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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 Violin Sonatas
Violin Sonatas PDF Print E-mail

by Angelo Foletto

Of the Six Sonates pour divers instruments - composées par Claude Debussy - Musicien français drafted out in the beginning of 1915, only three of them have been completed: cello, flute viola and harp (1916) and violin (1917). Published with the same title page, similar to certain French prints of the Eighteenth century, the Sonatas have been composed en hommages to his wife Emma-Claude Bardac. The Sonata for violin has been premièred in Paris on May 5, 1917; protagonist Gaston Poulet and the composer at the piano. In February 1916 the first two movements of the Sonata for violin had already been written, still this score was completed just a few days before its baptism in Paris. The third movement had required several elaborations before the composer decided to give it a singular conclusion «playing with a simple theme that returns, as the snake that bites its own tail»: like an ending that does not find an end.
Third and last experience in this field composed in the period 1886-87, the Sonata in C minor op. 45 had been presented in Leipzig by Grieg performing with the Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky in 1887. The abandon of the sonata form is evident since the beginning of this score: free associations of melodies guide the musical discourse; it flows through images forming strong clashes between different expressive characters, seeming almost improvised. There surely are elements of “national” taste: fleeting cues are particularly evident, similar to Nordic folk dances with stylized rhythms, in the central part (Allegro molto) of the second movement. The score is exuberant in its leaps and in the glimpses of cantabile entrusted to the violin, sustained by the vigorous arpeggios of the piano. The instruments are related in a dialectical discourse renewed continuously and perfectly corresponding to the author’s choice of a harmonic development that prefers combinations of chords that do not present immediate functional bonds.
Composed in the summer of 1886, it represents a masterpiece of French Nineteenth century chamber music. To have an idea of the influence of this Sonata on the French intellectual world between the two centuries, we can recall how its insinuating theme is considered to be the origin of Proust’s petite phrase of the Vinteuil Sonata: «he had distinguished quite clearly a phrase that for a few seconds could be heard above the sonorous waves» (Du côté chez Swann, Part II). The Sonata develops following the cyclical principle, also applied to the Symphony in D minor and founded on the transformation of the same thematic idea. The initial pattern of the Allegretto ben moderato, exposed by the violin in a flattering 9/8 rhythm, appears again in the other movements, transformed in its rhythmic asset and in melodic details. In this way a simple third becomes the nucleus that generates the entire work, articulated in four movements, with a monumental Recitativo-Fantasia, in third position, that plays the magnificent role of unpredictable slow movement.
Conceived in 1924 (together with the masterpiece L’enfant et les sortilèges), Tzigane is defined a «Concert Rhapsody», or better «morceaux de virtuosité dans le gout d’une rhapsodie hongroise», as was written on the first draft of the manuscript of 1928. Tzigane is inspired by the great violinists of the XIX century (Wieniawski and Sarasate, in particular) but plays in a picturesque way on the bases of the Paganini technique. It imposes itself for a bizarre choice: the accompaniment was originally played on a piano-luthéal, a sort of “prepared” piano invented in 1919 by Georges Cloëtens. It could imitate the sonorities of a Hungarian cymbalum; indeed it could strike the strings (as happens in the regular piano) and pinch them (as happens in folk Hungarian instruments). The use of Hungarian rhythms, that give a different colour to the accompaniment, is explicit. In this tense atmosphere, in the brilliance of the bases of the formal construction, in the vertiginous initial cadenza that offers an occasion of blatant affirmation, in the close dance rhythm of the second part, this is, as in Ravel’s style, «more gypsy than a gypsy» (Vladimir Jankélévitch).