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Ludwig van Beethoven - Complete Violin Sonatas

Ludwig van Beethoven

Complete Violin Sonatas

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Polygram 457619

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Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Why do composers compose?

It may seem a silly question, but it is at the root of the creative drive of Western music; why the great works were ever written, and how the styles evolved to where they are.

Why composers composers can be divided into “before Beethoven” and “after Beethoven”. While this is a broad generalisation, it is largely true.

Before Beethoven, composers wrote music to satisfy consumer demands, be it the general middle class public who wanted chamber music to play in the parlour in the evenings, or a wealthy patron who wanted music to perform for the court orchestra. Composers churned out music to entertain, to delight and, above all, to make a living.

Beethoven stood at the gates of change. It is fair to say that no composer before put as much of himself into his music as did Beethoven.

Beethoven was socially inept, had several failed romances, and from the age of thirty, when he realised he would eventually go completely deaf, his life was a battle with fate.

Beethoven lets his music speak for him - his music is full of fire, anger, frustration, Beethoven shaking his fist at Fate. And yet there are frequent moments of peace, happiness and beauty. His final legacy, the last four piano sonatas and string quartets, and of course the Ninth Symphony, are almost triumphant in their acceptance.

Beethoven wrote ten violin sonatas and they span most of his life. This is music written for the two instruments he knew best. In the early works, the piano predominates and the violin accompanies, as was the legacy of Mozart and Haydn. With the later works, the violin assumes a more independent role until we get to the opus 47 Sonata, known as the Kreutzer, where the violin is clearly the dominant instrument and the piano accompanying.

This is Beethoven's evolution in developing the genre. The more emotional instrument gradually becoming the focus of his music.

The Spring Sonata

The fifth Sonata, opus 24 is probably the best known, perhaps because of its nickname the “Spring”, a nickname not given by Beethoven himself. It starts out with a beautiful flowing spring-like melody, for the first time introduced by the violin, and echoed by the piano.

A gorgeous adagio follows, on par with the slow movement of the Pastoral Symphony. Then a brief scherzo, bright, witty and somewhat offbeat, leading into the finale.

While certainly beautiful, the Spring Sonata has overshadowed its partner, the sonata number 4, opus 23, equally beautiful with some sublime moments.

The Kreutzer Sonata

The next most famous violin sonata is the Kreutzer, opus 47. This is the sonata where the violin finally becomes the dominant force in the partnership, so much so that it has been described as a concerto for violin, although with piano instead of orchestra.

George Bridetower
It is certainly the most virtuosic of the violin sonatas. It was written for an African-Polish violinist with the unlikely name of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, with whom Beethoven gave its first performance.

Beethoven was working to a deadline for Bridgetower's concert. He finished the violin part, with just a sketchy outline for his piano part. At the concert Beethoven largely improved on the piano, and this improvisatory nature can easily be heard in the finished work.

Rodolphe Kreutzer
So why is it not called the “Bridgetower sonata”? Well, soon after the premier Beethoven quarelled with Bridgetower (possible about a woman), and removed Bridgetower's name from the frontpage.

Instead, he dedicated it to Rodolphe Kreutzer, a famous French violinist of the day. Ironically, Kreutzer declared the sonatas to be “outrageously unintelligible” and never played it.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Anne-Sophie Mutter
Anne-Sophie Mutter
Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis devoted all of 1998 to performing the entire set of the ten Beethoven violin sonatas. They went back to the original scores of Beethoven to get a fresh approach to their performance.

In that year they went on a world-wide recital tour performing the works, producing this week's audio CD recording as well as a 2-DVD video set as well, which also includes the documentary A Life With Beethoven.

Reviews of this set are mixed. It is certainly not a stright-and-narrow Beethoven performance. If you are familiar with these works, you are in for a few surprises in Mutter's interpretation; her phrasing, use of vibrato and rubato may be a bit disconcerting to those familiar with the standard recordings of Menuhin and Kempff.

But listen to them again and you begin to hear a new freshness to these works. The wild tempi and free dynamics give way to a powerful lyricism that Beethoven would surely have approved of.

Buy this CD set for a new listening experience. A fresh approach to Beethoven, and a truly satisfying feast of music.

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Track Listing

Ludwig van Beethoven

Complete Violin Sonatas

Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
Lambert Orkis (piano)
4 CD Boxed Set

Disc: 1
    Sonate No. 1 In D Major Op. 12 No. 1
  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Tema con Variazioni. Andante con moto (Var. I-IV)
  3. Rondo. Allegro

    Sonate No. 2 In A Major Op. 12 No. 2
  4. Allegro vivace
  5. Andante piu tosto Allegretto
  6. Allegro piacevole

    Sonate No. 3 In E Flat Major Op. 12 No. 3
  7. Allegro con spirito
  8. Adagio con molta espressione
  9. Rondo. Allegro molto
Disc 2
    Sonate No. 4 In A Minor Op 23
  1. Presto
  2. Andante scherzoso, piu Allegretto
  3. Allegro molto

    Sonate No. 5 In F Major Op. 24 'Spring'
  4. Allegro
  5. Adagio molto espressivo
  6. Scherzo. Allegro molto
  7. Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo

  8. Allegro In G Major: Encore: 5 Pieces For Mechanical Clock

Disc 3
    Sonate No. 6 In A Major Op. 30 No. 1
  1. Allegro
  2. Adagio molto espressivo
  3. Allegretto con Variazioni (I-VI)

    Sonate No. 7 In C Minor Op. 30 No. 2
  4. Allegro con brio
  5. Adagio cantabile
  6. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio
  7. Finale. Allegro - Presto

    Sonate No. 8 In G Major Op. 30 No. 3
  8. Allegro assai
  9. Tempo di Minuetto, ma molto moderato e grazioso
  10. Allegro vivace

  11. Contretanz In B Flat Major: Zugabe: Contretanz In B Flat Major - Contretanz In E Flat Major (12 Contretanze fur Orchester WoO 14: No. 4 & 7)
Disc: 4
    Sonate No. 9 In A Major Op. 47 'Kreutzer-Sonate'
  1. Adagio sostenuto - Presto
  2. Andante con Variazioni (I-VI)
  3. Presto

    Sonate No. 10 In G Major Op. 96
  4. Allegro moderato
  5. Adagio espressivo
  6. Scherzo. Allegro - Trio - Coda
  7. Poco Allegretto - Adagio espressivo - Tempo I

  8. Menuett In G Major: Menuett In G Major (6 Menuette fur Orchester WoO 10: No. 2)

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