JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897): The Three Violin Sonatas Sonatensatz Christopher Harding, piano Stephen Boe, violin
It is remarkable that much of the greatest chamber music has been composed with specific friends or performers in mind. The performing attributes of these musicians certainly influenced the composer's work, but no more than the personal history between friend and composer. This fact enables a more meaningful appreciation of the music itself, and perhaps explains why the best efforts of many composers have been poured into the intimate genre of chamber music: personal communication between a few independent and equally important performers is ideal for exploring human relationship. When engaged at this level of understanding, the greatest chamber music has the potential to teach us profound lessons, left to us by men and women who lived life fully, passionately, and thoughtfully.
The three sonatas for violin and piano left to us by Johannes Brahms are masterpieces, products in some measure of Brahms' relentless self-criticism. He destroyed as many as four earlier works for this combination, leaving only a scherzo in c minor as a slender hint as to what his earlier attempts might have sounded like. But with the sonata in G major, Op. 78 (composed during the summers of 1878-79 in the south Austrian town of Pörtschach am Wörthersee), we experience a breathtaking level of perfection in regard to compositional craft and profundity of sentiment, one surely born out of life-long and devoted friendship, and a true understanding of purest love.