Violin Sonata (Franck)

Last updated

The Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano by César Franck is one of his best-known compositions, and is considered one of the finest sonatas for violin and piano ever written. [1] It is an amalgam of his rich native harmonic language with the Classical traditions he valued highly, held together in a cyclic framework.

Contents

Background

The Violin Sonata in A was written in 1886, when César Franck was 63, as a wedding present for the 28-year-old violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. [1] Twenty-eight years earlier, in 1858, Franck had promised a violin sonata for Cosima von Bülow. This never appeared; it has been speculated that whatever work Franck had done on that piece was put aside, and eventually ended up in the sonata he wrote for Ysaÿe in 1886. [2]

Franck was not present when Ysaÿe married, but on the morning of the wedding, on 26 September 1886 in Arlon, their mutual friend Charles Bordes presented the work as Franck's gift to Ysaÿe and his bride Louise Bourdeau de Courtrai. After a hurried rehearsal, Ysaÿe and Bordes' sister-in-law, the pianist Marie-Léontine Bordes-Pène, [3] played the Sonata to the other wedding guests. [4]

The Sonata was given its first public concert performance on 16 December of that year, [2] at the Musée Moderne de Peinture (Museum of Modern Painting) in Brussels. [5] Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène were again the performers. [2] [6] The Sonata was the final item in a long program which started at 3pm. When the time arrived for the Sonata, dusk had fallen and the gallery was bathed in gloom, but the museum authorities permitted no artificial light whatsoever. Initially, it seemed the Sonata would have to be abandoned, but Ysaÿe and Bordes-Pène decided to continue regardless. They had to play the last three movements from memory in virtual darkness. When the violinist Armand Parent remarked that Ysaÿe had played the first movement faster than the composer intended, Franck replied that Ysaÿe had made the right decision, saying "from now on there will be no other way to play it". Vincent d'Indy, who was present, recorded these details of the event. [7] [8]

Ysaÿe kept the Violin Sonata in his repertoire for the next 40 years of his life, with a variety of pianists, like Théo Ysaÿe, Ernest Chausson, Ferruccio Busoni, Vincent d'Indy, Raoul Pugno, Camille Decreus, Arthur De Greef, Leopold Godowsky, Yves Nat, and many others. His championing of the Sonata contributed to the public recognition of Franck as a major composer. [9] This recognition was quite belated; Franck died within four years of the Sonata's public première, and did not have his first unqualified public success until the last year of his life (on 19 April 1890, at the Salle Pleyel, where his String Quartet in D was premiered). [10]

The Sonata in A regularly appears on concert programs and on recordings, and is in the core repertoire of all major violinists. Jascha Heifetz played it at his final recital in 1972.

The piece is further notable for the difficulty of its piano part, when compared with most of the chamber repertoire. Its technical problems include frequent extreme extended figures—the composer himself having possessed huge hands—and virtuoso runs and leaps, particularly in the second movement (though some passages can be facilitated by employing a spare hand to cover some notes).

Structure

The work is cyclic in nature, all the movements sharing common thematic threads. Themes from one movement reappear in subsequent movements, but usually transformed. Franck had adapted this technique from Franz Liszt—his friend, and Cosima von Bülow's father. [7] Vincent d'Indy described the Sonata as "the first and purest model of the cyclical use of themes in sonata form", and referred to it as "this true musical monument". [2]

The movements alternate between slow and fast. [6]

  1. Allegretto ben moderato, 9
    8
    This gentle and sweetly reflective rocking theme, introduced by the violin after a short introduction by the piano, is the thematic core of the entire work. Franck originally intended it as a slow movement, but Ysaÿe preferred a slightly quicker tempo, and convinced Franck to mark it Allegretto. [9]
  2. Allegro
    This turbulent movement is sometimes considered the real opening movement, with the Allegretto ben moderato serving as a long introduction.
  3. Ben moderato: Recitativo-Fantasia
    This is improvisatory in nature, and free in both structure and expression.
  4. Allegretto poco mosso
    The main melody is heard in canonic imitation between the instruments, and recurs in a rondo-like manner to a triumphant and soaring conclusion. James Harding described the movement as "a magnificent example of canonic writing, simple, majestic and irresistible in its ample, beautifully wrought proportions". [2]

Transcriptions

The Violin Sonata in A exists in versions for cello; viola; double bass; flute; oboe; clarinet; alto saxophone; tuba; organ with choir; violin and strings; and violin and orchestra (recorded by Leonid Kogan). A version for piano duet by the pianist and composer Alfred Cortot has been recorded several times. Cortot also made a (for pianists even more challenging) version for solo piano, which has been played occasionally.

The setting for cello and piano was the only alternative version sanctioned by Franck. [11] This was created by the renowned cellist Jules Delsart. After thorough historical study based on reliable documents, Delsart's transcription for cello (the piano part remains the same as in the violin sonata) was published by G. Henle Verlag as an Urtext edition. [12] Based on oral history (Pablo Casals) [13] and written document (letter written by Antoine Ysaye, Eugène Ysaÿe's son), [13] it has often been speculated that the work was first conceived as a sonata for cello and piano, and only later reset for violin and piano when the commission from Eugène Ysaÿe arrived. [4]

Recordings

The Violin Sonata in A by César Franck has been recorded by many great violinist/pianist duos. Among them are:

Violist Tabea Zimmermann released a recording of it arranged for viola and piano with pianist Kirill Gerstein.

Among the recordings of the version for cello and piano are:

The flute and piano version has been recorded by James Galway and Martha Argerich, as well as by Sharon Bezaly and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Some transcriptions for oboe and clarinet have been made and recorded by David Walter and Michael Collins, respectively.

In 2020, a recording of a version for theremin and piano, played by Clara Rockmore and Nadia Reisenberg, was released as part of the album Music and Memories: Clara Rockmore. [16]

Related Research Articles

Eugène Ysaÿe Belgian violinist, composer and conductor

Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe was a Belgian virtuoso violinist, composer and conductor. He was regarded as "The King of the Violin", or, as Nathan Milstein put it, the "tsar".

Cello Sonata No. 3 (Beethoven) composition for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven

The Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, is the third of five cello sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven. He composed it in 1807–08, during his productive middle period. It was first performed in 1809 by cellist Nikolaus Kraft and pianist Dorothea von Ertmann, a student of Beethoven. Published by Breitkopf & Härtel the same year, it was dedicated to Freiherr Ignaz von Gleichenstein, Beethoven's friend and an amateur cellist. The sonata was successful with audiences from the beginning.

Triple Concerto (Beethoven)

Ludwig van Beethoven's Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56, commonly known as the Triple Concerto, was composed in 1803 and published in 1804 by Breitkopf & Härtel. The choice of the three solo instruments effectively makes this a concerto for piano trio, and it is the only concerto Beethoven ever completed for more than one solo instrument. A typical performance takes approximately thirty-seven minutes.

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg wrote three violin sonatas. They are all examples of his musical nationalism, since they all contain references or similarities to Norwegian folk song.

Dora Pejačević Croatian composer

Maria Theodora Paulina (Dora) Pejačević was a Croatian composer and a member of the Pejačević noble family. She was one of the composers to introduce the orchestral song to Croatian music and her Symphony in F-sharp minor is considered by scholars to be the first modern symphony in Croatian music.

<i>Berceuse</i> (Fauré) 1879 musical composition

Berceuse, Op. 16, is a short piece by Gabriel Fauré, written in or about 1879. In its original version it is for solo violin and piano. The composer later published a version for violin and orchestra, and the work has been arranged by others for various musical forces. This berceuse is not connected, except for its title, with the berceuse in Fauré's Dolly Suite.

Violin Sonata, a composition for violin and piano, is a work of the Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928). It was written in the summer of 1914, but it was not Janáček’s first attempt to create such a composition. He resolved to compose a violin sonata already as a student at the conservatoire in Leipzig in 1880, and later during his studies in Vienna. His early sonatas are today lost.

Pièces pittoresques are a set of ten pieces for piano by Emmanuel Chabrier. Four of the set were later orchestrated by the composer to make his Suite pastorale.

The Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78, "Regensonate", for violin and piano was composed by Johannes Brahms during the summers of 1878 and 1879 in Pörtschach am Wörthersee. It was first performed on 8 November 1879 in Bonn, by the husband and wife Robert Heckmann (violin) and Marie Heckmann-Hertig (piano).

Marie-Léontine Bordes-Pène was a notable French pianist, who premiered major works by César Franck, Vincent d'Indy and others. She married a brother of the composer Charles Bordes, and was known by the surname Bordes-Pène thereafter. In 1889-91, the painter Jacques Émile Blanche painted her portrait.

Jules Delsart

Jules Delsart was a 19th-century French cellist and teacher. He is best known for his arrangement for cello and piano of César Franck's Violin Sonata in A major. Musicologist Lynda MacGregor described Delsart as "one of the foremost French cellists of the period, with faultless technique, a precise bow and a sweet, though not large, tone." He was the owner of the 1689 'Archinto' Stradivari.

Gerhard Taschner was a noted German violinist and teacher.

Lambert Orkis is an American classical pianist. His career has been based on many differing roles: ranging from being the collaborative pianist for Anne-Sophie Mutter for works of piano and violin chamber music since 1988. In 2000, the duo was honored by a Grammy Award for their interpretation of the Beethoven violin sonatas.

Fantaisie for piano and orchestra (L.73/CD.72), is a composition for piano and orchestra by French composer Claude Debussy. It was composed between October 1889 and April 1890, but only received its first public performance in 1919, a year after Debussy's death. The work is dedicated to the pianist René Chansarel, who had been scheduled to play the solo part for the cancelled premiere in 1890.

The setting for cello of César Franck's Violin Sonata in A major was the only alternative version sanctioned by Franck. It was created by the cellist Jules Delsart.

Sonatas, duos and fantasies by Franz Schubert include all works for solo piano by Franz Schubert, except separate dances. They also include a number of works for two players: piano four hands, or piano and a string instrument.

Ray Iwazumi is an American violinist and musicologist.

Violin Sonata No. 1 (Stanford) 1877 composition by Charles Villiers Stanford

Charles Villiers Stanford's Violin Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 11, was composed in 1877, shortly after the composer completed his studies in Germany. It was one of his first pieces of chamber music, preceded only by his A major cello sonata. First performed the year it was composed, the sonata was published in 1878 by Ries & Erler in Germany, with a dedication to violinist Ludwig Straus.

The Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75, was written by Camille Saint-Saëns in October 1885. Dedicated to Martin Pierre Marsick, it was premiered on 9 January 1886 in Paris. The sonata has been called one of Saint-Saëns' neglected masterpieces.

The Violin Sonata No. 2 in E major, Op. 102, was written by Camille Saint-Saëns from February to March 1896, and premiered on 2 June 1896 in Paris.

References

  1. 1 2 Music Web International
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Colorado Public Radio
  3. "Gerhard Taschner: The Early 78RPM Recordings" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
  4. 1 2 Classical Archives
  5. Jason Sundram's Web Palette
  6. 1 2 "gotomidori.com". Archived from the original on 2007-03-01. Retrieved 2007-03-01.
  7. 1 2 Wolfgang David.com
  8. Gramophone, February 1938
  9. 1 2 "Hollywood Bowl". Archived from the original on 2011-07-12. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  10. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954, ed. Eric Blom, Franck, César, vol. III, p. 467
  11. Peter Jost (11 November 2013). "'Pour Piano et Violon ou Violoncelle' – Is there a cello sonata by César Franck?". Henle Verlag. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  12. (Editor) Peter Jost (2014). "Cesar Franck Sonata in A major, Edition for Violoncello, Urtext Edition". Henle Verlag. Retrieved 13 March 2014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. 1 2 Oxford, W. T. (2001). "PH.D. thesis: A Transcription of Cesar Franck's Sonata in A Major for the Baritone Saxophone" (PDF). University of Texas at Austin. pp. 15–16. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  14. Anne-Sophie Mutter with Alexis Weissenberg 1983: discogs; access-date 2020-08-30.
  15. Anne-Sophie Mutter with Lambert Orkis 1996: discogs; access-date 2020-08-30.
  16. "May 2020 | Nadia Reisenberg/Clara Rockmore Foundation".