VIEUXTEMPS Henri, Viola Sonata

Maestoso – Allegro 
Barcarolla. Andante con moto 
Finale Scherzando. Allegretto 
 

The Belgian violin virtuoso and composer Henri Vieuxtemps was also an outstanding viola player and he composed his Viola Sonata in 1860. The first performance was given on 21 January 1861 in London, at the St James’s Hall, played by Vieuxtemps with the distinguished English pianist Arabella Goddard (famous, among other things, for giving the first public performance in London of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata). The performance was reviewed in The Musical World whose critic praised ‘M. Vieuxtemps’s mastery of the viola’ and expressed the view that ‘of the three movements, the Andante in G minor (Barcarolla) created the most marked impression’ and noted that ‘the difficulties presented by the whole work are such that none but a performer of the first class should attempt it.’ 

 

Several more performances quickly followed including one at the Hanover Square Rooms (15 February 1861) and another at the St James’s Hall on 15 April, this time with Charles Hallé as Vieuxtemps’s pianist. The work was first heard in Brussels a few weeks later and when the sonata was published in 1862, it carried a dedication to King George V of Hanover, a music-loving cousin of Queen Victoria.  

 

© Nigel Simeone 

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