Daniel Gregory Mason and Frederick Shepherd Converse: Violin Sonatas
Frederick Shepherd Converse: Violin Sonata in A Major, Opus 1 Daniel Gregory Mason: Violin Sonata in G minor, Opus 5, Sonata in C minor, Opus 14 Kevin Lawrence, violin Phillip Bush, piano Both Frederick Shepherd Converse (1871-1940) and Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953) were pupils of John Knowles Paine at Harvard and members of the New England School of composers. As such, they drew inspiration primarily from the German tradition as manifested in the music of Beethoven and Brahms. In Converse's Violin Sonata in A Major, Opus 1 (1900), the clarity of the sonata-form structure in the first movement and the balance of violin and piano both suggest a careful study of the Beethoven violin sonatas during his Harvard years. The gentleness of the Romanze turns momentarily darker and more chromatic in its middle section. The Menuetto has suggestions of historical pastiche in the main section, evoking the old dance of a century or more earlier, while the broadly lyrical trio flows with romantic gestures. The energetic finale opens with a tense, subdued theme. Then, following transformations through various keys, the return of the original material builds to an exuberant, dynamic close. Mason's Violin Sonata in G minor, Opus 5, composed in 1907–08, opens with the solo violin on its lowest note with a theme that grows in the darkly subdued manner of Brahms. The reticence of the material sometimes erupts into passionate outbursts, yet they are always contained, reserved. The most striking movement, certainly the most adventurous, is the Andante tranquillo, which begins with a warmly expressive and eloquent main section and moves to an increasingly restless middle section, filled with disjunct gestures and more complex harmonies, before returning to the opening material. Having reined his horses in, so to speak, through two movements, Mason lets them race off into the finale. A poignant contrasting theme offers respite from the vigorous race, which finally ends in majestic climax. The Sonata in C minor, Opus 14 was actually composed for clarinet and piano. But unlike Brahms, whose alternate version was for viola and piano, Mason chose to make his for violin and piano. The sonata-form opening movement moves from the darkly expressive C-minor to a bright and serene close in the major. The second movement is a lively scherzo with a slower and more lyrical middle section. The return to the scherzo exploits whole-tone harmonies that are among the most advanced of Mason's harmonic explorations. The finale begins quietly but soon builds to a dialogue between the violin in cadenza-like figures and the piano in marching chords. These materials develop into a vigorous and thoroughly satisfying climax.

Kevin Lawrence

Daniel Gregory Mason and Frederick Shepherd Converse: Violin Sonatas

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Track Listing

Sonata in G Minor for violin and piano, Opus 5: I. Allegro moderato
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Sonata in G Minor for violin and piano, Opus 5: II. Andante tranquillo, ma non troppo lento
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Sonata in G Minor for violin and piano, Opus 5: III. Allegro vivace
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Sonata in C Minor for violin and piano, Opus 14: I. Con moto, amabile
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Sonata in C Minor for violin and piano, Opus 14: II. Vivace ma non troppo
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Sonata in C Minor for violin and piano, Opus 14: III. Allegro moderato
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Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, Opus 1: I. Allegro giocoso
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Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, Opus 1: II. Romanze: Andante
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Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, Opus 1: III. Menuetto
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Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, Opus 1: IV. Finale: Poco agitato
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