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8.550283 - BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas Nos. 5 and 9
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata in F major Op. 24 (Spring)
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne, and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinction lived on in the family, the possible cause of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy both professionally and as a parent. In 1789, his mother now dead, young Ludwig van Beethoven took over responsibility for the family and his two younger brothers.
At home Beethoven had received erratic practical training in music, but was able to follow a more consistent course of study from 1781 with the court organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, whose unpaid deputy he became. In 1784 he entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist and playing the cembalo or the viola in the court orchestra, as occasion demanded. In 1788 he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart, but was recalled to Bonn by news of his mother's final illness, in 1792 he went to Vienna once more, this time to sti1dy with Haydn. He remained there for the rest of his life.
Beethoven established himself in Vienna at first as a virtuoso keyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisation at the keyboard and composition. In this last he was helped by lessons from Albrechtsberger in counterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting. His lessons from Haydn proved less satisfactory. Armed with suitable introductions, he was able to make influential friends among the aristocracy and it was with their support that he continued his career in Vienna, even when increasing deafness made performance at first difficult and eventually impossible.
It is a tribute to the discernment of Beethoven's patrons that they perceived his genius, in spite of his uncouthness and increasing eccentricities of character, in the face of which they exercised considerable restraint and generosity. In Vienna he lived through turbulent times, through the years of Napoleonic conquests and into the repressive age of Metternich. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at the passing of a long familiar figure whose like the city was not to see again.
The works that Beethoven w rote for violin and keyboard cover a period from about 1792 up to 1819, the period of the Hammerklavier Sonata, starting with a set of variations on an operatic aria from Mozart and ending with a set of variations on national themes. The most significant part of this repertoire must be the ten sonatas which, although uneven in quality, represent a major contribution to the literature of the genre. In them Beethoven shows his ability to provide music that demands a partnership between the two players, no more piano sonatas with optional violin accompaniment, whatever the title-page of earlier works may have suggested. As in the maturer work of Mozart, the violin is treated as an essential participant, a division of labor that has since been generally established.
Beethoven completed his F major Violin Sonata, Opus 24, in 1801 and dedicated it, with its immediate predecessor, to Count Moritz von Fries. The nick-name Spring seems to have arisen from the nature of the opening theme of the first movement, a melody that some claim to have been derived from the pianist-composer Clementi. There is a finely wrought and expressive slow movement, a capricious Scherzo and a final Rondo in which the principal theme re-appears in a number of rhythmic guises.
The so-called Kreutzer Sonata was originally designed by Beethoven for the mulatto violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, son of the black page of Prince Esterházy, Frederich de August, described by a visitor to the Palace of Esterhazá, as English, and of a European mother. Possibly a pupil of Haydn, the young Bridgetower had made a name for himself in Paris and in London, playing solos between the parts of performances of Handel's Messiah and taking part in the Haydn concerts organised by Salomon in London in the 1790’s.
In 1802 Bridgetower visited his mother in Dresden, where his brother was employed as a cellist, and in Vienna gave the first performance of the present sonata, hastily finished for him by Beethoven, who had no time to have the violin part decently copied and on that occasion left much of the piano part unwritten. The original manuscript carries a jocular dedication - Sonata mulattica composta per il Mulatto Brischdauer/gran Pazzo e'compositore mulattico (Mulatto Sonata composed for the Mulatto Bridgetower, great fool and mulatto composer). The final movement had been intended to close the A major Sonata Opus 30, No.1, dedicated to the Tsar, and consequently existing in a fair copy before Bridgetower's Vienna concert.
The later name of the sonata comes from its revision and dedication to Rodolphe Kreutzer, pupil of the Mannheim musician Anton Stamitz and first professor of the violin at the newly established Conservatoire in Paris. Beethoven had met Kreutzer in Vienna in 1798, when he had visited the imperial capital in the entourage of Napoleon's ambassador, Count Bernadotte. The new dedication was made after a quarrel with Bridgetower and without the knowledge of Kreutzer, who is not known ever to have performed the work in public. The sonata is written, as Beethoven pointed out, almost like a concerto, a characteristic evident in the first movement. The second movement is a theme followed by four variations and the sonata ends with a brilliant finale.
Takako Nishizaki won Second Prize in the 1964 Leventritt International Competition (First Prize went to Itzhak Periman), First Prize in the 1967 Juilliard Concerto Competition (with Japan's Nobuko Imai, the well-known viola-player), and several awards in lesser competitions. She was only the second student at Juilliard, after Michael Rabin, to win her school's coveted Fritz Kreisler Scholarship, established by the great violinist himself.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos Nos. 3 and 5, Sonatas by Mozart and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms concertos.
He is currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart's piano concertos for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.
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