What sonata do you prefer?

September 27, 2019, 12:55 PM · Hello,
Just, for you, what is the best sonata for violin and piano?
Personally, it is Brahms 3rd Sonata or Beethoven's spring sonata

Replies (47)

September 27, 2019, 1:07 PM · Whichever one I am working on right now.
September 27, 2019, 2:30 PM · Debussy or Mendelssohn F major
September 27, 2019, 2:33 PM · Franck A major.
September 27, 2019, 3:33 PM · @Paul, I was debating that. But I only really like 1 movement of it
September 27, 2019, 3:34 PM · Kreutzer sonata, in my opinion.
September 27, 2019, 4:11 PM · Another vote for Kreutzer Sonata.

There's a beautiful but little-known sonata by a French composer named Lekeu.

September 27, 2019, 4:41 PM · Just a plug for Prokofiev's first. I don't know if it's 'wind passing through a graveyard', but it is cool.
September 27, 2019, 5:04 PM · I just started learning the Brahms A major and Beethoven E flat and really starting to love those. I know its technically not a "sonata" but I would say the Schubert C major Fantasie is probably my favorite. Honorable mentions are probably Schubert A Major, Franck, Prokofiev 1, and Beethoven 5 7 9
September 27, 2019, 5:16 PM · Brahms 3rd.

Next two for me are Brahms 1st and the relatively little-known one by Amanda Maier (who, not surprisingly, was in Brahms's social and musical circles).

September 27, 2019, 8:28 PM · The best? I don't know. My favorite would be the one by Shostakovich which is just awesome. Warning: It is very very hard, I can only play the first movement and that only with serious practicing. It is also rather dark in mood or, to be more precise, very dark.

I am surprised that the Kreutzer gets so many votes. IMO there are several among the other Beethovens which are preferable (first of all op. 96, but also op. 30/2 and 30/3, op. 23 and 24, also op. 12/2).

September 27, 2019, 8:39 PM · I love all of the Franck sonata. I performed the third movement with a pianist friend.
September 27, 2019, 9:13 PM · Beethoven #6 & Kreutzer
September 28, 2019, 5:08 AM · Copland sonata is quite nice too
September 28, 2019, 5:17 AM · The Spring is the first I'm likely to come across, so I have to say that, in line with Tom's first reply.
September 28, 2019, 9:16 AM · Another vote for Beethoven Op96, in preference to the Kreutzer.
Also Brahms no 1
Janacek Sonata
Beethoven E-flat (Op 12 no 3?)
September 28, 2019, 9:32 AM · Gordon wrote, " The Spring is the first I'm likely to come across..."

If you mean that's the first one you'll play as your skill develops, may I respectfully recommend Schubert Op. 137 followed by Mozart K304 first? Both are very charming ... they're just not being mentioned in this thread because they're not serious/complex enough to rise to the level of Brahms or Beethoven. Lets remember whose shoulders the latter were standing on when they composed music!

Edited: September 28, 2019, 9:49 AM · Two apparent outsiders: Janacek and Poulenc...

Both sound marvelous played by Joseph Suk.
(But then so does everything else!)

September 28, 2019, 10:04 AM · Janacek seconded, Elgar proposed, but my absolute favourite is Ravel (not the single movement one of course). "Summertime" a decade before Porgy & Bess!
September 28, 2019, 10:09 AM · Poulenc, Debussy both played by liza Ferschtman.
Bartok solo sonata
Enescu 3.
These are some favorites that I’m adding along with the obvious masterpieces of Brahms, Beethoven, Bach and Mozart.
September 28, 2019, 10:59 AM · Mozart B flat K454 (I think)
September 28, 2019, 11:22 AM · Besides Beethoven and Brahms and ones mentioned above, I really like Mozart K304 that Paul mentioned, particularly second movement.
September 28, 2019, 12:12 PM · I am surprised nobody has mentioned the Faure A major. I actually love both Faure sonatas, which are very different from each other, but the A major is pure joy.
September 28, 2019, 12:15 PM · Paul I agree. I enjoy Fauré full stop haha
September 28, 2019, 2:05 PM · Andrew: "Amanda Maier (who, not surprisingly, was in Brahms's social and musical circles)". Why 'not surprisingly'?
September 28, 2019, 4:24 PM · So, Guillermo, as usual with these kinds of questions, you have, not surprisingly, at least one vote for most of the really good sonatas. Not all that informative.
September 28, 2019, 4:26 PM · … But the rest of us may have come across a sonata or two worth exploring Tom :)
September 28, 2019, 4:26 PM · … But the rest of us may have come across a sonata or two worth exploring Tom :)
September 28, 2019, 5:27 PM · Franck for me, too. It was my sonata last season; I did several performances of it. I especially love the last movement of it.

This season, it's Faure A major. I admittedly don't like it as much as the Franck thus far.

September 28, 2019, 5:46 PM · @elise - possible. Maybe someone will find something in this worth pursuing. I remain a bit skeptical. We'll see. I am with Paul on the sonatas you might start with, with Handel's sonatas also as possible starters. I think the question of what sonatas to start with and what to do next in terms of difficulty is more interesting.
Edited: September 28, 2019, 9:08 PM · I agree with Tom's suggestion of the Handel sonatas, although the piano parts are really just accompaniments. Check out Hiro Kurosaki's recording, though -- one or two of them are performed with organ -- it's nice. In terms of a progression, Handel should probably come between Schubert and Mozart.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned the Saint-Saens sonata yet. Far too difficult for me but I love the YouTube of it with Paul Huang. I think he's amazing.

Edited: September 28, 2019, 10:07 PM · I like Beethoven Opus 12 No. 1. Dedicated to Antonio Salieri!
September 29, 2019, 12:02 AM · I strongly prefer Faure A Major over the Franck. It's so beautiful.
September 29, 2019, 6:29 AM · For me there are many many "best" ones, but I just wanted to mention the Schumann sonata no.1 since nobody mentioned that one yet. I find it beautiful. Actually Schumann wrote three violin sonatas I think, I must admit I have never listened to the other two. On my todo list!
Edited: September 29, 2019, 8:09 AM · Jean - Schumann did write three. The first (and more accessible one) is moody and a heck of a lot of fun to play!
September 29, 2019, 8:16 AM · Just listened to Schumann sonata no.2 (opus 121), also a masterpiece, it grabbed me from the beginning. But, it is more complicated than the no.1 which goes straight to the heart (at least for me).
September 29, 2019, 8:24 AM · Cesar Franck; Beethoven 'Spring' and 'Kreutzer', Elgar. Can't play any of them remotely well!
September 30, 2019, 2:23 AM · Also the second sonata of Carl Nielsen - very playable and musically interesting
Edited: September 30, 2019, 3:26 AM · Re: Amanda Maier, the reason I say "not surprisingly" is that my two favorite violin sonatas are both by Brahms. It's not that surprising that my next favorite, though obscure, is a very Brahmsian-sounding sonata by a composer who associated with Brahms.
September 30, 2019, 7:47 AM · Great to see so many people saying the Janacek. It's truly a great piece. I first heard my teacher play it live last year and it was amazing. I've gone on to listen to so many recordings yet his interpretation is still my favorite. I'll link him performing it.


September 30, 2019, 8:18 AM · I loved that performance too (portamento, yes!), but doesn't the anonymous pianist deserve equal credit?
September 30, 2019, 8:18 AM · My feeling about Faure vs. Franck is that the Franck is more listenable for the average audience. The Faure is gorgeous but tends more toward "music lovers' music" than the Franck. Just my own opinion that the Faure demands a lot more of the listener.

Wow the Janacek is a real feast of Heifetz slides, no? Xiao Wang sure plays great. I enjoyed listening to that.

Edited: September 30, 2019, 4:15 PM · Brahms D-minor - but the Scherzo needs some interpretation! Szeryng and Lush at the Wigmore Hall made it sound grim, and that was my understanding of it at the time, but I now think it should sound like Brahms trying to be funny, with, e.g., a really vulgar slide 12-11 bars before the first key change.
The third movement of the César Franck isn't easy to interpret, either. Maybe listening to the beginning of the third organ Choral gives some guidance - after all it's supposed to be fantasia-like!
Beethoven Op 12 no 2, of course, for the slow movement (The slow movement of Op 10 no 2 Piano has a similar ambience, as does, to a lesser extent, that of the D-major Op 9 string trio).
Purcell G-minor and Bach E-major also strong contenders.
Edited: September 30, 2019, 11:02 AM · My preference is for any sonata I can play through at more or less the right tempi without disaster. The list is very short.
September 30, 2019, 9:31 AM · If you have the luxury of having a pianist friend who can sight-read at a high level, you should play all the sonatas you can and enjoy/learn from them all. No need to play favorites and don't waste a year of your life learning just one or two. Play lots. Get to know the whole body of work, get to know the genre, THEN go deep and study one for performance.

I don't know why Beethoven sonatas are so under-appreciated outside of Kreutzer and Spring. Every sonata he wrote is worth playing and performing. They're consistently lovely, witty with beautiful dialogue between violin and piano.

Similarly, all 19 or 20 of the mature Mozart sonatas are worth getting closely acquainted with. There's a tremendous variety of constructions, sounds and techniques to learn. You just have to have a first-rate pianist to pay them with.

Schumann's 2 sonatas are both weird and wonderful. Brahms 3 sonatas -- how could one choose, they're all exquisite in distinctly different ways. Franck, Debussy, Prokofiev, Faure, Ravel, Shostakovich will stretch you.

I LOVE the Strauss sonata -- pretty close to perfect -- written by a man who so completely understood and loved the violin. But it is technically a bear -- for the pianist even more than the violinist.

And some "minor" composers are so worth exploring. Reinhold Gliere wrote several sets of duos that are delightful. Robert Fuchs (Mahler's teacher) wrote duos. Julius Rontgen was a late-19th/early20th century German/Dutch composer who was unappreciated in the 20th century but is is now rising in popularity as more of his work is back in print. Rontgen wrote sonatas, duos and especially string trios that are gorgeous and really fun to play.

September 30, 2019, 10:17 AM · Mary Ellen - oooh, yes! The Lekeu sonata is fantastic! I am currently in love with Ravel's sonata, and Enescu's 3rd remains a perennial favorite of mine. (Note: I have not played any of these, nor am I capable of doing so at this time, but I do love listening to them.)
September 30, 2019, 11:30 AM · Thanks Andrew - I wondered if you thought that she composed hers 'under the influence' of Brahms. Now while that may have been the case from just hearing his work, I could not find any evidence that the two met before she wrote it (perhaps you have some source?). Thanks for bringing it to attention :)
September 30, 2019, 4:47 PM · I didn't detect much Brahmsian influence, Elise, though later composers were heavily influenced by him (It is not an easy influence for a composer who's felt it to avoid being dominated by). Perhaps Mendelssohn, but some people suggested Berwald as an influence, and she was taught by Reinecke - I hardly know either of these composers' music.

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