“Yesterday… Paweł Kochański and Melcer played my Sonata (lousily, by the way), but it was enormously popular, just imagine: I had to get onto the stage a few times. The reviews were excellent, although, as you might guess, very stupid,” – this was how Szymanowski reported in April 1910 the reception by the Warsaw audience of his Sonata in D minor for violin and piano op. 9. The work was composed six years previously, in the late-Romantic style which he favoured at that time, and dedicated to Bronisław Gromadzki, an amateur violinist Szymanowski befriended in Elisavetgrad.
The Sonata demonstrated that the then 21-year-old pupil of Zygmunt Noskowski mastered the classical forms to a satisfactory degree. The first movement is the “obligatory” sonata- allegro (Allegro moderato, patetico), with two themes: the virtuoso, with expression increasing to con passione, and the lyrical, dolcissimo. The middle part (Andantino tranquillo) has the shape ABA, but it combines in an ingenious way the traditions of the slow movement and the scherzo. The finale (Allegro molto, quasi presto) shows that the young composer was familiar with counterpoint: the theme is introduced in canon, while later on it also appears in inversion. The themes of all the three movements of the Sonata are related.
During the concert mentioned in Szymanowski’s letter, the musicians at the request of the public encored the middle movement which, according to many reviewers, was the most successful one. It begins with the piano introduction, then the violins intone a quasi cadenza (related to the first theme of the previous movement) and only then does the main theme make its appearance (being, in turn, a transformation of the dolcissimo theme). Contrast is introduced by a miniature scherzo, played in a measured rhythm by the violins pizzicato and piano staccato. A repetition of the Andantino leads to a romantic climax: the consecutive variants of the theme evolve from cantabile to con passione.
The first artists to perform the Sonata – in April 1909 in Warsaw - were Paweł Kochański and Artur Rubinstein. In later years it was played by other violinists, usually with the composer’s accompaniment. The traditional, “romantic” music, which allowed both the violinist and the pianist a virtuoso performance at the same time, was invariably greeted with enthusiasm. Szymanowski was thus soon able to describe the Sonata as “a thing popular in every aspect.”