The original dedication of Beethoven's Sonata No. 9 in A Major was meant for the violinist who premiered the work: George Bridgetower, an Afro-Polish virtuoso who lived most of his life in England. However, the two had a falling out after the first performance, and Beethoven (as he is known to do; see the Third Symphony) removed the original dedication from the work and rededicated it to Rodolphe Kreutzer, a French violinist who was considered one of the top performers of his time. Ironically, Kreutzer never performed the work (or, according to records, any Beethoven sonata), labeling it "incomprehensible." So, what happens in the annals of music history? The work is named for Kreutzer—despite any logical reason.
The work is unusual for the practices of the time. When performed as notated, it lasts over 40 minutes and explores the entire range of the instrument, challenging the violinist. Additionally, the pianist has a greatly expanded role, often taking equal prominence to the solo violin line. The two instrumentalists must be in sync for the work to ride above Kreutzer's charge of incomprehensibility.
For the fifth concert of the 2011-'12 season by Chamber Music International, violinist Augustin Hadelich and pianist Joyce Lang performed a recital featuring Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata as well as works by Schumann, Takemitsu and Ravel.
The recital marked Hadelich's second foray into the classical music sphere of the Metroplex—he was also featured in September with the Fort Worth Symphony. In the smaller venue, he showed an exceptional command of his instrument while eschewing the flamboyant. His technique was solid, and every musical decision fit and furthered the musical line. He was most dominant in the Beethoven sonata as well as Ravel's Tzigane, a concert rhapsody inspired of gypsy music. He also displayed a remarkable sensitivity in Schumann's Sonata in A Major, most on display in the second movement.
Joyce Lang proved herself to be a remarkable accompanist, but also was able to shine in several spots where the piano line has to rise to the forefront. Her left hand technique was never overbearing (which can be a problem at times in Southern Methodist University's Caruth Auditorium) and she ably supported the violin without stealing the thunder, so to speak.
There was one part of the concert that did feel out of place: the inclusion of Takemitsu's Far Beyond the Chrysanthemum and November Fog. The work is meant to evoke the feeling of walking though a fog while being immersed in the sounds of nature. The violin part is filled with extended techniques and the tone of the work floats freely (while not atonal, there is no clear tonal center). While to piece is worthy of performance on its own merits, the moment musicale feeling evoked stood in stark contrast to the other three works which thrive on their adherence to their drive to an ultimate goal, and ultimately weakened the effectiveness of Takemitsu's composition.
◊ The program will be repeated on Sunday, April 1 at St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church, Richardson.