With Josef Holbrooke’s Fantasie-Sonata the listener has moved into a sound world that is decidedly romantic and rhapsodic. Brahms is surely a major influence on this ‘big’ work that explores a wide range of emotions and musical moods. The sonata opens with a ‘molto allegro fuoco’ that appears to define the mood. Yet the contrasting subject is much quieter and seemingly represents a lull before the storm. The central ‘adagio’ is truly beautiful: the cello is muted throughout giving a misty ‘Celtic’ mood to the music. But it is the finale that will stay in the listeners mind long after the music has finished. This ‘allegro giocoso con brio’ is ‘like a patter song from an operetta.’ Certainly there are a lot of notes played by both soloists. As in all good music there is an expressive contrasting tune, but this is soon flung aside and the ‘joyful’ tune has its head. The Fantasie-Sonata ends on a hugely positive note. It is a work that appeals immediately: it is romantic music that touches the heart much more than the head. Yet the technical content of this work is certainly impressive.
The Fantasie-Sonata was written in 1904.
Josef Holbrooke's Fantasie-Sonata can be heard on British Music Society BMS436CD with music by William Wordsworth and William Busch.