January 18, 2011

Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata

I’ve always wanted to perform Ludvig van Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata and I finally get the chance to do so this April. How did the pianist and I come up with the program? well, we decided that we wanted to do something fun, so of course, the first thing that popped in my head was the Kreutzer Sonata.

The Kreutzer Sonata is the ninth of his ten Sonatas written for violin and piano. It was originally dedicated to the Afro-Polish virtuoso violinist George Bridgetower. Bridgetower on violin and Beethoven on piano premiered the piece.  When I read about that, it boggled me, because Beethoven was deaf, so I was wondering who was following who.  I would have paid big bucks to be at that premier!

As a violinist, I pretty much expect to give all the cues and for the pianist to follow me without  hesitation (I hope my pianist isn’t reading this) but I’m not sure how Beethoven and Bridgetower pulled it off. How do you communicate with a deaf pianist? Now, I have played with a blind pianist. His hearing was beyond perfect. It was almost like he could sense everything that I was doing and was about to do.

Back to the ninth! As you notice, the name of this sonata is not called the Bridgetower Sonata but the Kreuzter Sonata. Apparently, Bridgetower said something that enraged Beethoven, so the ever so prickly and feisty composer changed his dedication to the great virtuoso violinist, Rodolphe Kreuzter. My students are very much acquainted with Kreuzter because I make them play at least 24 of the etudes and caprices. I highly recommend playing all 40 of them.  If you can’t do that, make sure you learn at least 35 of them.

They say that Kreuzter only met Beethoven once and didn’t even attempt to play his sonata. That didn’t seem to bother Beethoven cause he didn’t scratch his name out of the dedication. I think that Kreuzter, secretly, practiced it and had one of his pianist friends come over for drinks to read it with him.

The piece is phenomenal. If you ever have the chance to play it, do it.  Don’t be afraid of the solo chanting double stops in the beginning or the fast and furious development. It’s worth every note. Can you tell I’m super excited?

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