Performances and recordings of twentieth-century violin sonatas
of the late-Romantic Germanic school are rare birds indeed. One
could be excused for thinking that the genre ended with Brahms’s
three sonatas. Although not as well known the young Richard Strauss
also wrote a violin sonata in 1887/88 around the time that Brahms
was completing his third sonata. The four twentieth-century violin
sonatas contained on this Guild release were composed in a thirty
year period from the early years of the First World War to the
end of the Second World War.
The first composer on this Guild release is Hans Schaeuble. Swiss-born
to German parents Schaeuble studied in Leipzig and lived for some
time in Berlin. His strong German affiliations meant that after
the war he was described in some quarters as a Nazi and consequently
his reputation suffered. There are only a handful of Schaeuble
recordings in the catalogues and I cannot recall seeing any of
his scores in any concert/recital programmes.
Schaeuble composed his first Violin Sonata, Op.7 in 1930/31.
His Violin Sonata No.2, Op.31 was completed after the Second
World War in 1947 and like its predecessor has dropped into obscurity.
Cast in four movements Schaeuble’s score opens with a brief Introduction
infused with an intense feeling of yearning. Any attempts to cultivate
a more uplifting character to the music are thwarted by the menacing
and overcast skies of the Scherzando. Dour and airless
the writing in the Lento (quasi Fantasia) feels
as if representative of dark, quasi-sacred images of a vengeful
character. Marked Andante-Allegro-Andante the final movement
is permeated by a languid and almost disconcerting melancholy.
A central section Allegro offers more spirit and vigour
whilst maintaining a certain reserve. On the evidence of this
score I feel Schaeuble’s music is worthy of further investigation.
I am enthusiastic to hear the recordings of the Concertino
for Oboe and Strings, Op. 44; Symphony for Strings and
Timpani, Op.27 ‘In memoriam’; Music for 2 Violins
and Strings, Op.18 on the Gallo label
A good place to start might be Schaeuble’s other recordings
on the Guild
label: Praeludium for
Organ, from Op.15; String Quartet, Op.19; Concertino
for Flute and String Orchestra, Op.47 and the Five
Born in Hanau, Germany Paul
Hindemith was a significant and most prolific composer. Hindemith
developed a complicated relationship with the National Socialist
authorities in Germany. In 1938 Hindemith who had a Jewish
wife was forced to leave Germany for exile in Switzerland. It
was in 1940 that Hindemith emigrated for a new life in the USA
where he became an American citizen in 1946.
Hindemith’s Violin Sonata in E major was completed
in 1935 a year after his celebrated Symphony:
Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter). Cast
in two movements the E major Sonata is a short work lasting
just under eleven minutes. Marked Ruhig und Bewegt the
opening movement remains restrained carrying a distinct feeling
of tension. The second movement Langsam–Sehr lebhaft–Langsam–Wieder
lebhaft contains writing of a serious vein that plumbs shadowy
emotional depths. At 2:07 the mood switches with the Scherzando
an energetic dance-like outburst. From 4:59-6:28 the underlying
dark mood of the opening returns. The movement concludes on
a positive note with a brief and lively Coda.
Bavarian-born in Brand, Max Reger made a swift rise to fame
in Germany both as a musician and a composer. Reger is
now regarded as one of a group of German composers working around
the early 1990s whose music has largely been forgotten; overshadowed
by the renowned composers Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and
Arnold Schoenberg. Although composing
for a relatively short span of some twenty-five years Reger
produced a massive body of work.
Reger’s Violin Sonata in C minor, Op.139 is one of
several that he wrote in the genre. The C minor Sonata
was completed in 1915 a year after his renowned orchestral
score the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart,
Op.132. Marked Con passione the opening movement has
an essentially unsettling mood switching from frenzied uncertainty
to one of yearning infatuation. The subdued Largo inhabits a bleak and desolate sound-world
followed by a Scherzo lyrical in character immersed in
gaiety with a vein of mockery. The final movement is
designed in a theme and variations plan. Bleak and rather unremarkable
the theme seems initially unsuitable for inventive development.
The set of nine variations that follow prove to be imaginative
and appealing if of a generally wistful and introverted nature.
Here there are only brief glimpses of vivacity and frivolity.
I feel that the dour and uncompromising nature of the conclusion
detracts from any popular appeal.
Furtwängler, a native of Berlin, is considered one of the greatest
conductors of the twentieth century. He also composed seriously
throughout his life; in fact, he was working on his Symphony
No. 3 at the time of his death in 1954.
Completed in 1935 Furtwängler’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor is a massive four movement score that lasts almost an hour.
The lengthy opening movement marked Allegro moderato is
stormy and unsettling music of considerable tension and anxiety.
A substantial proportion of the violin writing is for the higher
registers, especially in the opening pages. By contrast the
movement dissolves towards a peaceful conclusion. Calm and meditative
almost of a crepuscular disposition the Adagio solenne provides
little to hold the attention. There are just two episodes of
an increase of weight and tension. From 7:44 like in the opening
movement the shadows lengthen and the music shifts quickly to
a calm and soothing ending. The extended Moderato movement
is ardent and serious contrasted with angst ridden writing of
a wild and stormy nature. Characteristically
Furtwängler provides a quiet ending to the movement.
The opening of the final movement of the Sonata is marked
by a strident theme for the violin. Although full of
vitality the writing is generally more melodic than rhythmic
but not in a tuneful sense. A change of mood at 15:28 to one
of deathly stillness serves as a precursor to a rhythmically
robust conclusion from 18:20.
Bettina Boller and pianist Walter Prossnitz allow you to hear
the music without having their personalities taking centre-stage.
With playing that feels spontaneous the duo have the ability
to engage the listener in these frequently highly emotional
and often tension-ridden musical journeys.
sound quality and an impressive essay add to the appeal of this
issue. Those wishing to explore the lesser-known reaches of Germanic
late-Romantic violin sonatas should not hesitate.