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8.550286 - BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6-8
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, Op. 30, No.1
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, he followed his inadequate father and his highly distinguished grandfather in the service of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, 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 Esterhazá, 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 century 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 until 1818. 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 three sonatas of Opus 30 were dedicated to Tsar Alexander I of Russia and written in 1802, at a time when Beethoven was increasingly depressed by ill health. The first of the sonatas, in the key of A major, originally included the finale of the later Kreutzer Sonata. The first movement opens with a genuine duet between violin and piano, while the second theme is entrusted first to the keyboard. The slow movement is an expressive D major Adagio, followed by a final theme and six variations, the contrapuntal fifth of them in the key of A minor, before the final lilting Allegro.
The second sonata of the set, in the key of C minor, opens with a rhythmic figure that assumes considerable importance in the movement. The second theme, in E major, offers a sprightly contrast and material for the later contrapuntal treatment. The A flat Adagio cantabile is characteristic of Beethoven in its singing quality, an aspect of his keyboard-playing that was much admired by contemporaries. There is a lively C major Scherzo and a canonic Trio that Haydn might have approved. The last movement explores a wide range of the keyboard, with a gruff principal theme in C major, the key in which the sonata ends.
The third of the Opus 30 violin sonatas, in G major, opens with a dramatic figure played together by violin and piano, a brief introduction to a snatch of melody, seized upon by the violin and extended. Unexpectedly the second subject is in D minor, followed by a D major conclusion to the exposition, a brief development that makes much of the opening figure and a final recapitulation. The second movement, in E flat, is marked at the speed of a Minuet. It opens with a singing melody played by the piano, followed by the violin and later undergoing various gentle metamorphoses. The final movement, a lively moto perpetuo, may sometimes remind us of Haydn, a composer from whom Beethoven, his pupil, churlishly claimed to have learned nothing. There is an initial contrast between the rapid notes of the piano and the melody introduced above it by the violin. From this material much of the rest of the movement is derived.
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. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
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