Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108
In this masterclass, Professor Augustin Dumay is guiding young student Adams Suska, who is interpreting "Johannes Brahms's Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, the last of his violin sonatas, composed between 1886 and 1888.
Professor Dumay reminds us the importance of maintaining a good physical stance, something that is forgotten after a certain time practicing. He proceeds to adjust Adam's stance and position while gently reminding him to achieve a comfortable environment before attempting playing the instrument. A lot can be lost if the body is not able to relax and stay dedicated to the piece. One is responsible for the energy deployed and the consistency of its deployment throughout the piece.
How to maintain a comfortable physical stance,
To keep energy available at all time while playing,
To setup your environment so that your mind stays focused,
To find lyricism and extrapolate from it,
Practicing what piano means for this specific piece.
Johannes Brahms composed his third and final violin sonata between 1886-88, toward the end of his career. By this time he had already completed most of his large-scale, major works and was focusing primarily on chamber music. Unlike its predecessors, the third sonata consists of four movements. Though it was dedicated to Hans von Bülow, it was premiered by Hungarian violinist Jenő Hubay instead, with Brahms himself on the piano. The first movement, Allegro, intensely develops a few recurring motifs over its course. The violin and piano take turns as melody and accompaniment, luxuriating in expansive, passionate melodies. The second movement, Adagio, is in D Major rather than minor, and provides a gentle interlude from the intensity, allowing the lyricism of the violin to shine. In the third movement, Un poco presto e con sentimento, the violin begins with a simple accompaniment while the piano dominates with a playful, lilting scherzo, though the two come together with melodic moments throughout. The emotionally turbulent final movement, Presto agitato, involves melody, dance, and extreme contrast, offering a chance for both instrumentalists to showcase their virtuosity.
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