About this work
Respighi wrote in a wide-ranging style, or rather, styles, often within the same period of time. This sonata, for example, is contemporary with the composer's famous symphonic poem Fountains of Rome (1915-1916) and with Ancient Airs and Dances (1917). Hearing these three works might induce the uninitiated listener to conclude they came from altogether different composers. The sonata is a challenging work that is probably the least popular of the three, though it is hardly neglected and turns up more than occasionally in the concert hall and on recordings. At one time, it enjoyed greater status, owing to the advocacy of Jascha Heifetz, who recorded it for RCA in 1950 with Emanuel Bay on piano. The sonata is cast in three movements, the first of which, marked Moderato -- Agitato -- Tempo I, is haunting in its passionate, quasi-nocturnal main theme given by the violin. Because Respighi was both a violinist and pianist, the writing for the two instruments is deftly wrought here and throughout the work in its exchanges and blending of sonorities. The middle panel is a lovely Andante espressivo that opens with an extended piano solo. The finale is a passacaglia marked Allegro moderato ma energico. It is a dramatic and powerful piece whose stormy main theme yields both profound and colorful music. The work generally lasts about 25 minutes in performance.