Brahms's Sonata is a late work late in the lives both of the composer and of German Romanticism. In 1894, three years after he announced that he was done with composing, Brahms wrote the Sonata as the second of a pair dedicated to the sweet-toned virtuoso Richard Mhlfeld. He had already written a trio and a quintet of surpassing loveliness for Mhlfeld, but after this piece, only the Four Serious Songs and the eleven chorale preludes for organ followed before the composer's death three years later.
Brahms's Sonata is an autumnal work, a work of the fruitful season and the nostalgic frame of mind. It is in three movements, a softly singing Allegro amabile followed by a robustly dancing Allegro appassionato and a closing set of variations on a tender Andante con moto theme. As the final public work at the end of his career as a composer, the Sonata is a gracious last bow.
[Originally published in March, 2005.]