Recorded at Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Boston, Massachusetts, Juny 17, 1991.
For this recording 20-bit technology was used for "high definition sound."
Conservatory, Boston, Massachusetts
## 1-3 Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38
Brahms' First Cello Sonata is a product of the same period (1862-65) as the Piano Quintet, Op. 34 and is cut from much the same musical cloth - it is moody, powerful, and grandly structured. The opening movement (Allegro non troppo), with a long exposition repeat, takes up more than half the 25- to 30-minute playing time. Its long, elaborate opening theme establishes the nocturnal and introspective tone of the entire work. The second subject group expands the scope of the work by introducing a great, soaring theme in the minor between two calmer ones in the major. The development builds to a great climax in which it is the cello that accompanies the piano, reminding us that the work is titled Sonate fur Klavier und Violoncello rather than the other way around. The coda somehow finds its way to a hard-won peace in the major. In this imposing movement, which obviates the need for a slow movement, might be found the origin of the great slow opening-movement structures of Mahler and Shostakovich. The second movement (Allegretto quasi Menuetto) is a wistful, melancholy minuet; its Trio is marked by the repeated halting and restarting of the music. The emotions that Brahms has held back up to now are unleashed in the closing Allegro, a powerful and passionate fugue that works its way into rondo form and closes, like the Quintet, with a breathless coda.
-Sol Louis Siegel
All Music Guide
## 4-7 Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 2 in F major, Op. 99
After his first cello sonata, Brahms wrote all four of his symphonies before turning to a second sonata. Although it's a product of his middle years, this F major work is marked by a youthful boldness and symphonic approach to the piano writing, while never sacrificing a generous, easy lyricism.
The first movement, Allegro vivace, sends the cello leaping around the staff over the piano's tremolo notes. It's the piano that introduces the ardent second subject, soon falling into cross rhythms that undermine the music's 3/4 pulse. The dramatic development is comparatively dark, often hovering in the minor, but youthful assurance returns in the recapitulation.
The slow movement, Adagio affetuoso, ventures into the distant key of F sharp major with the cello providing a mere pizzicato accompaniment as the piano introduces the noble first theme. The more impassioned middle section falls into F minor and the lower reaches of the cello, then it gives way to the urgent return of the first section.
Again, the piano takes the lead at the beginning of the scherzo, Allegro passionato, a quietly gathering storm that breaks when the cello soon enters in full voice. The piano part in this movement is especially complex, but the atmosphere becomes more serene in the central trio section, which glides from F minor to major. Last comes a rondo, Allegro molto, that initially seems too light to cap such a substantial, serious sonata. The first section, soft, gentle, and songlike, punctuates episodes that are in turn march-like, ardent, and stern. The principal melody's final return, however, is sunny, and the cellist may optionally revive it with pizzicato rather than bowed notes.
All Music Guide
## 8-11 Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108
Johannes Brahms began his Sonata for piano and violin No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108, almost immediately after finishing the Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100, during a vacation in Thun in the summer of 1886, but he set the work aside for two years and completed it only when he returned to Thun in 1888 for another vacation. The two works are in fact utterly different from one another: the A major Sonata is easygoing and radiates with warm melody from start to finish, while the D minor Sonata is an athletic, fibrous, and at times even nervous affair that offers drama of a far more epic nature. Brahms dedicated the Sonata No. 3 to Hans von Bulow, pianist, conductor, friend, and champion of the composer; it was first performed by Brahms and violinist Jeno Hubay in Budapest on December 22, 1888.
Brahms returns to the four-movement sonata design in the D minor Violin Sonata (he had combined two movements into one in the A major Sonata to make a three-movement piece). At the Sonata's opening a lean violin melody rides atop sinister (or nearly so) syncopated broken octaves in the piano; both that theme and those octaves will generate nearly everything that we hear in the Allegro first movement - even the warmer second theme owes its identity to the recurring dotted figure of the first theme. The development of the movement is nothing short of astonishing: the entire thing unfolds over a dominant pedal that seems to grow ever more ominous but then, in one of the work's truly shining moments, suddenly grows incandescent to lead the way into the recapitulation.
The Adagio in D major is truly a lied without words, deeply resonant and richly melodic. The scherzo movement - Un poco presto e con sentimento - is an ingenious piece of workmanship, elegantly scored and flawlessly balanced but of a somewhat mysterious character: Clara Schumann described it as "like a lovely girl playing with her lover," while others have heard melancholy or even bitterness in it. The Sonata's most turbulent and obviously dramatic music is reserved for the final Presto agitato movement.
All Music Guide