Sunday, February 27, 2011

2/27 Beethoven's 2nd and 10th Violin Sonatas

Today seems like a good opportunity to complete my collection of Beethoven Violin Sonatas posts.  There are innumerable performances of the Kreutzer around, followed closely by the Spring sonata.  Sonatas 2 and 10 are far more scarce and I'm not sure why, since they are great fun and quite lyrical.  Sonata 10 stands firmly as one of his most beautiful late-middle period works.

Violin Sonata 2, Opus 12, No. 2 (1798) 
The first movement, Allegro vivace, opens with a quick, mechanical little waltz-like accompaniment characteristic of the keyboard writing of the time—except that here it's taken by the violin, while the piano plays a simple, downward-skipping melody that shortly breaks out in a frantic run, all in a very violinistic idiom!

After this first statement, the instruments effectively trade places, but also continue to trade off melody and accompaniment as true partners. The most memorable phrase of a secondary subject looks forward to Rossini's Largo al factotum; this is followed by a lot of back-and-forth teasing between the instruments, and a creeping, mock-suspenseful episode. The development section suddenly jerks everything into C major, a slightly surprising modulation for the time. The development itself hardly differs from the exposition except in its amusing key transpositions from theme to theme. The coda is extended enough to be mistaken for part of the development, playing as it does on the main subject's appoggiaturas, before petering out to leave the violin's little downward-skipping two-note motif hanging.

The second movement, Andante, più tosto allegretto, is a simple affair. The theme falls into four-bar phrases, with each half introduced by the piano before being appropriated by the violin. This first section is built around a flowing but still guileless melody that eventually becomes sole property of the violin, with the piano offering a modest, staccato accompaniment. The mood darkens in the movement's second half, although neither the thematic material nor the texture becomes any more complex.

The third movement, marked Allegro piacevole, is a relaxed rondo whose recurring theme is a happy whistling tune, with a few wide intervallic leaps and playful turns. Interleaved with this are episodes in much the same character; in fact, the middle section's accompaniment is nothing more than the little cadence from the primary theme's final bar. Beethoven saves one more joke for the end: The instruments move through a decisive-sounding final cadence in full partnership, only for the piano to get in the last word with an "extra" last note.
Violin: Liviu Prunaru, Piano: Lorena Tecu, Recital at the Villa Nestle in Blonay (Switzerland) (18 min)

This is a fine performance - the only thing that's a little bit odd is that it looks like they're playing in 2 different rooms....?

Violin Sonata 10, Opus 96 (1812)
From the outset of the first movement it is clear that the symphonic energy of the "Kreutzer" Sonata is nowhere to be found. Beethoven forgoes the slow introduction and the tempo Presto intensity, creating a more contemplative atmosphere. However, we still find an abundance of material, with numerous thematic elements in the exposition, in the middle of which a hint of B flat major anticipates the "flat key" passages in the recapitulation and the E flat major key of the second movement. The falling, sighing segment of the second closing theme dominates the development section, which subtly trills its way into the recapitulation. As in the first movement of the Op. 47 sonata, developmental treatment of the first theme occurs only in the extended coda. 

The hymn-like harmonic movement of the opening theme creates a sense of repose in the second movement. Marked Adagio espressivo, the sonata-form structure lacks a development section, a typical attribute of slow-movement sonata form. Beethoven indicated there be no break between the Adagio and the ensuing Scherzo. 

Beethoven cast the Scherzo in G minor, followed by a Trio in E flat major. The Scherzo section, with its detached melody and accompaniment, ends in such a way that the transition to G major in the coda is almost imperceptible. The only surprise is that the movement ends in the major, not the minor. 

Pastoral qualities permeate the finale, a set of variations on a simple, eight-measure theme. The variations proceed without interruption, at one point changing from 2/4 to 6/8 meter for a slow lyrical segment that pushes toward E flat major and a literal statement of the theme before moving on to the next variation. A G minor variation that resembles the first theme of the first movement precedes a return to the finale theme on the tonic key. Beethoven closes with a witty, Adagio-Presto coda. (Allmusic)
Fritz Kreisler: violin, Franz Rupp: piano (22 min)


It's hard to beat Kreisler on violin, he more or less wrote the book on violin, but here's a fine live performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis of the 10th Violin Sonata from 1998 as a bonus:

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