Brahms – Violin Sonata No. 2 (Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lambert Orkis)

German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the American pianist Lambert Orkis perform Johannes Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (“Thun” or “Meistersinger”).

Brahms composed this sonata while spending the summer of 1886 in Thun, a beautiful touristic city in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. It 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.

It was premiered in Vienna on 2 December 1886 by the Austrian violinist, conductor, and composer Joseph Hellmesberger, Sr. (3 November 1828 – 24 October 1893) and Brahms himself at the piano.

Three movements are:

  1. Allegro amabile
  2. Andante tranquillo – Vivace – Andante – Vivace di più – Andante – Vivace
  3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante)

By giving the work the formal title of “Sonata for Piano and Violin”, rather than the more usual “Sonata for Violin and Piano”, Brahms indicated the piano part was just as important as the violin part. In keeping with this, he allowed the piano to announce the opening theme. The first three notes of the first movement are very similar in both melody and harmony to the first three notes of “Walther’s Prize Song” (Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein) from Richard Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Although they were musical rivals, Brahms was a great admirer of Wagner’s music, but whether this was a deliberate quotation on Brahms’s part is open to speculation. Nevertheless, the sonata has often been subtitled the “Meistersinger” Sonata. It is also sometimes called the “Thun” Sonata from the place of its creation.

Motives from three of the songs Brahms wrote that summer with Hermine Spies’s voice in mind appear fleetingly in the sonata: “Wie Melodien zieht es mir leise durch den Sinn”, Op. 105/1 (“Like melodies it steals softly through my mind”; words by Klaus Groth) makes an appearance in the second subject of the first movement. “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer”, Op. 105/2 (“Ever gentle is my sleep”; words by Hermann Lingg) and “Auf dem Kirchhofe”, Op. 105/4 (words by Detlev von Liliencron) are quoted in the final movement. The song “Komm bald”, Op. 97/5 (“Come soon”; words by Groth) is also said have provided thematic inspiration for the sonata.

Thun, view from the castle (2012)
Thun, view from the castle (2012). Thun (French: Thoune) is a city and municipality in the administrative district of Thun in the canton of Bern in Switzerland with about 43,783 inhabitants (around 90,000 in the agglomeration), as of 31 December 2013.
It is located where the Aare flows out of Lake Thun (Thunersee), 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Bern. Besides tourism, machine and precision instrument engineering, the largest garrison in the country, the food industry, armaments and publishing are of economic importance to Thun.
The official language of Thun is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect. Photo: wikipedia

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