Sonatas for piano and violin: in G, op. 78; in A, op. 100; in D minor, op. 108

(Vienna Urtext Edition). Universal


First editions have been collated with Brahms's working copies to produce a text which is predictably difficult to distinguish from the Gesellschaft-Ausgabe. The only difference of note I can detect is F rightly replacing D as the violin's first semiquaver, in op. 100/II/79. The most interesting of the critical notes concerns op. 78, the only one with a known extant autograph. This shows for example that at bars 57-60 of the finale it was Brahms's original intention to prolong the pedal point for another four bars, in a way that would have delighted Ebenezer Prout and enraged Hugo Wolf.

     In all three sonatas the final craftsmanship is so highly polished as arguably to need no further editorial gloss. But I think Bernhard Stockmann might have told us rather more of the history and background of each work, as well as the connection (to which he rightly draws attention) between these sonatas and the song-writing. True, op. 78/III reminds us of Regenlied:but the more meaningful echo is surely of Nachklang? Again, op. 100/III may have some obscure intimations of Auf dem Kirchhofe, but is not Brahms foreshadowing them by saying Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer(also of 1886)?

     The technical editing and fingering of violin and piano parts seems to me beyond reproach, except when it strays into the realm of critical comment. In this it is not helped by the English translation, which is sometimes inadequate. Thus “Directions for performance” sounds much more peremptory than “Vorschläge [i.e. suggestions] zur Interpretation”. The point is relevant to the editorial suggestion that when Brahms says poco string. (in op. 78/II/112) he is really asking for a lot more rope. Never mind the composer's instructions, say his editors (Jörg Demus and Günther Kehr, acting in concert); we recommend a broadening at the climax. This would seem to me improper even as a “suggestion”; presented as a “direction”, it indicates the wrong way in which to proceed.

     But apart from such caveats these volumes are to be unreservedly welcomed for their startlingly clear printing, their attractive and serviceable format, and their detailed scholarly apparatus.           


The Musical Times, Dec. 1973 (p. 1248) © the estate of eric sams, 1973