Masterclass: Vadim Gluzman on Brahms’s Violin Sonata no.1

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The Israeli violinist discusses why colour, shading and restraint are key in the first movement of this often-misinterpreted work.

This sonata touches me in a way that even some other works by Brahms do not. There is something incredibly haunting and intimate about it that is difficult to put into words. It is one of Brahms’s most introverted works and emotionally that makes it ever more powerful: it is most painful to bleed on the inside, and that is the feeling here. He wrote it when his godson Felix Schumann (Robert and Clara’s son) passed away.

Felix was a talented violinist and poet, and from what we know the two were very close. At the time, Brahms was working on the sonata while on holiday in Switzerland with Joseph Joachim; when they heard the news they rushed back to Düsseldorf for the funeral. The second movement is a clear lament – almost a funeral march. In this sonata Brahms quotes Regenlied  from his op.59 Lieder cycle – a setting of a poem by Klaus Groth (1819–1899), and this excerpt describes the music far better than I ever could…

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