Violin Sonata in E flat Major, Op.18
Richard Strauss (1864-1949), of course, needs no introduction. His orchestral compositions and operas have made him one of the best known composers of the late 19th and 20th century. While Strauss did not, in later life, devote much time to chamber music, in his earlier years he tried his hands at several different types of chamber works composing a string quartet, two piano trios, a piano quartet and several instrumental sonatas.
During his early years, Strauss took Schumann and Mendelssohn as his models. The sonata which was composed in 1887 falls just at the end of this period and at a time when Strauss was starting to come under the influence of the new tonalities of Liszt, Berlioz and Wagner. The tonalities one finds in the Sonata are still rooted in the classical romantic composers. The part-writing and balance between the instruments is excellent, as one might expect from a composer who was proficient on both instruments. Although it is an early work, it is not juvenilia. It was written just after Aus Italien and just before Don Juan.
The Sonata is in three movements and begins with a fiery, powerful Allegro ma non troppo. After an initial flourish, the violin brings forth the main theme, a romantic, almost heroic melody. As the theme is developed fast passages create a sense of urgent drama. The middle movement, Andante cantabile, is rather like a nocturne and has for its main theme, an unabashed love song which glides along until a turbulent middle sections rudely interrupts its dream-like reverie. The finale, Andante-Allegro, begins with a quiet, introspective introduction in the piano alone. At the Allegro, the violin breaks forth with ascending, slashing passages from its lowest to its highest register, creating a sense of drama and importance. However, then comes a playfulness that sneaks into the music almost without notice.
Though it comes at the end of his early period, this is nonetheless a mature work with many of the hallmarks which can be found in his later music.