Brahms: The Complete Chamber Music
12CDs Boxed set (at a special price)CDS44331/42
Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Un poco presto e con sentimento
Movement 4: Presto agitato
Things are more restrained in the first movement, the intensity of which is more inward and sustained from the very start. The sense of a controlled, ongoing line which will eventually break free becomes the preoccupation of the development section, a remarkable passage built entirely over a pedal on the fifth degree, A, which inhibits, though never resolves, the constantly shifting harmonies above it. Only when harmonic movement resumes in the reprise does the urge for freedom take over, with bold modulations which seem to announce the development proper, though the retransition to the home key and second theme is soon accomplished. The contrast offered by this lyrical theme, again given first to the piano, is greater than in the other sonatas, and one is very conscious of its vulnerability and transience when the sterner mood returns, though the return of the pedal, now on the tonic, D, leaves the tension at least temporarily resolved.
For the first time in these sonatas Brahms provides this work with two separate middle movements, though neither is expansive. The ‘Adagio’ captures the intensity of the slow movement of the G major sonata, though in a much shorter space: the power is here more closely associated with instrumental idiom, the suave thirds of the violin part at the climax touching the Hungarian manner so important to Joachim, by whom all Brahms’s violin writing was ultimately inspired. The third movement re-engages with the playful ‘Vivace’ character of the A major Sonata, though now from a greater distance and with a reflective restraint, as the final bars show. They offer a perfect foil to the strenuous finale to follow.
from notes by Michael Musgrave © 1991