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While discussing the Op 30 sonatas, Richard Kramer is beguiled by the odd notion of equating Beethoven's 'eviscerating' of Mozart with the encounter of Oedipus and Laius at the crossroads. His very proper interest in the piano sonatas of the same period leaves Kramer hardly enough space for the violin works themselves. As Suhnne Ahn indicates, the 'Kreutzer' sonata stands apart, not only because its finale was written first, having been found too forceful a conclusion for Op 30 No 1 (all but the crash of its initial chord); but also for its 'molto concertante' style, almost like a concerto in its technical demands. William Drabkin takes up a lead from Tovey on the introduction to the 'Kreutzer' in rigorous argument vis-à-vis relevant works of Mozart and piano concertos 3 and 4 of Beethoven. He ranges impressively over both precedents and consequents.

Maynard Solomon also finds himself in Classical pastures when invoking Oedipus and Adonis as heroes of the pastoral life (rather than risky love affairs), precisely where he would maintain the Op 96 G major sonata has its essential being. If Solomon's imagination runs away with him, this is not for the first time in his career; a searching and provocative Beethoven biographer, he is less sure-footed when facing the music. All in all, the book needed more rigorous editing than it received; if boredom sets in, I can strongly recommend a play-through of any sonata or, as second best, recourse to a score and CD.

Copyright © 14 November 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


The Beethoven Violin Sonatas
History, Criticism, Performance
Edited by Lewis Lockwood and Mark Kroll

University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2004
ISBN 0-252-02932-1, hardback, 164 pages

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