Masterclass: Hagai Shaham on Brahms Violin Sonata no.3


In his explorations of the first movement, the Israeli violinst discusses the German composer’s clear performance instructions, intimate Romantic style and self-critical nature

Brahms was very critical about his own compositions. He probably burnt more pieces than he published, starting with at least one violin sonata – possibly four – that he wrote when he was 20. Initially the first one, in A minor, was rejected by his publisher, Breitkopf and Härtel, and later he destroyed that and the others because they failed to meet his own high standards. These standards never diminished: he wrote this Third Sonata in his fifties, and it is a great, temperamental and inspirational piece, in perfectly constructed sonata-allegro form, worked out so carefully that you can’t take out one note or add one in. To me, it is one of the most important and immaculate pieces written for the violin…

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