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"Barcarolla" from Viola Sonata in Bb
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Fig. 4.12 Henry Vieuxtemps

Henry Vieuxtemps (1820-1881), the composer of Sonata in Bb for Viola and Piano, was a Belgian violinist, violist and composer. Vieuxtemps was born into a musical family, and his father, an amateur violinist, began teaching him the violin at the age of four. Vieuxtemps later studied with renowned teachers such as the violinist Charles de Bériot at the Paris Conservatoire, and composition with Simon Sechter and Anton Reicha.

Vieuxtemps was invited to give violin concerts throughout Europe and the United States, and he frequently performed some of his own compositions. Vieuxtemps was very popular in Russia, and he spent five years in St. Petersburg, Russia in the service of Tsar Nicholas I as a court soloist and professor of the violin. Following his third tour to the United States, Vieuxtemps was appointed as a professor at the Brussels Conservatory. One of his pupils, Eugène Ysaÿe, later became not only a renowned violinist, but also joined the faculty at the Brussels Conservatory. [30]

Vieuxtemps' musical output primarily consisted of orchestral and chamber music for stringed instruments (most of his works were for the violin). Vieuxtemps was a fine violist too, and he composed a number of viola pieces that are still a prominent part of viola literature. Although scholars have ascertained that he did concertize as a violist, little is written about his career as a violist. [31]

TECHNIQUE TIPS: Vieuxtemps wrote his Viola Sonata in Bb, Op.36 in 1863. This sonata has a lush Romantic sound, and the second movement, "Barcarolla," has an exquisite, mournful melody. It is written in a minor key, and the musical directions at the beginning of the piece indicate it should be played con melancholia, meaning sadly.