1865, 1888, 2011, Music

Violin Sonatas: Bartok / Strauss / Grieg (2011) by Vilde Frang

This is a strong collection of mid-to-late Romantic and early modern violin sonatas. The collection spans a very long period of time.

Edvard Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 8 (1865)

  1. Allegro con brio 9:24
  2. Allegretto quasi andantino 5:24
  3. Allegro molto vivace 7:14

The Grieg is light and happy but does contain some interesting twists – like the apparent false ending of the first movement – to keep it from merely being a pleasant listen.

It’s still pretty nice and light and, as that’s not my thing, I have a hard time loving it.

Bela Bartok: Sonata for Solo Violin Sz. 117, BB 124 (1944)

  • Tempo di ciaccona 9:26
  • Fuga. Risoluto, non troppo vivo 5:01
  • Melodia. Adagio 7:15
  • Presto 5:35

The Bartok is everything I love about his chamber music. It is daring and difficult (for its time) and just an inventive joy. One of the great violin showcases of the first half of the 20th century I think. It’s just wonderful.

Richard Strauss: Violin Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 18 (1888)

  • Allegro, ma non troppo 11:41
  • Improvisation: Andante cantabile 8:12
  • Finale: Andante – Allegro 9:32

The Strauss is somewhere between the two: more forward thinking than the Grieg and far more conservative than the Bartok (which makes perfect sense given the year it was written in). I am a fan of this kind of barely-contained ‘straining against tradition’ stuff almost as much as I am a fan of the ‘completely breaking with tradition’ stuff that I absolutely adore, and so I like this, and I wish I would get around to listening to more Richard Strauss.

Though it sure is an arbitrary collection, it actually works a little bit as a lesson to those of us with no musical education. Though the sequencing makes my interpretation harder, you can kind of view it as the progression (and then regression, if you listen in sequence) of the violin sonata over 80 years.


  • Performer: Vilde Frang, Michail Lifits (piano)
  • Composers: Bela Bartok, Edvard Grieg, Richard Strauss
  • Audio CD (March 7, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Classics

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