Violin Sonata in D Major, Op.84
CÚsar Cui (1835-1918) was born in the then Russian (now Lithuanian) city of Vilnius also known as Vilna. His father was French, his mother Lithuanian. When he was 16, his parents sent him to St. Petersburg to take a degree in engineering. Subsequently, he began a career as a military engineer and eventually became an expert on military fortifications. His expertise was such that he ended his career as a general and for many years was a professor of this subject, writing several important works. Nonetheless, Cui today is only known as a composer. As a boy, he was given piano lessons and studied with the then prominent Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko before leaving for St. Petersburg. Like his better known contemporary, Alexander Borodin who was a chemist, Cui despite pursuing an active military and academic career, nonetheless, composed throughout his life and was actually a rather prolific composer. In addition to this, he was a prominent music critic. As a critic his goal was to promote the music of contemporary Russian composers, especially the works of the composers who eventually became known as The Mighty Five. (Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin, Cui, Balakiev and Mussorgsky) Cui concentrated his efforts on opera and vocal works and did not write symphonies, although he did write a few orchestral works. He did not ignore chamber music, writing three string quartets. Outside Russia, his reputation rests almost entirely on a short, evocative work he wrote for violin and piano, Orientale, taken from the larger work for violin and piano, Kalaidoscope
Cui wrote a considerable number of works for violin and piano, most of them smaller works or miniatures, but only one sonata. His Sonata in D Major for violin and piano was completed in 1870. That it did not become better known was due to the fact that for some reason it was not published until 41 years after its composition and by 1911 it was somewhat dated. Had it come out in 1870, this lovely work would surely have entered the repertoire. In three movements, the opening Allegro features a long-lined, lyrical and flowing theme which Cui develops in masterly fashion. A second theme is closely related to the first. The main theme of second movement, Andante ma non troppo, is a beautiful but sad and pleading melody. A contrasting second theme is lighter. The finale, Allegro, opens with a series of double stops which lead to spirited rising and falling passages that approach becoming a breathless moto perpetuo. The more lyrical second theme gives both the players and listener a chance to catch their breaths.
This is a first rate work full of wonderfully appealing melodies and beautiful writing. It is sure to triumph in the recital hall where it will make an excellent impression. Out of print for the better part of a century we are very please to make it available once again.