It was almost certainly his friendship with Norwegian violin superstar Ole Bull that prompted Edvard Grieg to compose the first of his three violin sonatas, the Sonata for violin and piano No. 1 in F major, Op. 8 (1865). Grieg had met Bull many years earlier -- as a teenager with no formal musical training -- and the experience left a real mark on young Grieg. Indeed, it was because of Bull's encouragement that Grieg's parents sent him off to conservatory. But perhaps more vital to the instigation of composing a violin sonata was a summer (1864) that Grieg spent at Ole Bull's home, playing through chamber music with the eccentric virtuoso.
For the casual music-lover, who in all likelihood knows Grieg only through the Peer Gynt music and the Piano Concerto, this early sonata will perhaps not sound completely foreign, but neither will it seem, at first hearing anyway, much like it was penned by the composer of those famous concert-hall works. For Grieg, chamber music was not a very comfortable area of toil, and throughout the Op. 8 sonata the voice of his model, Schumann, sings loud and true, nearly as loudly as does Grieg's own. Still, Grieg's gift for concocting lovely and compelling melodies, and for supporting them with flavorful and striking harmonies, make it a very worthwhile effort for all involved. Franz Liszt certainly admired the piece a great deal, having written to the composer in 1868, to tell him so. The sonata is in three movements: Allegro con brio, Allegretto quasi andantino -- più vivo -- Tempo I, and Allegro molto vivace.