This is actually Brahm’s second violin and piano sonata (1879), the first written when he had just turned sixteen, having disappeared and then been recovered; it was finally destroyed by the composer as not worthy. The work has been termed Regen-Sonate (Rain Sonata) because it uses material from two songs, Op. 59, written to the poetry of Claus Groth, evoking the sad past. The raindrop material is present in each movement, especially the third. The overwhelming impression of this tragic work affected Clara Schumann intensely, she writes, over a period of time.
This sonata shows the composer at his most original, still experimenting with form near the end of his life. Debussy writes that the first movement shows “curious evolving, giving the impression of an idea turning around on itself, like a snake biting its tail." The work is remarkable, as the composer points out, in its joyousness and impetuosness, reflecting nothing of the depression and illness that Debussy was feeling at the time of its writing. Contrary to these, he says, “the spirit breathes when it wishes to.” And further, it shows “what a sick man can write in time of war.” Debussy himself gave the first public performance with the violinist Gaston Poulet at the Salle Gaveau in May 1917, his last public appearance in Paris.
Bartok’s Rumanian collection numbered more than 800 cylinders and over 4,000 songs at the time he wrote these dances. It is amazing to think of the perserverance it must have taken for him to manage collecting trips on the outer rim of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the midst of World War I. His letters chronicle some of the difficulties of communication and transportation. Exhaustion followed the last trip.