Beethoven – Violin Sonata No. 9 (Kreutzer) – Leonid Kogan, Nina Kogan

The great Ukraine-born Soviet violinist of 20th century, Leonid Kogan, and his daughter Nina Kogan perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 Opus 47, commonly known as the “Kreutzer Sonata”.

The sonata was originally dedicated to the Afro-European (born in Poland) violinist George Bridgetower (11 October 1778 – 29 February 1860), who performed it with Beethoven at the premiere on 24 May 1803 at the Augarten Theatre at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8:00 am. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. However, research indicates that after the performance, while the two were drinking, Bridgetower insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer (15 November 1766 – 6 January 1831), who was considered the finest violinist of the day. However, Kreutzer never performed it, considering it “outrageously unintelligible”. He did not particularly care for any of Beethoven’s music, and they only ever met once, briefly.

George Bridgetower (1790)
A 1790 portrait of George Bridgetower, the original dedicatee of the work, by the English painter Henry Edridge (1768 in Paddington – 23 April 1821 in London). George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (11 October 1778 – 29 February 1860) was an Afro-European born in Poland. He grew to be a virtuoso violinist, living in England for much of his life. Image: wikipedia
Rodolphe Kreutzer
Rodolphe Kreutzer (15 November 1766 – 6 January 1831) was a French violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer of forty French operas, including La mort d’Abel (1810).
He is probably best known as the dedicatee of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 (1803), though he never played the work, declaring it unplayable and incomprehensible. Kreutzer made the acquaintance of Beethoven in 1798, when at Vienna in the service of the French ambassador, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (later King of Sweden and Norway). Beethoven originally dedicated the sonata to George Bridgetower, the violinist at its first performance, but after a quarrel he revised the dedication in favour of Kreutzer.

Sources suggest the work was originally titled “Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer (Bridgetower), gran pazzo e compositore mulattico” (Mulatto Sonata composed for the mulatto Brischdauer, big wild mulatto composer), and in the composer’s 1803 sketchbook, as a “Sonata per il Pianoforte ed uno violino obligato in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto”.

The piece is known for its demanding violin and piano parts, unusual length (a typical performance lasts slightly less than 40 minutes), and emotional scope – while the first movement is predominantly furious, the second is meditative and the third joyous and exuberant.

  1. Adagio sostenuto – Presto (A major – A minor, sonata form)
  2. Andante con variazioni (F major, variation form, with the third variation in F minor)
  3. Presto (A major, sonata form)

Referring to Beethoven’s composition, Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata was first published in 1889. That novella was adapted in various stage and film productions, contributing to Beethoven’s composition becoming known to the general public.

Sources

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