Pheroze Mistri (violin) and Delia Varga (piano) have chosen a programme for this evening’s recital at the Kala Academy that is quite eclectic. 

First on offer is Schubert’s Violin Sonata in A minor Op.137, no. 2, DV 385. Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote three sonatas for violin and piano, but thanks to his Viennese publisher, Diabelli (more famous today for the piano variations Beethoven wrote on a theme by him) they are often listed as sonatinas. The idea may have been a shrewd marketing ploy to make the works more appealing to amateurs.

 Although composed in 1816, when Schubert was only 19, they were published posthumously. It seems incredible, but in this year he had composed also his Fourth Symphony, nicknamed by him “the Tragic”. Despite the fact that these sonatas follow Beethoven’s chronologically, they pay homage more to the Mozartean mould, with the violin still playing a somewhat subordinate role to the pianoforte.

 This work in A minor is especially strong and remarkable in its structure and thematic material. It has four movements, Allegro moderato, Andante, Menuetto and Trio, and Allegro. 

The programme moves on to that Romantic stalwart, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), with his Violin Sonata in A Major. 

As with the rest of his compositional output, Brahms was overly critical of his violin sonatas. In addition to the three the world knows about, he may have composed as many as four more, all of which were destroyed.

 This work was written for his close friend Joseph Joachim in 1886. That year Brahms spent the summer at his favourite retreat at Lake Thun near Interlaken in Switzerland. Here he found the environment so invigorating  and inspiring that he exclaimed  it was “so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any.”  He worked simultaneously on the A major violin sonata, as well as his second cello sonata and his third piano trio, completing them all in a few days. 

This violin sonata, his shortest,  is probably his most lyrical. There is believed to be a connection with two songs written at that time, Wie Melodien (As melodies) and Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer (Ever gentle is my sleep), poems by Klaus Groth and Hermann Lingg, the first in the second subject of the first movement, and the second in the Finale. His originality, his intensity, shyness and introspection, all come to the fore here.

The first subject of the Allegro amabile is introduced by the piano and taken up by the violin, then contrasted with a second subject of greater intensity. The second movement alternates between a pastoral Andante and a rustic Vivace. The last movement (Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante)) is a relaxed rondo around a main theme, unusual in its relatively restrained speed. It is customary to play the theme on the rich tone of the G string.  The expressively tranquil theme of the opening returns to end the work with a quiet dignity. 

The programme then offers us two works by the great Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). 

Le Grand Tango was composed with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in mind, in 1981. If the version in the Azzi/Collier book Le Grand Tango is to be believed, Rostropovich had never heard of Piazzolla at the time and never even looked at the work when it was delivered. Its premiere was therefore given by the  son of a colleague of Piazzolla’s. That son was Eduardo Vassallo, now co-principal cellist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Rostropovich eventually realised its importance and travelled to Buenos Aires in 1990 to study the piece with Piazolla and proceeded to play it in public there. It has subsequently been transposed for other instruments, and this evening’s version for violin and piano is one of them. 

Adiós Nonino is a poignant composition written in October 1959 when he was on tour in Central America, in memory of his father Vincente “Nonino” Piazzolla, just days after his death. This deep choked and anguished lament and ache of a bereaved son many hundreds of miles away, find expression in the work. It is now one of his most popular compositions. This year is the golden jubilee of this work which has been described as most quintessentially Piazzolla.

Programme notes © Luis Dias. All rights reserved

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