Violin Sonata No. 1

Johannes Brahms

Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major

Op. 78

Recommended recording

Curated by Mary Elizabeth Kelly, Primephonic Curator

About this work

Composed in the high summer of his creative career after the completion of the Symphony No. 1 and the Violin Concerto, Brahms' Violin Sonata in G major is a gloriously lyrical work with long-breathed melodies rather than terse themes, and expansive extrapolations rather than concise developments. It is also one of Brahms' most tightly structured and cogently argued works, with a degree of formal integration rare in his works. The dotted rhythm of the opening movement's first theme dominates the second theme of the central movement and all of the closing movement, and the second theme of the central movement returns in the central section of the closing movement. The sonata is in three movements: Vivace ma non troppo, Adagio, and Allegro molto moderato. The opening Vivace, significantly slowed by its modifying ma non troppo, is a sweet-tempered movement in sonata form with two lyrical themes. The central Adagio is in ternary form, with a heartfelt main theme full of double and triple stops in the violin. The closing Allegro molto moderato starts with a direct quotation from the opening of Brahms' Regenlied, Op. 59/3 (Rain Song), a melancholy minor-keyed song recalling the long-lost days of youth. In the Violin Sonata, Brahms likewise starts it in the minor, but with the return of the theme of the Adagio, he returns the music to the consoling tonic major of the sonata. The work ends with a warm, sunset coda of great beauty.