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Sonata for violin and piano in G minor

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Allegro risoluto – Andante sostenuto – Intermezzo. Quasi vivace – Largamente. Allegro agitato

Commissioned by Eugène Ysäye (the work’s dedicatee) and Raoul Pugno, the Sonata for violin and piano by Louis Vierne made a lasting impression at the time of its second performance, on May 16th, 1908, on the occasion of a “Session of ancient and modern music” by the two artists at the Salle Pleyel. After World War I Jacques Thibaud and Georges Enesco also contributed to the works’ popularity by listing it in their tours repertory. This sonata, in which the composer sought to blend the two instruments, has a long story behind it. Vierne had to interrupt it twice while it was being composed (1905-1907): first, after an accident (and a broken leg), he caught typhoid fever. And to make things worse, the composer, not having been able to finish his sonata in time for Ysäye and Pugno to perform it in 1907, entrusted his piece to a poorly qualified violinist. To complete the nightmare of the first public hearing, the incompetent musician turned out to be Vierne’s wife’s lover (the couple would separate in 1909). Departing from César Franck’s tradition of the cyclic form, the composer proposed a work in four autonomous movements. The Allegro risoluto is based on two themes: one passionate, the other serene. The Andante sostenuto plays even more on abrupt changes of tone, shifting from the delicacy of a simile-lullaby to the subdued grief of a Poco agitato ma non più vivo. The whirling intermezzo allows the performers to express the extent of their virtuosity, similarly to the spectacular conclusion of a sweeping fourth movement.


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