Violin Sonata No.1 in b minor, Op.15
Georgy Catoire's First Violin Sonata dates from 1904 and was dedicated to his friend the composer and pianist Nikolai Medtner. Like most of his music, it is highly individualistic.
Catoire (1861-1926) is generally considered the father of Russian modernism. He was born in Moscow to a French noble family which had emigrated to Russia in the early 19th century. Although fascinated by music, he studied mathematics and science at the University of Moscow, graduating in 1884. After graduation, however, he decided to devote himself to music. His early compositions showed the influence of Tchaikovsky who described Catoire as talented but in need of serious training. Eventually Catoire was to study composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, Lyadov, Arensky and Taneyev. In 1916, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Moscow Conservatory, a position he held for the rest of his life. Catoire wrote several treatises on music theory, which became the foundation for the teaching of music theory in Russia. His composition style was a synthesis Russian, German and French influences--Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Cesar Franck, Debussy and Richard Wagner were the chief influences. From them, Catoire developed a highly personal and original idiom. His championing of Wagner is partially responsible for the fact that his works are relatively unknown today. Rimsky-Korsakov's circle disliked Wagner's music intensely and did little to promote it. This resulted in its being barely known in Russia. They also shunned Catoire’s music because he was a Wagnerite.
The first movement, Allegro non tanto, ma appassionato, starts with violent outbursts, which alternate with calmer, introspective episodes. At times the high emotional atmosphere reminds of one of Rachmaninov. But Catoire's sense of structure is very different. The second theme is quiet and more lyrical. One can hear vague echoes of Wagner. The slow second movement, Barcarolle, has an elegiac quality and is distinctly Russian. Its somber tone recalls the elegiac piano trios of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. But there also very powerful dramatic moments as well. The finale, Allegro con spirito, is built on one motif but used in many different creative ways.