The Violin Sonatas by Brahms as Starting Point for Contemporary Work

26 February 2021 | Pizzicato


By: Uwe Krusch

French Ensemble Des Equilibres commissioned works from three contemporary composers. Each was to respond to one of the three sonatas for violin and piano by Johannes Brahms. The idea behind this was to build a bridge to easier understanding for the less experienced listeners of contemporary music.

Philippe Hersant has transposed the Regenlied (Rain Song) included in the first violin sonata, with its melancholy and inwardly directed thoughts and intense expression, into his expressive world in a one-movement piece. Nicolas Bacri has chosen Brahms’ second sonata with its more relaxed positive mood for himself into a one movement work, discovering in particular the Pensieroso passage with its intense feeling. Finally, Graciane Finzi warmed up to Brahms’ last, as it were, with her own sonata in four movements, at the same time having in mind the playing of soloist Agnes Pyka heard shortly before.
All three composers draw on the great sensitivity given in the works by Brahms and likewise give their pieces gripping intensity. Thus, from the reviewer’s listening point of view, they succeeded in what was intended. Although the pieces have a present-day contour, they are closely tied to Brahms and his sound ideals. Thus a resilient bridging has been created, which also pleases with its own musical quality. Even when listened to several times, the works leave a good impression and not like some that are forgotten before the end of the first run.

The Ensemble Des Equilibres performs in different formations depending on the program. Here it is represented by artistic director and violinist Agnes Pyka and pianist Laurent Wagschal. They dig deep into the music and pass it on to the listeners with accessibly substantial playing. Whether motoric parts or lyrically tender sections, the duo complement each other in their prformances without any divergences or doubts. With a common view and action, they make the pieces their own and convey this enthusiasm to the listeners as well. In this way, modern music is a joy for all involved.