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8.550284 - BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas Op. 12, Nos. 1-3
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Ludwig van Beethoven's early musical training at home in Bonn had provided him with some ability as a string player as well as with more remarkable virtuosity on the keyboard. As a court musician, following his inadequate father and his highly distinguished grandfather in the service of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, he was employed both as court organist and as a viola-player. When he finally left Bonn for Vienna in 1792, it has been suggested that he took violin lessons from Ignaz Schuppanzigh, a former viola-player, six years Beethoven's junior, who had recently turned to the violin and a professional career that was to be of some distinction. Beethoven's memorandum book, at least, contains the note Schupp. 3 times a W., which others suppose a reference to Schuppanzigh's father, a professor at the Realschule, who might have been recruited to help make up the deficiencies in the young man's general education. He also received instruction on the violin from Wenzel Krumpholtz, a former member of Haydn's orchestra at Esterhaza, who had recently joined the Vienna court orchestra, a musician who showed a rare early understanding of Beethoven's work as a composer. Nevertheless his early career in Vienna was primarily as a pianist of considerable virtuosity, a course of life limited from the turn of the country by his deafness and by his growing prowess as a composer of the most remarkable power and originality.
Beethoven's compositions for violin and piano cover a period from about 1790 unti11818. An early set of variations on a theme from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro and a Rondo were followed by the first complete violin and piano sonatas, a set of three published in 1799 and composed during the course of the preceding two years. The sonatas were dedicated to the Imperial Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, from whom Beethoven had sought lessons on his first arrival in Vienna, acquiring from him a growing understanding of vocal writing. While early lessons from Haydn were soon abandoned, the lessons with Salieri, for which no charge was made, continued for at least ten years.
The new sonatas were not altogether well received. The critic of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung describes them as strange and bizarre, and finds further fault with an element he describes as learned and unnatural, heaping difficulties on difficulties, while admitting that may have some attraction for those in search of musical perversities. For later generations the sonatas came to occupy an important position in the duo repertoire, examples of sonatas in which the violin offers no mere optional accompaniment to a solo piano sonata but serves as an equal partner.
The Sonata in D major, Opus 12 No.1, opens with a movement of some brilliance, which nevertheless contains an intriguing and necessary element of counterpoint, a fact that some critics may have felt unnatural. The second movement consists of a theme, announced first by the piano, and a series of four variations, and the sonata ends with a rondo, its principal theme first declared by the piano, followed by the violin, framing intervening episodes of an unexpected harmonic turn.
The last of the set, Sonata No.3 in E flat major, contains elements of virtuoso piano writing in its first movement. The C major slow movement has a characteristic principal theme, appearing first in the piano, an element of song that the early Leipzig critic, one of those later stigmatised by Beethoven as oxen, failed to notice. Difficulties, however, there are, not least in the harmonic explorations of the final rondo, which opens with a cheerful but potentially dramatic principal theme.
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 Mingxin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Bériot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Bach, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
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