The Violin Sonata No. 1 in E minor, op. 73, a “Grand Sonata for Violin and Piano,” occupies an important position in Joachim Raff’s oeuvre: it reflects numerous artistic, aesthetic, biographical, and reception-historical aspects characteristic of Raff. The work was composed in Weimar in 1854, when Raff was going through a process of artistic self-discovery. He increasingly distanced himself from his mentor Franz Liszt and intensively explored Wagner as well as the ideal of absolute music – this is also reflected in the music of the sonata. While Raff described the first two movements as “objectified,” he perceived the last two movements as “a piece of” him, that is, not free of extra-musical influences.
The 1st movement, with its expansive main theme, is reminiscent of Mendelssohn; the 2nd movement reveals the refinement of classical-romantic work with musical material. The 3rd movement, with its partly rhythmic, virtuoso accompanying figures and harmonically advanced passages, allows a deeply “romantic,” almost tormented insight into a soul life à la Sturm und Drang. The partly irascible last movement revisits already familiar themes and thus creates a musical framework.