Johannes  Brahms

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Nationality: German
Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg
Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna (age 63)
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Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78, Regensonate

(for violin and piano)
I. Vivace ma non troppo
II. Adagio
III. Allegro molto moderato
Composed: 1879 (age 45-46)
Duration: 25 minutes (approximately)
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4 recordings, 12 videos
11:20
Chung, Frankl
I. Vivace ma non troppo
7:59
Chung, Frankl
II. Adagio
8:44
Chung, Frankl
III. Allegro molto moderato
8:57
Heifetz, Bay
I. Vivace ma non troppo
7:57
Heifetz, Bay
II. Adagio
7:49
Heifetz, Bay
III. Allegro molto moderato
9:55
Oistrakh
I. Vivace ma non troppo
8:43
Oistrakh
II. Adagio
8:07
Oistrakh
III. Allegro molto moderato
10:30
Strauss
I. Vivace ma non troppo
7:48
Strauss
II. Adagio
8:31
Strauss
III. Allegro molto moderato



From Kai Christiansen:

Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78, "Regensonate", 1879

Johaness BrahmsBrahms' three violin sonatas are all extraordinary masterpieces that occupy their own rarefied world of elegant construction, romantic sweep and exquisite beauty. The designation of "Sonata for Piano and Violin" significantly expresses the equal partnership of both instruments in this chamber music for two. While the violin often sings first and foremost, Brahms frequently switches the parts giving theme and accompaniment a deeper sounding through new sonorities and "inverted" textures. The two parts generally imitate, echo and intertwine for a balanced chamber unity with ample lyricism and virtuosity for both players. Brahms published his first sonata for piano and violin in 1879 at the relatively advanced age of 46, though, typical of his history, it seems that he may have consigned at least three previous sonatas to the fire of unremitting self-criticism. The Sonata in G Major, Op. 78 thus emerges as an astonishing "first" sonata by any standard; it is a magical work full of graceful tenderness, nobility, bursting intensity and sacred repose with a wealth of cyclic interconnections. It is a romantic sonata in the truest sense: there are literary and musical allusions to rain throughout and the prevailing serenity often gives rise to poignant reflection and nostalgia. It is revealing to touch upon each of its movements backwards, starting with the finale. The title "Regensonate" ("Rain Sonata") refers to the fact that Brahms reused one his own art songs titled "Regenlied" ("Rain Song") to create the third movement finale. The swiftly running Allegro moderato opens with the exact melody and accompaniment of the lied, a wistful song sung to the steady patter of rainfall. The song text by Klaus Groth traces the path from rain to childhood dreams as nature and reverie turn inward towards a longing for the simplicity and magic of youth:

Pour, rain, pour down, Awaken again in me those dreams That I dreamt in childhood, When the wetness foamed in the sand!

When the dull summer sultriness Struggled casually against the fresh coolness, And the pale leaves dripped with dew, And the crops were dyed a deeper blue.

The long, sinuous melody stretches broadly across the steady animation of flowing water with distinctive falling gestures running ever downward in both instruments. Melvin Berger points to the prominent "trochaic" rhythmic figure, a short motif of three notes in a long – short – long pattern that frequently punctuates the line. Like three rain drops, each falling sooner, this rhythmic signature saturates all three movements of the sonata arising, as it were, from the song of the finale.

The central adagio is a deep, tender song that rises like a hymn in the piano with the simple nobility of open chords in basic cadences with smooth part-writing in thirds and sixths creating that signature Brahms grandeur. It seems certain, though rarely mentioned, that this introduction was also inspired by the very same "Regenlied", a middle section of the song accompanying this portion of text:

Like the flowers' chalices, which trickle there, The soul breathes openly, Like the flowers, drunk with fragrance, Drowning in the dew of the Heavens.

Every trembling drop cooled Deep down to the heart's very beating, And creation's holy web Pierced into my hidden life.

But this is just the beginning for the slow movement. Following this luxuriant opening, the violin joins with a long, languid and chromatic melody of bewitching beauty that coalesces into a more flowing reiteration of the opening melody. The music starts to bloom. A third idea arises: strong chords stride in a dark but majestic march launching the fiddle into urgent pleas and a pinnacle of brief anguish. A flush of passion, the shadow passes and the opening melody returns yet again ("the soul breathes openly"), an effulgent, exotic blossom with flowing chords and generous double-stops in the violin. The music magically combines the hymn, the languid chromatic melody and a fleeting, nostalgic café waltz for an inexpressible complex of charming, euphoric melancholy. Brahms further deepens the impact through one more departure, a coda that slips back into chromatic mystery, flairs into passion yet again before settling into a final repose, "the cooling tremble of the heart's very beating."

The "Regensonate" begins like spring with a lilting song. So gently, the violin is waltzing with the piano. As the ranging melody spreads farther and faster it crests and falls and softly, it starts raining. Brahms unmistakably evokes the rainy textures and lilting trochaic meter of the finale, and, by association, the "Regenlied" from the very start of this magnificent sonata. The first movement provides at least two broad and lyrical themes and a stormy blast of intense development for a substantial sonata that is by far the longest movement of the entire work. The scoring is as rich as the music is mellifluous with the violin and piano exchanging roles in a gracious partnership. The range of emotion is surprising with more than a suggestion of sudden rainstorms and the potency power of inner emotions. This opening movement aptly serves as the likely object of the Regenlied's nostalgia:

Pour, rain, pour down, Awaken the old songs, That we used to sing in the doorway When the raindrops pattered outside!

I would like to listen to it again, That sweet, moist rushing, My soul gently bedewed With holy, childlike awe.

As in more than one of Brahms' great works, the end recalls the beginning, nearly wrapping around in a full circle to start the whole work again. Like the Regenlied's backward-looking nostalgia for youth, the finale recalls musical elements from both the first and second movements in a masterful use of subtle suggestion with a miraculous affect. Inspired and mirrored by the finale, the beginning only makes full sense at the end.

© Kai Christiansen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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