Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rust - Sonata For Viola

Friedrich Rust  was a German composer that was a contemporary of Haydn. By his own admission he could play the first part of J.S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier by the time he was sixteen. He studied music with two of Bach's sons, Wilhelm Friedrich and Carl Philip Emmanuel and finished his studies in Italy.

He settled in Dessau and was the focal point of the musical life there. He organized concerts, was instrumental in starting a theater there and was honored for his work within the community when he was appointed court musical director. He was well-known in his day as a composer as well as a performer. He composed in most forms except the symphony.  He was also a very influential teacher. He was the subject of a minor scandal years after his death when his grandson Wilhelm Rust,  a noted and respected musician and music editor (he was the editor of 26 volumes of the collected works of J.S. Bach, the Bach-Gesellschaft) brought out an edition of his grandfather's piano sonatas. He credited his grandfather with writing music that was well ahead of his time that was very influential in bringing about the Romantic era. Wilhelm Rust was the editor of this edition of his grandfather's works, and after creating quite a stir in the music world it was found that Wilhelm had made numerous additions of his own to his grandfather's works to make them look like they really were ahead of their time.

Whatever the reasons for the grandson to play footloose and fancy free with his grandfather's music, it was unnecessary. Friedrich Rust was a good composer and craftsman and did carry a certain amount of influence in the music he wrote. On occasion he wrote music for instruments out of fashion such as the clavichord, viola d'amore, harp, lute and even the nail violin. He also wrote for the usual instruments but in odd groupings. The Viola Sonata is a case in point. Sonatas written for violas are scarce enough, but one written for the viola accompanied by a cello and two horns is quite unique.

The sonata is in three movements, with the first being in the traditional sonata form.  The second movement is a classical andante, with a refined theme. The finale is a rondo with Rust showing good contrast within the episodes between the restatements of the rondo theme.

Although this sonata is far from earth-shattering in its originality, it is well written and the unique sonority of the viola, cello and two horns make it an interesting piece.
 

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