4/15 Ken Todd

Kenneth W. Todd, violin and viola

Alicia Belgiovane, piano


The Sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1027-1029 were written during Bach’s second appointment of employment at Anhalt-Cothen. Presumably intended as a set, the three sonatas have survived as separate works. Originally written for Viola da Gamba, the sonatas are often performed on viola or violoncello and the modern-day piano. The compositional style is consistent with other sonata textures of Bach in that the two upper parts (the viola and the upper part of the keyboard) are supported by a bass part. The imitative interplay of the two upper voices in the first movement is supported by the repeating bass patterns. The second movement introduces the theme in the keyboard prior to its appearance in the viola. The two upper parts continue in imitative entries in the Andante and final Allegro moderato.

Ralph Vaughan Williams is one of the 20th century’s most revered English composers. He was also a talented violist in his own right. The manuscript for the Romance for Viola and Piano was discovered, without any clue to its date, among the composer’s papers after his death. What can be said is that it was probably intended for the great virtuoso Lionel Tertis, for whom Vaughan Williams had composed his two major works for viola-Flos Campi in 1925 and his Suite for Viola in 1934.

Fritz Kreisler was the last of the great violinist composers, ending a tradition that extended back to Corelli and Vivaldi, and continued through such notables as Kreutzer, Spohr, Paganini, Ernst, Wieniawski and Joachim, among others. His transcriptions, arrangements and original works for the violin display his keen understanding of the expressive possibilities of the instrument. Reminiscent of chansons by the composer Henri Duparc, the Berceuse Romantique exemplifies Kreisler’s serious yet expressive command of melody and harmony that are reflected in this late 19th-early 20th century style.

The Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 of Johannes Brahms is a work of astonishing beauty and exquisite Romantic appeal. Written in 1879, its title, “Regensonate” (“Rain Sonata”) refers to the thematic material of the third movement, taken literally from the material of one of Brahms’ earlier art songs titled “Regenlied” (“Rain Song”). It is often designated as a “Sonata for Piano and Violin” due to the importance of musical material placed on both instruments. In its writing, the two parts imitate, echo and intertwine for a balanced chamber unity with ample lyricism and virtuosity for both players. Using traditional classical forms, the arching themes create a musical allusion to rain, connecting the musical ideas throughout the work. The final movement is infused with elements of the first two movements. Inspired and mirrored by the finale, the opening of the first movement makes final sense at the conclusion of the work.