Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonata in A major op. 47 “Kreutzer”

Beethoven’s Sonata in A major op. 47 took its household nickname from its dedication to famous French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer. Yet Kreutzer never performed it public – in fact, Beethoven wrote this excellent piece for the court violinist of the Prince of Wales, the mulatto George Polgreen Bridgetower, who arrived in Vienna in 1803 and became a focus of great interest for his exotic appearance and rumours as to being a descendant of princes of Abyssinia. Bridgetower’s origins are indeed out of the ordinary, since latest research suggest that he was born in Biała, Poland, from a black father (a page of Prince Esterhazy), and a Polish or German mother. Beethoven met Bridgetower at a soirée at Prince Lichnowski’s and he liked his performance – quite eccentric yet vividly temperamental – so much that the composer was dead set on a joint public concert. Since the date for the concert had already been given, Beethoven wrote two movements of the new sonata for violin with piano and appended an already-extant finale, originally planned for an earlier Sonata, op. 30/1. The performance of the new work proved a success for the composer as well as for the violinist. Beethoven, fully gratified, jokingly annotated the manuscript: ”Sonata mulattica,” composed “per il Mulatto Brischdauer (sic!), garn pazzo e compositore mulattico.” However, when it came to publishing the work, Beethoven disposed of the original dedication and replaced it with one to Kreutzer, who showed himself an ingrate. The origins of Sonata explain its style of virtuosic display and the untypical tonal layout of the whole. Although the original introduction with a solo violin part in polyphonic texture happens in A major, Movement One is maintained in A minor, and the second, Andante con Variazioni with its beautiful theme, in F major, it is only the final Presto – tempestuous and dazzlingly bright – that reverts to the main key. “Kreutzer” occupies a special place among Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas not only due to its virtuosic character, but also as to the wealth of its musical ideas and their highly sophisticated development into great form. It is a form that surprises with its logic and coherence – if one considers the circumstances of its creation.
Adam Walaciński