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ClassicsOnline Home » THUILLE, L.: Violin and Piano Works (Complete) (Rogliano, G. Luisi)
Ludwig Thuille, a staunch friend of Richard Strauss, was leader of the ‘Munich School’ of composers, which reflected the influence of Liszt, Wagner and Thuille’s own teacher, Rheinberger. The Violin Sonata No 1 in D, which Strauss admitted was more advanced than his own works of the time and here receives its first recording, is the latest addition to the ongoing revival of his chamber music. Dedicated to Henri Marteau, one of the greatest violinists of the age, the much later Violin Sonata No 2 in E minor reveals similar lyrical strengths. Thuille’s Piano Quintet, Op 6 and Sextet, Op 20 can be heard on Naxos 8.570790.
By Paul Ballyk
Ludwig Thuille (1861–1907)
Violin Sonatas Nos 1 and 2 • Allegro giusto
The German composer and teacher Ludwig Thuille seems to have been unjustly relegated to a footnote in accounts of the early life of his friend Richard Strauss. Thuille was born in 1861 in Bozen (Bolzano), the son of a book and art dealer, but was orphaned in childhood, with the death of his mother in 1867 and of his father in 1872. He had his early piano lessons from his father, and became a chorister at the Benedictine foundation at Kremsmünster, assuring him a free place at the associated gymnasium, where he studied the piano and violin, and developed his early interests in composition. In 1876 he settled in Innsbruck with his married half-sister. Here he received encouragement from Pauline Nagiller, widow of the musician and composer Matthäus Nagiller, and was able to study with a pupil of Bruckner. The following year, through Josepha Strauss, mother of Richard Strauss, and her husband Franz, on holiday in Innsbruck, Thuille met Richard Strauss, with whom he struck up an important friendship, and it was through Franz Strauss that he later found a place at the Royal Music School in Munich. Three years Richard Strauss’s senior, Thuille continued to correspond from Innsbruck with Richard Strauss, and their correspondence has been much quoted as evidence of the young Strauss’s early conservative tendencies and prejudices, with only the letters of Strauss surviving. In 1879 Thuille moved to Munich, studying there at the Royal Music School under Rheinberger and Karl Bärmann. At the same time he was influenced, as was Strauss, by contact with the Wagnerian Alexander Ritter, whom Strauss had first known in Meiningen. On graduation Thuille started work as a private music-teacher, before his appointment in 1883 to the Royal Music School as a teacher of piano and harmony. In 1890 he was appointed professor and in 1893 succeeded his teacher Rheinberger as professor of composition. Thuille enjoyed an early career in Munich as a pianist, particularly in chamber music, and from 1889 won a reputation as conductor of a men’s choir, Liederhort, while earning distinction as a composer and as a teacher. It was in the latter capacity that he was chiefly remembered, his academic position tending to develop the more conservative aspect of his composition, distancing him from Strauss, with whom, nevertheless, he remained on friendly terms until his early death in 1907. A leader of the so-called Munich School that reflected the influences of Rheinberger and of Liszt and Wagner, Thuille wrote choral music and songs. His operas included Theuerdank, conducted by Strauss at the Munich Opera in 1897, after which, according to Strauss, it could be consigned to the grave, and two fairy-tale works, Lobetanz and Gugeline, with libretti by the writer and editor Otto Julius Bierbaum that had originally, it seems, been intended for Strauss. His orchestral works include a piano concerto, a symphony and a Romantic Overture. At the same time he made a then significant contribution to chamber music and to a lesser extent to solo piano music. At the time of his death he was preparing for publication his important Harmonielehre, a collaboration with Rudolf Louis, a work later edited by his former pupil Walter Courvoisier, who married Thuille’s daughter.
Thuille’s Violin Sonata No 1 in D minor, Op 1, was completed in 1880 and dedicated to his teacher, Josef Rheinberger. Richard Strauss was to describe it as more mature than his own works of the same period. The first movement, in sonata-allegro form, has a characteristic first subject and a second in the relative major key of F. The repeated exposition is followed by a central development, before the return of the first subject in recapitulation, followed by the second subject in D major and a return to the minor key in the coda. The F major Scherzo makes much use of ascending arpeggio figuration and frames a more relaxed F minor Trio section. The slow movement, in D major, is introduced by the piano with a melody and a texture that have something of Schumann about them. There is a contrasting central section before the return of the first, the piano accompanied by the plucked notes of the violin. The Finale is again in sonata-form, its sprightly first subject contrasted with a steadier secondary theme in F major, which makes its due return in D major in the course of the final recapitulation, capped by a coda that brings a return to the original minor key.
Violin Sonata No 2 in E minor, Op 30, was published in 1904 and dedicated to the violinist Henri Marteau. The sonata opens with a flourish, figuration that is to form part of the first subject in a sonata-allegro form movement. The second subject, in a mood of greater tranquillity, is introduced by the piano and is to return, as expected, in the final recapitulation. The second movement is in C major and marked Adagio molto. The central section, un poco meno adagio, is defined with greater determination, its shifting harmonies returning finally to the original key and theme. The Finale has something of a scherzo in the figuration of its principal theme and the sonata ends with a coda of increasing rapidity and excitement.
Thuille’s Allegro giusto, Op 39, was started in the winter of 1904–1905 and completed in the summer of 1906. The single movement, in D major, has a principal theme of particular charm, with a contrasting D minor theme, marked risoluto. It is the D major theme that triumphs, with its air of the Bavarian countryside concealing an intricate web of modulation.
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