Brahms: The Five Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Vol 1 (SACD)

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Ulf Wallin, Roland Pontinen

Asked the question ‘How many sonatas for violin and piano did Johannes Brahms compose?’, many lovers of chamber music would probably answer three, and maybe also add their respective keys and opus numbers. When pressed, a number of them would also remember the so-called F.A.E. Sonata a collaborative effort by the young Brahms, Albert Dietrich and their mentor Robert Schumann. But very few would probably think of the two Opus 120 sonatas, composed in 1894 for clarinet (or viola) and piano, but a year later published in the composer’s own version for the violin. As the range of the B flat clarinet goes a fourth lower than that of the violin, Brahms had been forced to make considerable revisions to the clarinet part –which in turned entailed changes in the piano part, and consequently the printing of a new piano score.

The seasoned team of violinist Ulf Wallin and pianist Roland Pöntinen have now decided to record all the Brahms sonatas, and the results are being released on two discs, the first one including the first of the ‘official’ sonatas, No. 1 in G major, Op. 78, the F minor Sonata from Op. 120 and Brahms’s Scherzo from the F.A.E. Sonata. Wallinand Pöntinen round off the programme with transcriptions of two of Brahms’s more lyrical songs.

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Sonata in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1 23'18 (originally for clarinet and piano)

  • 1. I. Allegro appassionato  
  • 2. II. Andante un poco Adagio  
  • 3. III. Allegretto grazioso
  • 4. IV. Vivace

5. Scherzo (Allegro) from the ‘F.A.E. Sonata’, WoO 2

Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78

  • 6. I.Vivace ma non troppo  
  • 7. II. Adagio  
  • 8. III. Allegro molto moderato  

9. O kühler Wald, Op. 72 No. 3 

10. An die Nachtigall, Op. 46 No. 4

The Classical Music Collector

"By contrast, Ulf Wallin and Roland Pöntinen on BIS have decided to extend the Brahms Violin Sonata repertoire to include the two Clarinet or Viola Sonatas Op. 120 that Brahms transcribed for violin in 1895, some years after the Third Violin Sonata. This requires the works to be spread over two volumes, and on this CD, Volume I, they include the canonical First Violin Sonata, the F-A-E Scherzo, the first of the two transcribed Op. 120 works, plus a pair of song transcriptions. If one had to choose between this CD and the previous one, considerations might be that the two transcribed Sonatas offer a rather different compositional flavour to the canonical three; Pöntinen’s piano has a more modern sound; and the broader repertoire range may be more appealing to some listeners. Otherwise both discs offer exquisite music-making and heart-warming repertoire." - Chris Dench