Beethoven. Sonata No 9 “Kreutzer” for violin and piano, op. 47
Although the “Kreutzer” Sonata, Op. 47, is dedicated to Rodolphe Kreutzer, the original dedication was to George P. Bridgetower (1779-1860), for whom the piece was written. Bridgetower, an African-Polish violinist who lived in London.
Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831) was a French violinist of great renown whom Beethoven met in Vienna in 1798.
Beethoven’s decision to dedicate the sonata to Kreutzer instead of Bridgetower was probably related to his intended move to Paris and a wish to ingratiate himself with French musical luminaries. Legend has it that Beethoven changed the dedication because he and Bridgetower quarreled over a woman. Kreutzer most likely never knew of the dedication, and it is almost certain that he never played the piece.
The “Kreutzer” Sonata was published in 1805. Beethoven described the piece as “written in a very concertante style, like that of a concerto,” explaining the internal conflict generally associated with his larger works.
Beethoven’s “new path” is everywhere evident in the first movement of the “Kreutzer” Sonata. The only slow introduction Beethoven ever wrote for a violin sonata is actually the only portion of the movement in A major, which gives way to A minor at the beginning of the Presto sonata-form section. Development of the first theme does not occur until the lengthy, weighty coda, which is much more symphonic than chamber-style in conception.
More lighthearted than the preceding movement, the central Andante, in F major, is a set of variations. The third of the four variations is in the tonic minor. In each variation, Beethoven stretches the melodic aspect of the theme nearly beyond recognition while maintaining the harmonic progression and pattern of repetition of the original.
A tarantella rhythm and 6/8 time contribute to the finale’s atmosphere of interminable forward motion. Because it was originally intended for the Sonata in A major, Op. 30/1, the finale was extant months before Beethoven composed the first two movements.
In Tolstoy’s novella “The Kreutzer Sonata”, this work symbolizes the ultimate in the powerful sensuous appeal of music.
Shostakovich. Sonata in G Major for violin and piano, op. 134
The story goes that in 1967 Shostakovich presented David Oistrakh with a 60th birthday present, the Violin Concerto No. 2. But the composer was premature by a year, and felt obligated to write another composition for the violinist’s actual 60th birthday. The work he produced was this 1968 Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 134, one of his finer late efforts.
The piece opens with an allusion to serial music: the piano presents a theme in octaves starting in the bass and rising to the upper register, playing all 12 notes of the chromatic scale before the violin enters. The tempo is Andante. The mood is grim, as is typical of the composer’s late works, especially the last several quartets. A second theme appears, march-like and cynical. The two instruments exchange renditions of it, and then the main theme is reprised by the violin. Shortly thereafter another engaging idea is presented by the violin, seeming to glide eerily downward from its upper ranges, while the piano delivers chilling harmonies in both registers.
The second movement, marked Allegretto, begins with a heroic-sounding theme. But the mood quickly turns anxious, as if the composer were expressing his irony under some considerable pressure. A waltz seems to promise relief from the unbounded energy and tension, but does not manage to break the rigid mood.
The finale, marked Largo, begins with a somber introduction. Then the violin, played pizzicato, presents the dark main theme, after which come 13 variations. The piano’s first rendition of the melody calls to mind the late compositions of Liszt. The music shifts moods, going from pensive to playful, from sinister to simple. An outburst on the piano just past the middle of the movement leads to a climactic episode on the violin. The eerie music from the first movement returns, as does the march-like theme, and the work ends chillingly.
A typical performance of this sonata lasts about a half hour. Oistrakh premiered it on January 8, 1969, in a private performance before the Union of Soviet Composers. The pianist on that occasion was composer Moisei Weinberg. Sviatoslav Richter played the piano part with Oistrakh in May of that year for the first public performance.
Ensemble Class&Jazz has been founded in 2005 by Oleg Bezuglov and Natalia Bezuglova. The musicians started their collaboration in the Rostov State Conservatory (Rostov-on-Don, Russia) where they graduated in 2006 with M.M. degrees in Violin and Piano Performance.
Oleg and Natalia are the Laureates of First Prize and winners of the special award «For the Best Performance of Shostakovich’s Music» at the I International competition of chamber ensembles by name of D.D.Shostakovich (Moscow, 2008). They performed at concert stages of Russia, Austria, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, South Korea, USA and other countries.