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Schumann's first, shortest and best-known sonata, Opus 105 in A minor, was penned while the composer was reportedly 'very angry with certain people'; perhaps that proved an incentive for he dashed it off with demonstrable passion in less than a week. Unlike the two later sonatas it has three movements, rather than four; its monothematic central 'Allegretto' in the form of a rondo with two episodes (in F minor and D minor, the latter 'Bewegter') serving as both slow movement and intermezzo.

The 2nd Violin Sonata in D minor Op 121, dedicated to violinist Ferdinand David, was first performed by Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann in 1853. Joachim later wrote 'I consider it one of the finest compositions of our times [for] its marvellous unity of feeling and ... thematic significance. It overflows with noble passion, almost harsh and bitter in expression, and the last movement reminds one of the sea with its glorious waves of sound.'

Indeed from the opening ('Ziemlich langsam -- Lebhaft') these duettists combine dynamism and emotive poetry sweeping all before it [listen -- track 4, 1:08-2:45]. Equally the Brahmsian scherzo ('Sehr lebhaft') finds both instrumentalists ideally attuned throughout.

The lovely traditional chorale 'Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ' hinted at in Schumann's scherzo reappears as the theme for his third movement variations; yet another thematically inspired creation conveyed with conspicuous artistry.

A final intense 'Bewegt' is imbued with propulsive forward momentum; its emphatic character allowing no respite for violin or piano -- the result, a triumphant bravura apotheosis for a work with immeasurable rewards.

Little here, or in the following sonata betrays the composer's impending mental instability, though some scholars cite, as evidence, his frequent compositional mood swings.

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Copyright © 22 October 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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