The Lithuanian-born violinist and violist discusses technical preparation, character and colour in the first and second movements of op.120 no.1
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This sonata was one of Brahms’s last works, inspired by Richard Mühlfeld, a clarinettist in the orchestra in Meiningen, Germany. It was originally for clarinet, but Brahms wrote the viola version himself, revising it only slightly to suit the instrument. Violists claim it as a viola sonata; clarinettists think it’s theirs! I’ve listened to many clarinettists perform it, to hear their musical ideas, but I don’t think we as violists need to base our interpretations in any way on the clarinet version. Either way we must thank Brahms: we don’t have many viola works from the earlier great composers, so his two op.120 sonatas are extremely important for us.
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