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Violin Sonata in D minor
November 1897

'Respighi: Violin Sonatas' (CDA67930)
Respighi: Violin Sonatas
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Movement 1: Lento – Allegro – Assai animato
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Scherzo: Allegretto

Violin Sonata in D minor
According to the title page of the manuscript the Violin Sonata in D minor was completed in November 1897. From the brief slow introduction of the first movement (with allusions to Baroque dotted rhythms) and the ensuing Allegro, two things soon become apparent: the idiomatic and sonorous violin writing suggests a young composer who was as much at home composing for the instrument as he was playing it; and second, Respighi’s gift for sweeping melodies was of an almost Brahmsian ardour. The first idea of the main Allegro begins with a theme based around urgent arpeggios, but a soaring violin melody soon emerges and this provides the material for much of what follows. The influences in this movement are from the Austro-German tradition, and maybe, too, from the Franco-Belgian school with occasional hints of the harmonic mobility of César Franck. What is perhaps most remarkable is the extraordinary assurance that Respighi demonstrates in such an early work, generating strong, sweeping musical lines that reach a climax in the short coda.

The Adagio, in F major, opens gently, and soon a rising theme is heard—introduced by the piano, with the violin following closely—over pulsating triplet chords, and the dotted quaver–semiquaver figure with which this opens comes to dominate much of the music that follows. The lyrical eloquence of this movement draws its inspiration from instrumental precedents (again, there are echoes of Franck and Schumann among others).

The Allegretto finale contrasts a nervy first idea (with hints of Baroque ornamentation) with a rapturous tune in the major key that again suggests a young composer already starting to find a fluent and coherent voice of his own; while owing something (especially) to Brahms and his contemporaries, there is real individuality here too. The Sonata ends in a mood of quiet, slightly melancholy caprice, with Respighi resisting any temptation for a ‘big’ finish.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2012

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