Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100
In this masterclass, Professor Augustin Dumay is accompanied by young violin student Simon Ju, interpreting the second Violin Sonata ("Thun" or "Meistersinger"), a piece written in the summer of 1886 in Thun, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland by Johannes Brahms.
Professor Dumay proceeds to listen carefully to Simon's interpretation after which he congratulates him for his good energy and excellent play. However, Dumay mentions that no matter the energy one has to express, it should not hinder the tempo or one's ability to feel the piece. As well, the manner one is reading modern music editions can be sometimes dangerous or vapid, for one will forget it's musical instinct while blindly following directions. It is important to understand the piece while not knowing it by heart or habit.
To allow oneself to dance/sing with the music to anticipate movements,
To pay attention to phrasing vs tempo,
The quality of today editions and it's limitations,
Avoid fundamentalism while playing,
Find a balance between interpretation and following a template.
Johannes Brahms wrote his Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major during the summer of 1886, a prolific period during which he also composed several other important works, including his second cello sonata and third piano trio. He spent this summer residing near Lake Thun in Switzerland, where he enjoyed the company of poets Josef Widmann and Klaus Groth as well as contralto Hermine Spies. These relationships and the beautiful environment surrounding him deeply inspired the composer. Of the three sonatas Brahms wrote for violin, it is the shortest. It is known for its lyricism and lighthearted spirit, despite being a challenge for both instrumentalists. The first movement, Allegro amabile, begins with three notes that closely resemble the opening to “Morgendlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein” from Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger. As a result, the piece is sometimes referred to as the “Meistersinger” sonata. The movement also quotes several songs that Brahms composed that summer for Spies, amplifying its melodic and expressive nature. Rather than having a traditional slow movement and scherzo movement, Brahms combines both into one in the second movement, Andante tranquillo — Vivace — Andante — Vivace di più — Andante — Vivace. The calmer and quicker sections alternate over the course of the movement, each time adding small surprises for the listener. The final movement, Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante), is an elegant and unhurried rondo that brings the piece to a satisfying close.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Augustin Dumay’s feedback and comments.
He is Master in Residence at the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth (Brussels) where he teaches young violinists of the highest level, most of them winners of major international competitions.
Augustin Dumay began his career in 1980 thanks to Herbert von Karajan, who invited him to play as a soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Since then, he has gone on to perform with Europe’s best orchestras, including the Philharmonia, London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Mahler Chamber, Camerata Salzburg, Tonhalle Zürich, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Montreal Symphony, under the direction of S. Ozawa, C. Davis, C. von Dohnanyi, C. Dutoit, G. Rozhdestvensky, D. Zinman, Y. Temirkanov, K. Masur, W. Sawallisch, K. Sanderling, I. Fischer, as well as with the leading conductors of the new generation such as D. Harding, A. Gilbert, and R. Ticciati.
His duo with pianist Maria João Pires has toured the world several times. His fifty recordings for EMI and Deutsche Grammophon have won multiple international awards.
Born in Hamburg, Germany on May 7, 1833, Johannes Brahms was the son of musician Johann Jakob Brahms. Johannes Brahms began his musical education learning the piano, cello, and horn. From the age of 7-years-old, he studied the piano under Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel.
Composer, pianist, and conductor, Brahms began his career at the end of the classical tradition (approx. 1730-1820) and established himself as a central figure in classical music’s Romantic era. His first concert tour took place in 1853 where he built a deep camaraderie with fellow musician, Robert Schumann.
His first major work presented to the public was Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra in D minor, which was performed by himself in Leipzig in 1859. In 1863, he moved to Vienna, where he was appointed conductor of Singakademie (Singing academy), which he would leave only a year later.
By 1868, Brahms achieved fame throughout Europe for the premiere of his renowned work German Requiem. Other notable works by Brahms include but are not limited to: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, op. 15, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24, Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, op. 25, Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, op. 38 Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 Symphony No. 3 in F major, op. 78 Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98, and Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, op. 99 Quintet with Clarinet in B minor, Op. 115. Brahms has been lauded for his deep understanding of formal construction and his rendering of melodic richness, harmonic complexity, and his mastery to achieve a myriad of moods and atmosphere.
Johannes Brahms passed away on April 3,1897, in Vienna.
Photo credit: Fritz Luckhardt