Ludwig van Beethoven


Sonata in A Major, opus 47, the “Kreutzer” Sonata. Movement one, by Ludwig van Beethoven


Excerpt from Danse Macabre by Gerald Elias

"BTower and Lavender walked onto the stage. The applause was sparse and tepid. BTower tuned to the piano’s A, preparing to begin the Beethoven ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. There was a long silence before he started. Finally, as Yumi’s fingers dug into his arm yet again, Jacobus heard BTower’s first note. The moment of truth.
The sound was pure as a bell and perfectly in tune. It was absolutely correct. But it wasn’t music. It came from nowhere and went nowhere. There was no musical connection between the first and second notes, nor between the second and third, nor thereafter. Jacobus’s heart sank. When should one die? he asked himself. Should one try to live as long as possible with the chance of dying miserably, or should one choose the moment of greatest joy to bring life to a close? BTower had been ready to die a happy man a month ago, but now he’s shattered, an empty shell.
The music stopped, even before Lavender had played his first note. There was unsettling murmuring in the audience, even a few boos. Jacobus put his hand on Yumi’s, preparing to tell her it was time to leave.
But before he could rise, however, he heard the first note again. BTower had started over. Technically the note was identical to the way he had played it the first time, but musically it was entirely different. It had direction, conviction, purpose. It was music.
He completed the first phrase, and now it was Lavender’s turn. He grabbed on to what BTower had given him, only changing the color of the sound because whereas the violin’s music was in A-Major, the piano’s was in minor. Together, they wended their way through the opening Adagio sostenuto with increasing confidence, and dove into the Presto in full throttle. By the time they finished the first movement they had regained the trust of the audience, which was providing them with the inimitable cosmic energy that distinguishes a live performance from a recording."


Music from Danse Macabre
Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata

Ludwig van Beethoven - Sonata in A Major, opus 47, the “Kreutzer” Sonata. Movement one.
performed by Gerald Elias and Jason Hardink
Leave it to Beethoven to revolutionize both the symphony and the violin sonata in one year. Like the Eroica Symphony from 1803, the Sonata in A Major, op. 47, commonly called the “Kreutzer,” represented a total overhaul in the esthetic of the form. It was Beethoven’s ninth sonata for violin and piano, and even though his career as a composer had only recently reached maturity he would write only one more, ten years later. Just a couple of generations before, the sonata had been a polite parlor piece, but now, a tool of Beethoven’s restless genius, it was fully redesigned for the concert hall, embodying all the passion and drama that that entailed. The Kreutzer is such a monumentally taxing work, both in its dimensions—it’s almost forty minutes long—and in its energy, that Beethoven originally wrote in a subtitle that it should be played with great virtuosity, “like a concerto.”
The first performance of the Kreutzer Sonata was performed with Beethoven at the keyboard, collaborating with the famous black violinist, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower. After the performance, though, the two got into an argument—some think Bridgetower might have insulted the reputation of a woman Beethoven knew—and Beethoven subsequently withdrew his dedication of the piece to Bridgtower, and bestowed it upon Rodolphe Kreutzer, a famous violinist of the time, but one who never performed the piece, declaring it unplayable.
In Danse Macabre, the young African American violinist Shelby Freeman, Jr. changes his name to BTower, not so much in honor of Bridgetower, but more to satisfy his own ego and promote his marketability. Only at the urging of Daniel Jacobus when he is imprisoned, though, does BTower find spiritual redemption through the music of the Kreutzer Sonata, by contemplating the potential of just the first note.