Brahms wrote for the combination of violin and piano throughout his lifetime. The Scherzo in C minor of 1853 is among the earliest of his compositions that survive. From the late 1850s to the early 1870s, Brahms wrote several violin sonatas, inspired by friendships with prominent violinists. Because they were not up to his exacting standards, he destroyed them. No trace of the music remains, but the practice clearly honed Brahms' compositional skills. In 1879, when he finally completed a violin sonata he felt was worth publishing, his compositional prowess was at its full height. He followed this sonata with two more sonatas in 1886 and 1888. The three sonatas maintain the highest level of craftsmanship and yet remain unhampered in their melodic and harmonic invention, spontaneity, and excitement. Violinists are fortunate that Brahms gave them three such masterpieces from his artistic maturity.
Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio enjoys a varied performing and recording career as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader. She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout North and South America, Europe and Africa. Currently Associate Professor of Violin and Viola at the University of Nevada, Reno, her students have won orchestra and teaching positions in the United States and abroad. Concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony from 1994-2007, she founded and has been Artistic Director of Cactus Pear Music Festival since 1997. Former First Assistant Principal Second Violin of The Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi, she toured and recorded internationally with this ensemble for eight seasons. With a discography of more than 75 orchestral and chamber music CDs, Sant'Ambrogio also serves as Concertmaster of California's Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lancaster Festival Orchestra in Ohio.
Piano and composition professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and principal keyboard of both the Reno Philharmonic and Reno Chamber Orchestras since 1997, James Winn made his debut with the Denver Symphony at the age of thirteen, and has been performing widely in North America, Europe, and Japan ever since. Top prize-winner of the 1980 A.A.R.D. International Competition in Munich with duo piano partner Cameron Grant, Dr. Winn has been solo pianist with the New York City Ballet, New York New Music Ensemble, Hexagon, Speculum, Bargemusic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Well-known as a specialist in new music, his own compositions have been performed internationally and he has been involved in numerous premieres and premiere recordings by renowned composers, among them over a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners.
"a violinist who most often takes your breath away" --Gramophone