Johannes Brahms dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 3 to Hans von Bu?low; it premiered with violinist Jenö Hubay in Budapest during the winter of 1888 with Brahms himself at the piano. This is the darkest and most severe of his three sonatas, and was soon taken up by Josef Joachim, who programmed it and played it repeatedly. Along with Vier ernste Gesänge, this sonata remains my favorite of Brahms’ compositions, possibly because it careens so calculatedly between heart-racing nervous tension and glorious melody. As was so often the case with Brahms, the composer had little confidence in this work when it was complete. He delayed sending it to his friend Clara Schumann because he feared it was not good enough for her to like it and Brahms didn’t want her to share it with Joachim unless she felt it would pass muster. When Brahms finally did share it with Clara Schumann, she responded with appropriate enthusiasm for this great work of art.
Some scholars note that Brahms’ piano parts in his sonatas and vocal music reach even higher levels of sophistication than the violinist’s or singer’s lines. There is certainly a healthy give and take between violin and piano in this sonata, but the piano part at least equals if not surpasses the violin part in subtlety. Regardless, Petteri and Kevin capture the listener in an unrelenting musical grip until the sonata’s satisfying conclusion.