Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mostly Kreutzer, Much of the Time (the other Beethoven's Ninth)

Music forces me to forget myself and my true state; it transports me to some other state which is not mine. Under its influence I fancy I experience what I really do not feel, that I understand what I do not comprehend, that I am able to do what is completely beyond my power.
When writing this little morsel from "The Kreutzer Sonata," Leo Tolstoy, who was not a violinist, might not have realized how much he was describing what it feels like to practice this piece. Learning it well enough to make it from the state of "me" to the desirable state of "it" surpasses even the most enjoyable of earthly experiences.

The narrator's wife In Tolstoy's 1891 story must have been quite a pianist. The piano part of this piece is as difficult as the violin part, and they work together in the most intimate ways. If you haven't read this story, you can read it right now, on line.

It took me years to get around to reading the story, and it took me years of building up technique and musical experience to get up the courage to really work on Beethoven's Ninth Violin Sonata. I used to joke that in order to play the piece you have to be able to play all the Kreutzer Etudes. For a while there, I was wondering if Kretuzer might have written his etudes in order to develop the technique to play the piece, but it seems that the Kreutzer etudes predated the Sonata.
Beethoven might have used bits of Kreutzer's etudes in the piece (#13 sure sounds like this passage in the development of the first movement), but his dedication of the piece to Rudolphe Kreutzer was an afterthought. There's always the opening of that obscure little piece of Bach that could have been known to both Kreutzer and Beethoven.

Beethoven actually wrote his Ninth Violin Sonata for George Bridgetower, the English violinist (of West Indian and Polish parentage) who came to Vienna in 1803 (you can read about the first performance here).

Unfortunately Bridgetower insulted a woman Beethoven knew, so Beethoven took back the music, and he withdrew his dedication of the Sonata to his former friend. He then sent the music to Rudolphe Kreutzer in Paris, who deemed it impossible to play.

2 comments:

William J. Zick said...

On AfriClassical.blogspot.com, I am delighted to link to this musically annotated post on the history of the Kreutzer Sonata of Beethoven, which was originally dedicated to George Bridgetower, who was of African and European heritage.

Georgesco said...

thx great things.