Davide Amodio / Edoardo Torbianelli

Kreutzer Time

(CD - Phaedra #292021)

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This period-instrument release attempts, in the words of Italian violinist and annotator Davide Amodio, "to find the spirit of May 24, 1803," the day Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9 in A minor, Op. 47, was premiered by African-Polish-English violinist George Bridgetower and Beethoven himself. The three sonatas on the album are played on a 1793 violin with gut strings, an 18th century bridge, a copy of one of Mozart's violin bows, and various aspects of period posture; the piano is an 1823 pianoforte. The case for period performance of early Beethoven, who worked during a period of rapid technological development in which instruments quickly approached their present forms, is not crystal clear, but the detail that emerges in the work of fortepianist Edoardo Torbianelli is notable. Amodio proceeds from a sort of relaxed control that emerges in the opening violin chords, which do not seem as heroic when the old bow is used. There aren't a large number of performances of the sonata on period instruments, and this one has several original touches. The biggest revelation is an improvised cadenza at the beginning of the Presto section of the first movement. Bridgetower apparently provided his own music at this spot in the premiere and was praised by Beethoven, who rushed to note down what the violinist had played. The two later had a falling-out, perhaps arguing over a woman, and Beethoven withdrew his dedication to the "mulatto lunattico" and dedicated the work to French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, who never played it and said it was basically incomprehensible. The remainder of the album is given over to an actual Kreutzer sonata and to one by Beethoven's student Ries. Both are attractive enough, but a recording of a work by Bridgetower, whose music is all but unknown, would have been more relevant. The booklet goes into detail about Bridgetower but doesn't even mention the Kreutzer work, which seems as though it might have been inspired by Beethoven's sonata in spite of the violinist's disparaging comments about it. Still, the fresh Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata here will find a place in historical-performance collections. Notes are in Italian, French, English, and Dutch.

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