The First Violin Sonata dates from 1947 and was first performed by Nona Liddell and Daphne Ibbott. Violin and piano simultaneously announce two energetic and wide-ranging themes which are fragmented to provide most of the material for the first movement. A figure in rocking thirds (which remains the piano’s exclusive property) and a three-note gruppetto motif also play important parts in later developments, while two short episodes (‘staccato a pizzicato’) provide respite from the contrapuntal debate. In the second movement the violin’s tranquil cantabile is abruptly interrupted by one of the most violent and dissonant passages Arnold has ever written, after which the original theme is quietly resumed as if the calamity had never been. In the finale the arpeggios of the violin’s first lively and brilliant theme are taken up by both instruments (roles are freely exchanged in later developments). A more sententious theme for the violin in double-stopping is repeated by the piano, then hustled out of the way to make only furtive and fragmentary appearances thereafter. After much animated dialogue a tarantella-like rhythm invades the music. The instruments dispute the tonality fiercely, but at the last moment agree on a final unison B flat.
from notes by Hugo Cole © 1988