Sonata No. 3

George Enescu

Sonata No. 3 in A minor

Op. 25 • “dans le caractère populaire roumain”

About this work

Enescu deliberately called this sonata "in Roumanian character" (dans la caractère populaire roumaine), not "in Roumanian style" because to him the two phrases meant entirely different things. To him, "in the style of" meant creating something new in imitation of another thing, whereas "in the character of" meant borrowing the traits of something that already existed. For his Violin Sonata No. 3, Enescu borrowed Gypsy violin techniques to create his themes. He did not want to use existing folk melodies because he felt he could do nothing more than state and re-state them, there was no way for him musically to develop them further as you would normally develop the subject of a sonata-allegro form. He used quarter tones and chromatic modes to break down the tonality of the piece, repeated and superimposed rhythmic and harmonic devices, and detailed throughout the score specific bowing actions and ornaments as were used by Gypsy musicians. Not only does the violinist end up sounding like a true Gypsy violinist, but for much of the sonata the pianist ends up sounding like a cimbalomist, with careful use of the pedal; quick, short, repeated notes; and glissandos to re-create the sound of the hammered instrument. For all of its improvisational sound, the sonata is actually carefully constructed in three movements. The first, Moderato malinconio, is a sonata-allegro based on two contrasting subjects: the first a lament, the second much more animated. The opening of the second movement, Andante sostenuto e misterioso, features quietly repeated notes in the piano, on top of which the violin plays a long passage in harmonics. From there it becomes a darkly atmospheric, and at times dramatic, musical painting. The final Allegro con brio ma non troppo mosso is a rondo with a march-like subject, which breaks down into something more of a dance or improvisation in its episodes. It ends with a series of stern chords and a final, conclusive fillip from the violin.