BRAHMS: Cello Sonatas Opp. 38, 78 and 99

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Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)

Sonata No.1 in E Minor for cello and piano, Op. 38

Sonata in D Major, Op. 78

(transcribed for cello and piano by Paul Klengel from ViolinSonata in G Major)

Cello Sonata No.2 in F Major, Op. 99

Johannes Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in the Gangevierteldistrict of Hamburg, the son of a double-bass player and his wife, a seamstress seventeenyears her husband's senior. It was intended that the boy should follow his lather's tradeand to this end he was taught the violin and cello, but his interest in the pianoprevailed, enabling him to supplement the family income by playing in dockside taverns,while taking valuable lessons from Eduard Marxsen.

In 1853 Brahms embarked on a concert tour with the Hungarianviolinist Eduard Rernenyi, during the course of which he visited Liszt in Weimar, to noeffect, and struck up a friendship with the violinist Joseph Joachim, through whose agencyhe met the Schumanns, established now in D??sseldorf. The connection was an important one.

Schumann was impressed enough by the compositions of his own Brahms played to him to hailhim as the long-awaited successor to Beethoven. Schumann's subsequent break-down inFebruary 1854 and ensuing insanity brought Brahms back to D??sseldorf to help ClaraSchumann and her young family. The relationship with Clara Schumann, one of the mostdistinguished pianists of the time, tasted until her death in 1896.

It was not until 1862, after a happy period that had broughthim a temporary position at the court of Detmold as a conductor and piano teacher, thatBrahms visited Vienna, giving concerts there and meeting the important critic EduardHanslick, who was to prove a doughty champion, pitting Brahms against Wagner and Liszt asa composer of abstract music, as opposed to the music-drama of Wagner and the symphonicpoems of Liszt, with their extra-musical associations. Brahms finally took up permanentresidence in Vienna in 1869, greeted by many as the real successor to Beethoven,particularly after his first symphony, and winning a similar position in popular esteemand similar tolerance for his notorious lack of tact. He died in 1897.

It was in 1862 that Brahms wrote the first two movements of hisfirst Cello Sonata, the year of his firstvisit to Vienna, the city that was to welcome him as the heir of Beethoven. In 1862,however, there still seemed some possibility of employment in his native Hamburg and thiswas where his ambitions lay. The Cello Sonata

was to have had a third, Adagio movement, but this was discarded, and the work was finallycompleted in 1865, alter the death of the composer's mother and at a time when the GermanRequiem was again in his mind. The sonata makes full use of the more sombre possibilitiesof the cello, inherent in its lower range. The opening theme of the first movementestablishes this mood, momentarily lightened in the lilting closing theme of theexposition, which has been preceded by a characteristically dark-hued B minor theme. Theclosing theme, now in E major, ends the movement. The Allegrettoquasi menuetto opens with a group of notes that is to serve as a concludingfigure to the principal cello theme, a melody that has graver implications than are usualin a traditional minuet. The contrasting Trio, in F sharp minor alter the A minor of thefirst part of the movement, offers a suaver outline, with a miraculous interweaving ofcross-rhythms between the two instruments. The Eminor Symphony of Brahms was to make use of a theme derived from Bach for itsmassive final passacaglia. The final Allegro of the E minor Cello Sonata takes its fugalsubject from the same composer's Art of Fugue, a work that has also been suggested as apossible source for the first subject of the first movement. The piano announces thesubject in the left hand, answered by the cello a fourth lower and with a third entry anoctave higher from the piano. The entry of the cello is accompanied by a countersubject intypically contrasted rhythm, a device for which Brahms shows his fondness again and again.

These cross-rhythms continue as a feature of the movement, with its remarkable combinationof traditional, formal technique with the sensibility of a later age.

Brahms spent the summer of 1886 at Hofstetten, near Thun, byLake Thun, in Switzerland. Here he was able to work in peace in the countryside in a roomlooking towards the Bernese Alps. He was, at the same time, near his friend Joseph VictorWidmann, the poet and writer, who lived near Berne. Brahms had met Widmann at a musicfestival in Switzerland some years before. Now he was able to spend every Saturday atWidmann's house, discussing the latest books and articles with which his friend might beconcerned. As earlier summers at Portschach had proved a fertile source of inspiration,so Thun allowed the composer an opportunity to work on music of particularly lyricintensity. The first summer saw the composition of the Fmajor Cello Sonata, the A major ViolinSonata and the C minor Piano Trio,while the following years brought the Double Concerto

for violin and cello, the Zigeunerlieder andthe third and final violin sonata.

The F major Cello Sonata,Opus 99, is a less somber work than its predecessor in E minor. The writing ismore lyrical and shows an almost youthful exuberance and intensity, apparent as the cellopresents the first theme, over the tremolo notes of the piano. The second subject isentrusted at first to the piano, which soon breaks into those cross-rhythms that are arecurrent feature of the composer's style. Cello tremolo notes end the first section ofthe movement and return during the course of a dramatic development. The second movementshifts to the remote key of F sharp major, an effectively mysterious change of tonalityalready implied in the brief excursion into F sharp minor of the first movement. Thesecond theme of the Adagio, however, is in F minor, a somber counter part of the key ofthe first movement, and explores the darker, lower range of the cello, before returning,with plucked notes, to the subtly modified first key and melody. The third movement,marked Allegro passionato, has a piano part of even greater technical complexity than thatof the first movement, offering further problems of balance to performers. Three pianochords lead from the F minor opening section to an F major Trio, which touches briefly onthe key of F sharp, a semitone higher, giving once again that sudden and mysteriouslyethereal effect experienced in the Adagio. The final Rondo, written first with apparenthaste and later corrected by the composer, seems at first too insubstantial for thepreceding movements, the third of which had seemed so conclusively final. Interveningepisodes, however, add a touch of the more serious, before the final version of the firsttheme, which is to be played either with the bow or pizzicato by the cello.

The G major Violin Sonata,Opus 78, was written during the summer of 1879 while Brahms was staying atPortschach. The transcription for cello and piano, once attributed to Brahms, was made in1897 by the Leipzig musician Paul Klengel, brother of the cellist Julius Klengel. Thefirst movement allows the cello to introduce the main theme, with its waltz-like lilt,over piano chords, a transition bringing those cross-rhythms that are typical of Brahms.

The cello moves to the second subject, joined by the piano, the first theme re-appearingwith a pizzicato accompaniment, a suggested repetition of the exposition, which in factleads to a central development section. A recapitulation ends in a coda that r
Item number 8550656
Barcode 4891030506565
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Kliegel, Maria
Merscher, Kristin
Kliegel, Maria
Composers Brahms, Johannes
Brahms, Johannes
Producers Geest, Teije van
Geest, Teije van
Disc: 1
Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99
1 I. Allegro non troppo
2 II. Allegretto quasi menuetto
3 III. Allegro
4 I. Vivace ma non troppo
5 II. Adagio
6 III. Allegro molto moderato
7 I. Allegro vivace
8 II. Adagio affettuoso
9 III. Allegro passionato
10 IV. Allegro molto
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