Obscure Music Monday: Smyth's Violin Sonata
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth DBE (April 22,1858 - May 8, 1944) was an English composer and member of the women's suffrage movement. The fourth of eight children, Smyth showed a keen interested in music as a career. Her father, a major general in the Royal Artillery, was not particularly supportive, though that didn't stop her from pursuing music anyway. Smyth studied privately, and then attended the Leipzig Conservatory. She wrote orchestral and choral works, chamber pieces, operas, and works for piano. Sadly deafness brought her musical career to an end, but between 1919 and 1940, she became an author, and wrote ten successful books.
One of Smyth's many wonderful works is her Violin Sonata, written in 1887, and dedicated to Elizabeth Lili Wach, daughter of Felix Mendelssohn. Containing four movements, this work was not very well received at its premiere, sadly. Critics did not appreciate the beautiful drama and lyricism in this piece, both of which are in abundance all over, but particularly in the first movement, Allegro Moderato. The Scherzo movement has a lighter feel no doubt related to the tempo, but there's still a sense of austerity like there is in the first movement. The third movement, Romanze, is stunning in its lyricism with sweeping, earnest lines; it's Romantic to the core. The last movement is particularly intense and compelling. While this piece is certainly for advanced players, technique was not the big concern for Smyth. It's clear that she was more interested in creating beautiful lines, tonal colors, and melodic writing. This is a great work that advanced violinists should consider looking in to!
Here's a recording of this lovely piece for you to enjoy!