Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38, 1st movement

Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor,  Op. 38, 1st movement

Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38, 1st movement

Johannes Brahms

Frans Helmerson's masterclass

Produced by the Saline royale Academy English Music sheet annotated by  Frans  Helmerson  is available 39 min Cello

Professor Frans Helmerson works with student Irene Jolys on active listening and the importance of interpreting the composer's intentions.

Produced by the Saline royale Academy

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The masterclass

About this masterclass

In this cello masterclass, Professor Frans Helmerson works with student Irene Jolys to take on the famous 1st movement of the Cello Sonata No. 1 by Johannes Brahms.

The professor underlines the importance for Jolys to work on listening closely to the piano. He continues to advise her to reflect on her trajectory and move forward with the accompanying piano, always keeping in mind the tempo. Helmerson adds that by listening, the cellist can successfully arrive at the right moment in the piece so that the piano does not have to react to the cellist. With this, the cellist should respond and move with the piano instead of around.

The pair also work on letting the bow shape the line and many more pertinent topics.

What we learn in this masterclass

  1. Listening to the piano.

  2. Pushing the music forward with the accompaniment. 

  3. Avoiding the glissando.

  4. Allowing the bow shape the line.

  5. Understanding the composer's intentions. 

Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38 by Johannes Brahms

Brahms composed his first cello sonata between 1862-65, though it was not published until 1866, after it had undergone several revisions, including the omission of its slow movement. Brahms was insistent that the piano should be equal in voice to the cello, causing the cellist at the initial reading to protest that he could not hear his own cello line over Brahms’ piano playing. The piece is also an homage to J.S. Bach, drawing thematic inspiration from Bach’s The Art of Fugue.

The Allegro non troppo is an extensive first movement in sonata form, with frequent shifts in dynamics and intensity. The piano and cello weave together a passionate dialogue; each instrument sometimes acts as the melody, and other times as the harmony or bass. The second movement, Allegretto quasi Menuetto, is subdued in dynamic and gracious character, often using staccato, in contrast to the lyrical trio section. The final movement, Allegro, consists of fugal material within a sonata form. The energetic and expressive music leads to an exhilarating conclusion. 

  • Date:18 February 2021
  • Producer: Produced by the Saline royale Academy
  • Duration:39 min
  • Spoken language:English

Sheet music

Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Frans Helmerson’s feedback and comments.

Sheet music cello sonata no. 1 in e minor,  op. 38, 1st movement

Frans Helmerson

Frans  Helmerson

In 1971 he won one of the most famous music prizes for cellists, the Cassado Competition in Florence.

Born in 1945 in Sweden, Frans Helmerson began playing the cello at the age of eight. After studying in Sweden, Rome, and London under the tutelage of Guido Vecchi, Giuseppe Selmi, William Pleeth, and later from Mstislav Rostropovich.

His solo career began in Stockholm, Sweden. Since the early days of his career, he has performed with some of the most esteemed orchestras across the five continents, performing with leading conductors of our time - Seiji Ozawa, Colin Davies, Neeme Järvi, Evgeni Svetlanov, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Herbert Blomstedt, Sergiu Comissiona, Rafal Frübeck de Burgos, and Kurt Sanderling.

His passion for chamber music has led him to numerous festivals, including the International Umeea-Korsholrn Festival in northern Sweden and Finland. He has performed in Verbier, Prades, Naantali, Kuhmo, and Ravinia. Presently, Helmerson works regularly as a conductor with Scandinavian orchestras.

As an educator, he teaches at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, where he is based, and at the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid. He taught at the Villecroze Music Academy in 2012, 2014, and 2020.


Johannes  Brahms

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

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