Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kate and Tim's Beethoven Sonatas Odyssey!

by Kate

I can’t help reflecting on our amazing Beethoven experience, having just returned from the culminating week of our Beethoven violin sonatas project.  As an off-shoot of Serafin String Quartet’s performance activity, Tim and I presented all ten Beethoven violin/piano sonatas with five different pianists, on three different series in 4 states, between March and June 2010. A Beethoven Odyssey, indeed!
I have wanted to revisit these great works, having played all 10 with my brother, William, on a series in Florida in the late 1990's. I had the idea to do so with my SSQ colleague, Tim, and with a number of pianists. Tim seemed keen to join in on the project, and we ended up being able to present all 10 sonatas on three series (Wilmington, DE; Abington, PA; and at Classicopia Festival in VT and NH). We performed a total of 12 concerts and collaborated with 5 pianists - each interesting and wonderful in their own right! Tim and I each played all 10 sonatas - taking 5 each in the first run, and then switching.

In the final concert in Norwich, New Hampshire, on June 20th, Tim concluded our adventure playing, after intermission, the “Kreutzer Sonata” like a real champion, following my romp through the A Minor (#2) and the “little G Major” (#8) on the first half. I must admit to a tiny tinge of professional jealousy at his stealing the show – but that was quickly and completely overtaken by my collegial pride at his fine playing (and also by my relief that it was not my turn to play the “Kreutzer” in the 90-degree, un-air-conditioned church where the series was held!!).  It was so hot and humid that the pianist quickly turned his handkerchief into a dripping washcloth, and up-ended a cup of water (partially onto the keyboard’s octave below “middle C”!!) when he too hastily reached to quench his thirst after the furious first movement.

Aside from this very famous Sonata #9 in A Major (written about by Tolstoy and usually chosen above all other sonatas by every violin virtuoso programming a recital) many of these ten masterworks are little-known, even by violinists, and most are rarely performed. And, as Tim and I discovered – oh, what everyone is missing!!

Our first discovery was that each and every one of the ten sonatas is a masterwork and a gem in the repertoire. The next thing we found out is  - they are all tricky and difficult to master!! The relationship of these works to the majesty and intimacy of the 17 string quartets is resonating with me profoundly as Serafin Quartet starts work on the String Quartets Op. 18#2 and Op. 132 - both of which SSQ will perform in the 2010-11 season. I feel that, due to this amazing sonatas project, I have a deepend understanding and stylistic conviction about Beethoven and his chamber music. It is such incredible art that it never grows old or dull. There is always more to discover - and I look forward to sharing that with my quartet colleagues and the audiences next season!

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