The Kreutzer Sonata (1901), oil painting by René-Xavier Prinet
The Kreutzer Connection
Thursday, August 17, 2023 | 7:30 PM
Hannaford Hall, USM | Portland
Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata, one of his most brilliant and popular works, has an extraordinarily intimate emotional intensity, which serves as a primary plot point of Tolstoy's controversial novella of the same name, by which the narrator is driven to murderous obsession. Janáček's string quartet, premiered 100 years ago, reflects on the psychological drama and obsessive qualities in Tolstoy's story. By intertwining these two landmark works with selected readings, this fascinating program dramatically illustrates the sources of artistic inspiration.
Ludwig van Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, "Kreutzer" (1802-1804)
Anthony Marwood, violin; Andrew Armstrong, piano
Leo Tolstoy The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), selected readings
Walter van Dyk, narrator
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 1, "Kreutzer Sonata" (1923)
Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and Kristin Lee, violins; Melissa Reardon, viola; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
* Programs and artists subject to change
Concert run time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. The concert will be live-streamed for free on our YouTube channel. The archived stream will be available to view for 24 hours.
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Meet The Composers
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music.
Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 in A major is notable for its technical difficulty, unusual length (around 40 minutes), and emotional scope. It is commonly known as the Kreutzer Sonata after the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, to whom it was ultimately dedicated, but who thoroughly disliked the piece and refused to play it. The sonata was originally dedicated to the violinist George Bridgetower, who premiered the piece with Beethoven in May of 1803. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. After the performance, the two men had a falling out while drinking out: Bridgetower apparently insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day.
Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist, and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic musics, including Eastern European folk music, to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research. While his early musical output was influenced by contemporaries such as Antonín Dvořák, his later, mature works incorporate his earlier studies of national folk music in a modern, highly original synthesis.
Written in 1923 when he was sixty-nine, Janáček's first quartet was inspired by Tolstoy's novella, "The Kreuzter Sonata," named after Beethoven's violin sonata dedicated to the French violinist, Rudolph Kreutzer. Leo Tolstoy's story is told by an inconsolable man who, in a fit of jealous rage, murders his apparently adulterous wife only to be consumed by regret and disillusionment about marriage and the treacherous urges of the human animal. His wife's supposed lover is a violinist, and she, a pianist. A pivotal moment in the story occurs when they play Beethoven's sonata for a social gathering. Janáček was so affected by Tolstoy's story that he had already tried previously to capture it with an unfinished piano trio.