Grieg’s Violin Sonatas are notoriously neglected. The Third is supposedly the only one in the “mainstream” repertoire but I can honestly say I’ve never encountered it at a concert or heard it performed live on air. Debussy once bitched about Grieg’s music as “bonbons filled with snow”, Grieg escaped lightly: he also once quipped there were three types of music “Good, bad and that of Amboise Thomas” (the composer of the opera Mignon).

The Sonatas were composed over a long period between 1865 and 1886-7, but their overall effect in the hands of Tom Poster and Elena Urioste is of a massive and life-enhancing dose of musical Vitamin D. Grieg characterised the three as “naïve, reflecting many antecedents” (No 1), “national” (No 2), and having “wider horizons” (No 3). It’s noteworthy that he was right on the mark.

Sonata No 1 is highly influenced by the German school – particularly Schumann, whose own violin sonatas are brought to mind in Grieg’s impetuous first movement and finale (with its decidedly German main theme). It was wittily described as in the “Mendelssohnacidic” and “Schumannoxide” mode which pervaded so much of other people’s music in those days....

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now