fulfilled the lifelong dream of writing an opera.

Apart from the love story involving Walther von Stolzing and Eva Pogner, Meistersinger’s plot centers on the art of setting wordsto music, a topic near and dear to Brahms. The libretto’s ancillary ideas — tradition versus innovation, craft versus fantasy, past versuspresent — also struck responsive chords in Brahms, literally and figuratively. Like the Mastersingers of old Nürnberg, he prizedcraftsmanship, musical and otherwise. And he surely recognized aspects of his own persona as refracted through Wagner’s characters: thepedantic Sixtus Beckmesser, the sagacious Hans Sachs, the individualistic Walther. If this were not enough, Brahms anticipatedWalther’s reference to the Minnesinger, Walther von der Vogelweide, in the Minnelied quotation of the Op. 5 Piano Sonata and“answered” it in his 1877 setting of Minnelied (text by L. Hölty), same key and meter as Walther’s “Prize Song.”

The Second Violin Sonata begins by quoting the opening motive of the “Prize Song” with a harmonization similar to Wagner’s(Ex. 15a/Ex. 15b). Brahms, whose adulation for Wagner stopped at emulation, warned of his senior’s potential for overwhelmingimpressionable young composers (a common ill in those days). So Brahms may have viewed the “Prize Song” (which Beckmesser doesemulate at his own peril) as being a formidably original music that better inspires than instructs. Brahms, very much his own man,distilled the essence of Meistersinger in an instrumental work that might have well earned Sachs’s praise as heilige deutsche Kunst (“holyGerman art”). This is manifest in the opening twenty measures (Ex. 15b) where Brahms (Walther?) transmutes Sachs’s precepts into theopening paragraph of a sonata exposition.

Ex. 15b shows that S1 consists of three sentences, the first two similar, the second different — an AAB design comparable to the“two Stollen and Abgesang” favored by the old Mastersingers (see above). Brahms further marries the “Prize Song” to his sonata bytransposing his second Stollen (mm. 6-10) “to another key,” thereby transgressing the laws of the guild (see above). He further“transgresses” by declaiming his theme in five-measure sentences where each “Stollen” ends with a one-measure interjection by the violin,not unlike Sachs’s verbal glosses in Act III, Scene 2. On a more abstract plane, S1 fuses the two composers’ technical procedures.Wagner’s sequential phrasing and chromaticism is enmeshed with Brahms’s asymmetrical sentences and motivic parsimony (see the“Abgesang” mm. 11-20). One cannot stress enough that this marriage plays out in a sonata form, which Wagner rejected as out of stepwith his “Music of the Future.” Both our Mastersingers inherited Walther’s legacy, to be sure, but it was Brahms who (quoting Hegel)“liberated it from its text.”



Not until the entry of S2 (Ex. 16a) do the earlier five-measure sentences relax into symmetrical four-measure units, festoonedwith a mellifluous counterpoint typically encountered in the composer’s late music. But the spirit of Meistersinger prevails. Brahms uses arhythmic motive of the “Prize Song” ( ) as the medium to graft the melodic germ of his 1886 song, Wie Melodien zieht es mir,originally in duple meter, onto the second subject of his triple-meter sonata movement (Ex. 16b). Is it mere chance that the text of WieMelodien concerns the wondrous affinity (poetic inspiration itself?) between melody and the word that “seizes” it? Brahms may as wellhave been ruminating here on Sachs’s charge to Walther upon having completed his “Prize Song”: “Then deed and word in their properplace! / Therefore I beg you, remember well the melody; / lovingly it makes of itself an inner poetry; / And when you sing it for others, /then hold fast to the dream that inspired it.”

Events of the exposition culminate in S3 (Ex. 17) where a symphonic fanfare of four measures melts into a lyricalcounterstatement of five recalling S1, a sort of Abgesang for S1 and S2. Brahms’s final tribute to Meistersinger resounds in his canonictreatment of the “Prize Song” motive throughout the development. Though the opera fairly bristles with learned counterpoint of analmost Brahmsian stamp, Wagner leaves the “Prize Song” untouched in this domain. Brahms’s canonic virtuosity here articulates a“classical” development section and also bridges “chronologically” the Renaissance and Romantic accents of the opera.

In the second movement, the friendly duel between our two Mastersingers gives way to a dialog between Brahms the Classicist andthe Romanticist. True to sonata protocol, the Classicist proffers material for the two conventional inner movements, a pastoral Andante anda playful Vivace (Ex. 18 and Ex. 19). But the Romanticist juxtaposes them within a single movement, thereby concocting a tortoise-and-

q. q q q






hare scenario, where the tortoise races at the last moment to the finish line. Until the very end, the listener waffles over whether he is hearinga slow movement with fast interludes or a topsy-turvy scherzo with multiple trios (a formula used by Schumann, DvoÍák, and elsewhere byBrahms). Either way, Brahms joins the two revolving sections by way of simple melodic links (interval of a fourth, Ex. 20a) and tempoproportions (rhythmic augmentation, Ex. 20b). This moment of comic relief has a precedent in the humorous intermezzi staged between theacts of eighteenth-century operas, a fact probably known to the musicologically-minded Brahms.

The concluding Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante) softens Brahms’s terse compositional diction with Viennese gemütlichkeit. Unlikethe First Violin Sonata, the finale is a sonata rondo containing two themes in its first subject-as-rondo (see Ex. 21). The violin introducesS1/T1 (the Refrain “A”), comprising a twelve-measure sentence (4 measures antecedent + 8 measures consequent) whose asymmetricalconsequent might have awed a Schoenberg (or a Charlie Parker) with its meandering elongation. S1/T2, in contrast, smacks of Schubertwith its luminous piano chords and rolling accompaniment figures (Ex. 22). Typical of Romantic-era rondos, the refrain never recurs as itfirst appears. Accompanimental texture, rhythm, harmony, and even melody itself change during its circuitous journey.

In the first episode (“B,” Ex. 23) the violin intones a throaty chant accompanied by ominous piano arpeggios. (The diminished-seventh harmonies bring to mind Schubert’s song Die Stadt.) The second episode (“C,” Ex. 24), a heated conversation that develops S1/T2, dissolves magically into a restatement of S1/T1 in the “wrong” key (subdominant D major) followed by the reprise of “B” in the“right” key, more or less (i.e., as a chromatic progression from a B-diminished harmony to E, the dominant of A). As in the finale of Op.78, Brahms devises a restive second episode, which works here as a reduced development for the movement’s sonata component. Anexuberant coda joining “A” and “C” ends the work. Elisabet von Herzogenberg must again be quoted: “But what a charming, happyinspiration of yours it is! The whole piece is one caress.” The Second Violin Sonata, more than just a caress, is a ménage à trois for opera,song, and chamber music.





Third Violin Sonata, Op. 108

Composed in Thun 1886-1888, the Third Violin Sonata was premiered by the violinist Jenö Hubay and Brahms in Budapest,December 1888. Brahms dedicated this work to the fiery pianist-conductor Hans von Bülow. The Sturm und Drang of this musicforeshadows the late violin sonatas of Max Reger (1873-1916), near-expressionistic works contiguous with those of the budding SecondViennese School. In his Op. 108, Brahms assigns S1 to the violin, S2 to the piano and S3 to both, with transitions so explosive as toupstage the themes themselves. In S1, a bittersweet violin melody glides over an austere piano accompaniment, featuring syncopatedunisons between the hands (Ex. 25). The restlessness one senses here stems also from the fact that both instruments start and end S1 onthe dominant pitch A, the note that will literally dominate the entire sonata. The pitch A not only postpones definitive (cadential)resolution to the tonic D, it resolves for the first time at the reprise of S2 (m. 186) almost three-fourths of the way through themovement! In the Exposition, S1 “resolves” on A, thence bursting into a harmonic avalanche that reluctantly subsides to the plaintive S2in the relative F major (Ex. 26), a piano cantilena supported by cascading arpeggios. This blissful interlude abruptly vanishes with thearrival of the fleet S3 (Ex. 27). Here the newly established F major is beclouded by its own minor subdominant (Bb–Db–F) anddiminished seventh (Bb–Db–E–G) chords. Students of the Third Violin Sonata’s harmony will have noted the enharmonic pun of Db/C#, the third of the A major triad.






Other students will have noted that all three subjects start with the note A, irrespective of local key areas. This idea blossoms inthe development, forty-six measures of throbbing music grounded on an A pedal point, above which violin and piano right hand tradecompound lines (two melodic lines nested in one), a poignant homage to J. S. Bach (Ex. 28). Herzogenberg, who keenly admired thedevelopment, wrote Brahms: “At the opening of the development we quite caught our breath. How new it is, with that exquisite pedal-note absorbing everything! How our surprise and delight grew and grew as the A showed no sign of giving way, but held its own throughall the glorious tissue woven above it! How my left thumb revelled in the pressure it had to exert!” Brahms’s obsessive A permeates therecapitulation (Ex. 29), where the Bachian figures continue in the piano (in both hands), and withholds resolution to the tonic until thereprise of S2, now in D major (balancing the analogous F major). After a reprise of S3 in D minor and fully harmonized restatement ofS1 in the same key, the movement ends with a calm recollection of the development again in D major, the key of the ensuing Adagio.

The Adagio, a modified two-stanza song without words, comprises two thematic elements, one reflective, the other passionate(Ex. 30a/Ex. 30b). This relationship is mirrored in the movement’s larger structure, a prayerful first stanza and an aria-like second. In thesecond, the violin’s phrases are strategically dispersed over its full range, the piano right hand playing the melody legato over a harp-likestaccato bass. (The piano’s “orchestral” articulation is idiomatic to the registrally disjunct Viennese instrument Brahms himself owned.)Once again, Herzogenberg’s appreciation of the music deserves quotation: “I rejoiced to find the Adagio undisturbed by any middle part,for, as I have often admitted, however nice the middle parts are, I am never enthusiastic about them. That kind of contrast almost alwaysstrikes me as artificial, and my chief pleasure in an Adagio is its continuity of emotion. For that reason this compact movement, so expressivein its contracted form, pleases me particularly.” Brahms aspired all his life to compactness of expression and certainly achieved his goal here.

The scherzo movement, marked Un poco presto e con sentimento, left its first listeners bemused, even Herzogenberg. She felt that thebowed violin chords opening the movement stifled the piano’s nimble gait and even induced Brahms to change the violin’s articulation topizzicato (in the reprise at least). Typical of many nineteenth-century scherzos, this one has a single subject with two themes (Exx. 31a/b).The first has a Fauré-like daintiness, the second a defiant exhuberance. Brahms creates here a sister movement to the Adagio. He squeezeswhat “classically” would have been a compound ternary form (A B [Trio] A1, each nesting smaller binary forms) into a large external binaryform (A A1). This he does by modulating the second of two internal binary segments of a vestigial A section (starting m. 53) — normallydriving towards the tonic F# minor — to the distant key of F major, as would befit an equally vestigial trio. Then, he shrinks a still morevestigial trio to a tiny bridge passage played by the piano alone (m. 111). The bridge modulates back to an abbreviated A1 section (F#

minor), the second of whose two binary segments, now shrunk to a coda, foregoes reprise of the second theme.





The sonata-rondo form finale, a Presto agitato Robert Haven Schauffler called a “tarantellish” answer to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer”Sonata finale, picks up the dominating A of the first movement and also links it to the third movement. While the Presto’s opening Amajor chord is the dominant of D minor, it is also the relative major of the scherzo’s F# minor, so the “clash” between both third-relatedkeys to D minor is all the more searing (Ex. 32). From the start, one hears that each can work as melody or accompaniment. As in thefirst movement, resolution of A is postponed, though only until the onset of the transition, a tiff between the two instruments (Ex. 33),

leading to S2-as-“B” (Ex. 34). This first episode of the rondo structure (“B”) starts a hymn droned by the piano, gradually unhingedmetrically and harmonically when the violin enters. Immediately thereafter enters S3-as-“C” (Ex. 35), a febrile tarentella as much akin tothe first movement of Beethoven’s early Violin Sonata, Op. 23, as to the “Kreutzer.”

Next follows a restatement of “A,” after which “D,” a real development (based on “A” and “C”), unfolds. One hears in thissection a vertiginous complexity that bests developments in other Brahms works such as the First Symphony and Third Piano Quartet. Apedal point on A (m. 194) extricates us from the labyrinth, a move normally signaling the retransition (bridge to the recapitulation) in aD-tonality sonata but recalling here the actual transition of the finale’s sonata structure (mm. 17-38). Thanks to the ubiquitous A and its“resolution” (locally and globally) to F major, however, this recap starts not with S1 (“A”) but with S2 (“B”), followed by S3 (“C”).






Finally S1 returns to herald the agitato coda where, twelve measures from the end, a fragment of the same theme is heard solidly (for thefirst and last time) in the tonic D minor (Ex. 36). After a momentary Luftpause, the movement thunders to its conclusion.

Brahms’s violin sonatas are milestones in the history of chamber music. They revisit the achievements of his predecessors with anunmatched concision of motive, harmony, and form. They brilliantly demonstrate Brahms’s hard-won quest for economy of expressionand so challenge a widely held view that his style never evolved. Moreover, the source-historical background of these sonatas, especiallyof the second, decisively quashes the obsolete “Brahms versus Wagner” feud. Both Mastersingers drew from the same musical culture butused complementary idioms to grapple creatively with the word-tone dialectic of German Romanticism.

— Ira Braus, The Hartt School


Bozarth, George. “Brahms’s Lieder ohne Worte: The ‘Poetic’ Andantes of the Piano Studies.” In Brahms Studies, ed. George Bozarth.Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

Brahms, Johannes. The Herzogenberg Correspondence, ed. Max Kalbeck and transl. Hannah Bryant. New York: Dutton and Co., 1909.

Braus, Ira. “Brahms’s Liebe und Frühling II. Op. 3, No. 3: A New Path to the Artwork of the Future?” 19th-Century Music X/2, Fall 1986

Brodbeck, David. “Brahms, the Third Symphony, and the New German School.” In Brahms and his World, ed. Walter Frisch. Princeton,N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Daverio, John. “Against the Grain: Brahms’s Conception of the Virtuoso Violin Idiom.” Lecture given at Brahms Festival: Perspectiveson Performance, Boston University, April 5-7, 2001.

McCorkle, Donald and Margit L., Hsg. Johannes Brahms Thematisches-Bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis. München: G. Henle Verlag,1984.

McKinney, Timothy R. “Beyond the ‘Rain-Drop’ Motif: Motivic and Thematic Relationships in Brahms’s opera 59 and 78.” The MusicReview 52, 1991.

Struck, Michael. “New Evidence on the Genesis of Brahms’s G Major Violin Sonata, Op. 78.” American Brahms Society Newsletter,Spring 1991.

Schauffler, Daniel Haven. The Unknown Brahms. New York: Crown Publishers, 1940.

Schoenberg, Arnold. “Brahms the Progressive.” In Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg, ed. Leonard Stein, withtranslations by Leo Black. 1975 Rev. ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

Swafford, Jan. Johannes Brahms. A Biography. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1997.



(photo credit: Michael Pochna)


Russian-born violinist ANASTASIA KHITRUK began her musical studies at Moscow’s CentralMusic School and, after emigrating to the United States, made her orchestral debut at the age ofeight. Based in New York, she appears regularly in recital and as a soloist with orchestras in Europe,North and South America, and Australia. In addition to the sonatas on this recording, she hasreceived acclaim for her performances of the Bach Sonatas (“she caught lightening in a bottle”), theShostakovich Violin Concerto (“masterful”), and the Paganini Caprices (“dazzling”).

DAVID KOREVAAR, professor of piano at the University of Colorado at Boulder, received hisbachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School, where his teachers included EarlWild and Abbey Simon. Mr. Korevaar has formerly served as a member of the faculty of theWestport (Connecticut) School of Music and as head of piano studies at the University ofBridgeport. He has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, aswell as in Japan, Korea, and Europe. Recordings include CDs of Dohnányi (Ivory Classics), Liszt(Helicon), and Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier (Musicians Showcase).


For this recording, Machold Rare Violins — with offices in New York, Zürich, Bremen, andTokyo — generously lent Anastasia Khitruk the Stradivari believed made in 1669 and known as theClisbee Stradivari, after one Miss Clisbee, who had purchased it about 1890. See Hill, WilliamHenry, Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work (1644–1737) (W. F. Hill & Sons, England). In thewords of Ms. Khitruk, “The dark, powerful poetry of the Clisbee Stradivari seemed perfectly suitedto the Brahms Sonatas.”


(photo credit: Casey Cass)



(photo credit: Michael Pochna)


Recorded in March of 2001in The Recital Hall, Purchase College, Purchase, New York


“Clisbee” Stradivari (c. 1669),courtesy of Machold Rare Violins, Ltd., New York, Zürich, Bremen, Tokyo


Ira Braus


Design by Jack, Inc.Glen Cortese (Musical Notation)


Page 33 — Anastasia Khitruk: Michael Pochna, 8 New Estis-Terrace, Inc.Page 33 — David Korevaar: Casey Cass, 8 University of Colorado

Page 35 — Ms. Khitruk and David Korevaar: Michael Pochna, 8 New Estis-Terrace, Inc.Back Cover — “Clisbee” Stradivari: 8 Machold Rare Violins, Ltd.


“Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi” (1794)by Philipp Friedrich von Hetsch (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany),

8 Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York


h 2002 New Estis-Terrace, Inc. 2002 New Estis-Terrace, Inc.

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