Brahms - Viola Sonatas, 2 Gesange op.91 | Brilliant Classics 95281

Brahms - Viola Sonatas, 2 Gesange op.91


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Label: Brilliant Classics

Cat No: 95281

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 7th October 2016



Brahms had already declared to his longsuffering publisher Simrock that he was done with the business of composition before producing these, his final pieces of chamber music. He was inspired by the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, a player in the court orchestra of Meiningen, where Hans von Bülow conducted the composer’s music including all the symphonies. Mühlfeld’s breath control and superb melodic sensitivity evidently reawakened in the composer the long‐breathed melodies which mark out his chamber music throughout his career, but Brahms soon declared that the sonatas could just as well be played on the viola, perhaps with one eye on his royalties from Simrock, but violists have been glad to seize on their ‘own’ Brahms ever since.

Melancholy is perhaps inevitably the major key of both sonatas – Brahms had been drawn to express autumnal loneliness even 40 years before – but they are not gloomy works, and are built with undimmed ingenuity as masterfully organic structures in which the usual contrast of first and second themes is forsaken for the kind of continuous variation which Arnold Schoenberg could justly and admiringly describe as ‘musical prose’.

With her unforgettably resonant and plangent contralto, Sara Mingardo has graced the world’s stages and halls, espeically in Baroque repertoire as a regular collaborator with Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano. Here she joins Luca Sanzò and Maurizio Paciariello in the two songs which were first published a decade prior to the viola sonata, though the Geistliches Wiegenlied (Sacred Lullaby) dates back to 1863, as a wedding present for his friend Joseph Joachim to the soprano Amalie Weiss. He added Gestillte Sehnsucht (Satisfied Longing) 20 years later when the couple were about to divorce, causing a rift between the two musicians that would only be healed in 1887 after Brahms had written his last orchestral work, the Double Concerto, with parts for Joachim’s violin and a semi‐autobiographical one for the cello. Both songs speak of yearning – erotic and spiritual – with an almost Straussian intensity of expression.

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