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80210 Zino Francescatti, Beethoven 1 CD Set
Francescatti plays Beethoven Sonatas No.7, 8 and 9 "Kreutzer"
bar code: 744718021024
Violin Sonata No.7 in c, op.31/2
Violin Sonata No.8 in G, op.31/3
Violin Sonata No.9 in A, op.47, "Kreutzer"
with Robert Casadesus (piano)
mono recordings from 1949-52; first release on CD
total time = 72:58
Beethoven?s three violin sonatas which make up Opus 30 were composed in 1802,
at the same time as the three solo piano sonatas of Opus 31, and a year
before his landmark ?Eroica? Symphony. The composer was on the brink of the
magnificent outpouring of masterpieces which characterise his so-called ?heroic?
The Violin Sonata No.7, the second of the three sonatas in Opus 30, is a
dark, emotive work, characteristic of many of Beethoven?s pieces in C minor
(e.g. Fifth Symphony, Fourth String Quartet and ?Coriolan? Overture). The
concise motivic idea of a dotted minim followed by four semiquavers permeates
throughout the first movement, creating a breathless quality which runs
consistently at a headlong pace. A soothing contrast is found in the middle two
movements: a grand Adagio (originally conceived in G major before its transposition up
to A-flat) and a light-hearted Scherzo. The tempestuous finale, reasserts the
passion and powerful strength of the opening movement, and the work closes with
a furiously dramatic coda. The third and final sonata in Opus 30, No.8 in G,
is a much gentler work, and is perhaps the most compact of all of Beethoven?s
duo sonatas. The middle movement, entitled ?Tempo di Menuetto? is a cross
between a dance and slow movement, and last movement, with its moto perpetuo-like
theme, is full of high spirits and good humour.
Composed the year after the Opus 30 violin sonatas, Beethoven?s
?Kreutzer? Sonata is the most famous violin sonata ever written. (It even formed the
basis and the title of one of Tolstoy?s short stories.) The work was
commissioned by the mulatto violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, the son of an African
father and German mother. Bridgetower had been a successful child prodigy,
and lived in London where he was in the service of the Prince of Wales (later
George IV). In 1803 the 24-year-old violinist obtained leave from the court to
visit his mother in Dresden as well as to give some concerts. His performances
in Germany were highly acclaimed, and, upon his arrival in Vienna, Bridgetower
was immediately accepted by the musical elite. Beethoven had great respect
for the violinist, and intended to dedicate his sonata masterpiece to him.
However, before Bridgetower left Vienna, they quarrelled over a woman, and
Beethoven subsequently changed his dedication of the work to the French violinist
Rudolphe Kreutzer. Ironically, although the sonata is now known by his name,
Kreutzer did not much care for the piece and never bothered to perform it.
Beethoven did not complete the sonata until the last moment. The violin
part of the second movement was not copied out and had to be played from the
composer?s manuscript, and at the first performance Beethoven had to play most
of the piano part from his sketches. Fortunately the final movement of the
sonata existed in a pristine copy ? it had been written the year before and o
riginally served as the last movement of the Violin Sonata No.6 in A (Op.30 No.2).
Beethoven titled the work as a ?Sonata scritta in uno stilo molto
conzertante, quasi come d?un conzerto?. The concerto-like quality is especially
characteristic of the first movement which begins with a slow introduction in A
major before launching into a rhythmically taut Presto in A minor. This first
movement contains all the dramatic power characteristic of the composer?s greatest
inspirations. The second movement in the key of F major, is a glorious set of
variations which ends with a tender coda. The energetic last movement
provides a brilliant conclusion for the ?Kreutzer?. Some critics, however, find its
tarantelle character a bit lightweight after the grandeur of the two movements
preceding it. Despite divided critical opinion about the sonata?s last
movement and the work?s somewhat haphazard genesis, Beethoven?s most popular duo
sonata remains one of the great masterpieces of the violin literature.
The three Beethoven sonata recordings by Francescatti and Casadesus
reissued here make their first appearance on CD after being unavailable for over 40
years. The two French artists were at the height of their powers at the time
these recordings were made, but these three mono performances were supplanted
by later stereo versions made in the 1960s. In fact, the ?Kreutzer? Sonata
included here was the first Beethoven violin sonata the duo ever recorded.
Released in 1950 by American Columbia as one of the first LP (?long-playing?)
records, it was also one of their last recordings to appear on a set of 78 rpm
discs. The ?Kreutzer? was followed the next year by an LP-only issue of Sonatas
No.3 and No.4. Two years later, in 1953, another LP, featuring the Sonatas No.7
and No.8 reissued here, appeared. As five of Beethoven?s ten sonatas were now
completed, Francescatti and Casadesus were halfway through the complete cycle.
However, with the advent of the stereo recording process in the mid-1950s, it
was decided that all ten Beethoven sonatas should be offered in stereo. Thus,
not only were the remaining five sonatas recorded with this new process, but
the five sonatas already issued in mono were replaced by stereo re-makes.