BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas Op. 24 and Op. 47, 'Kreutzer' (Jeno Jando/ Jenõ Simon/ Takako Nishizaki) (Naxos: 8.550283)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata in F major Op. 24 (Spring)
Sonata in A major Op. 47 (Kreutzer)
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, the son ofJohann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne,and, more important, the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to thesame patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinction lived on in the family,the possible cause of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy both professionally andas a parent. In 1789, his mother now dead, young Ludwig van Beethoven took overresponsibility for the family and his two younger brothers.
At home Beethoven had received erratic practical training in music, butwas able to follow a more consistent course of study from 1781 with the courtorganist Christian Gottlob Neefe, whose unpaid deputy he became. In 1784 heentered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist and playingthe cembalo or the viola in the court orchestra, as occasion demanded. In 1788he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart, but was recalled toBonn by news of his mother's final illness, in 1792 he went to Vienna oncemore, this time to sti1dy with Haydn. He remained there for the rest of hislife.
Beethoven established himself in Vienna at first as a virtuosokeyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisation at the keyboard andcomposition. In this last he was helped by lessons from Albrechtsberger incounterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting.
His lessons from Haydn proved less satisfactory. Armed with suitableintroductions, he was able to make influential friends among the aristocracyand it was with their support that he continued his career in Vienna, even whenincreasing deafness made performance at first difficult and eventuallyimpossible.
It is a tribute to the discernment of Beethoven's patrons that theyperceived his genius, in spite of his uncouthness and increasing eccentricitiesof character, in the face of which they exercised considerable restraint andgenerosity. In Vienna he lived through turbulent times, through the years ofNapoleonic conquests and into the repressive age of Metternich. He died inMarch, 1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at thepassing 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 periodfrom about 1792 up to 1819, the period of the Hammerklavier Sonata, startingwith a set of variations on an operatic aria from Mozart and ending with a setof variations on national themes. The most significant part of this repertoiremust be the ten sonatas which, although uneven in quality, represent a majorcontribution to the literature of the genre. In them Beethoven shows hisability to provide music that demands a partnership between the two players, nomore piano sonatas with optional violin accompaniment, whatever the title-pageof earlier works may have suggested. As in the maturer work of Mozart, theviolin is treated as an essential participant, a division of labor that hassince been generally established.
Beethoven completed his F majorViolin Sonata, Opus 24, in 1801 and dedicated it, with its immediatepredecessor, to Count Moritz von Fries. The nick-name Spring seems to havearisen from the nature of the opening theme of the first movement, a melodythat some claim to have been derived from the pianist-composer Clementi. Thereis a finely wrought and expressive slow movement, a capricious Scherzo and afinal Rondo in which the principal theme re-appears in a number of rhythmicguises.
The so-called Kreutzer Sonata
was originally designed by Beethoven for the mulatto violinist George AugustusPolgreen Bridgetower, son of the black page of Prince Esterhazy, Frederich deAugust, described by a visitor to the Palace of Esterhaza, as English, and of aEuropean mother. Possibly a pupil of Haydn, the young Bridgetower had made aname for himself in Paris and in London, playing solos between the parts ofperformances of Handel's Messiah
and taking part in the Haydn concerts organised by Salomon in London in the1790's.
In 1802 Bridgetower visited his mother in Dresden, where his brotherwas employed as a cellist, and in Vienna gave the first performance of thepresent sonata, hastily finished for him by Beethoven, who had no time to havethe violin part decently copied and on that occasion left much of the pianopart unwritten. The original manuscript carries a jocular dedication - Sonatamulattica composta per il Mulatto Brischdauer/gran Pazzo e'compositoremulattico (Mulatto Sonata composed for the Mulatto Bridgetower, great fool andmulatto composer). The final movement had been intended to close the A major Sonata Opus 30, No.1, dedicated tothe Tsar, and consequently existing in a fair copy before Bridgetower's Viennaconcert.
The later name of the sonata comes from its revision and dedication toRodolphe Kreutzer, pupil of the Mannheim musician Anton Stamitz and firstprofessor of the violin at the newly established Conservatoire in Paris.
Beethoven had met Kreutzer in Vienna in 1798, when he had visited the imperialcapital in the entourage of Napoleon's ambassador, Count Bernadotte. The newdedication was made after a quarrel with Bridgetower and without the knowledgeof Kreutzer, who is not known ever to have performed the work in public. Thesonata is written, as Beethoven pointed out, almost like a concerto, acharacteristic evident in the first movement. The second movement is a theme followedby four variations and the sonata ends with a brilliant finale.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studyingwith her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of ShinichiSuzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of teaching children to playthe violin. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, andto the Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied with JosephFuchs.
Takako Nishizaki won Second Prize in the 1964 Leventritt InternationalCompetition (First Prize went to Itzhak Periman), First Prize in the 1967Juilliard Concerto Competition (with Japan's Nobuko Imai, the well-knownviola-player), and several awards in lesser competitions. She was only the secondstudent at Juilliard, after Michael Rabin, to win her school's coveted FritzKreisler Scholarship, established by the great violinist himself.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists inthe world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz KreislerEdition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto byDu Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previouslyunrecorded 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.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary , in 1952. He started tolearn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latteron his graduation in 1974. Jando has won a number of piano competitions inHungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concoursand a first prize in the ch