Violin Sonata No.1 in g minor, Op.1
Born in Venice, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) was the son of a German father and an Italian mother. Throughout his life, he felt torn between the two cultures, uniting in himself the deep-felt German seriousness of purpose with sunny, Italian bel canto melody. His father was a painter and initially Ermanno wanted to follow in his footsteps. However after studying painting in Rome and Munich, he enrolled in the Royal Conservatory there and studied composition with Joseph Rheinberger. He spent his the rest of his life between Munich and Venice, never entirely satisfied in either place. This tension was, however, an important source of creativity for him. Wolf-Ferrari enjoyed his greatest success while still rather young, winning international fame for several of his operas between 1900 and the First World War. He served as Choral Director in Milan and later became the director of the Marcello Music Academy in Venice and taught at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. The First World War created an emotional crisis in that his "two fatherlands" were fighting on opposite sides. He chose to live in neutral Switzerland for the duration.
Though mainly known for his operas, he was quite fond of chamber music and wrote a fair amount including two piano trios, a string quartet, a string quintet and several instrumental sonatas. His First Violin Sonata was composed in 1895 while he was studying with Rheinberger. It is not, however, a "student" work as the music critic Wilhelm Altmann points out.
"Wolf-Ferrari's First Violin Sonata merits attention on account of its extraordinary freshness and beauty of tone color. The first movement, Sostenuto-Allegro appassionato quasi presto, opens vigorously and is passionately emotional all through. A quite original and exceedingly charming effect is produced by the second movement, Lento seza tempo. Chords suggesting a chorale on the piano are answered by declamatory passages from the violin. Then follows a broad and noble melody. The finale, Sostenuto-Allegro ma non troppo, opens with great vigor, but this toned down as the movement proceeds. Eventually we hear a yearning theme from the first movement."
Out of print for many years, violinists, professional and amateur alike, should find this sonata intriguing.