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Pianist Rudolf Serkin and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich perform Sonata in E minor, Op. 38 and Sonata in F Major, Op. 99 by Johannes Brahms.
There is no clear dividing line to be drawn in Brahms between the symphonic and chamber music styles. At the outset of his career, Robert Schumann, in the prophetic article "Neue Bahnen" (New Paths), described Brahms's instrumental compositions as "veiled symphonies", while Adorno wrote of teh chamber-music character of the symphonies. Finally Schoenberg, who inaugurated a new era in the understanding of Brahms with his essay "Brahms the Progressive", made an orchestral version of the Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25 - yet another testimony to the close relationship between the two genres in Brahms's musical thought.
Twenty-four years lay between the dates of composition of the two sonatas, so it is not surprising that the F major Sonata is perceptibly more "symphonic" than the more lyrical earlier work. But even in the ballad-like E-minor Sonata the deployment of three traditional types of structure - sonata-form first movement, ternary song form, and fugue - is a factor of great importance. The second movement, a melancholy "quasi Menuetto", is particularly charming with its outer sections in the manner of a 'valse triste' enclosing a Landler-like central episode. The imposing finale - is it perhaps a tacit homage to J.S. Bach? - is based on a theme and that could have been taken from the "Contrapunctus 13" of The Art of Fugue.
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Pressed at Pallas in Germany
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Mstislav Rostropvich, violoncello
Rudolf Serkin, piano
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in E minor, Op. 38
1. Allegro on troppo
2. Allegretto quasi Menuetto
Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in F Major, Op. 99
1. Allegro vivace
2. Adagio affettuoso
3. Allegro passionato
4. Allegro molto