for violin and piano
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Kings Place, London
Krysia Osostowicz, violin / Daniel Tong, piano
It was a great joy to be asked to write a companion piece to a Beethoven violin sonata. To my embarrassment I had only an ephemeral knowledge of these sonatas, and looked forward to studying the scores. Soon the Sonata No. 6 op. 30/1 became my favourite. Don’t ask me to describe in so many words what fascinated me, because I am sure these words could easily be used to describe the other sonatas as well. Music is very definite in its own language and hardly transposable into written or spoken language. I just felt in this sonata that Beethoven revealed himself (especially in the first movement) from a side that finally became prominent in his last string quartets.
To write a companion piece to a Beethoven composition can only be a humble tribute to this enigmatic composer.
The title "Unterwegs nach (on the way to) Heiligenstadt" refers to the mounting despair Beethoven experienced in 1802.
He wrote his 3 Violin sonatas op. 30 in the beginning of the year and on the 6 October he wrote his famous Testament in Heiligenstadt, the heartrending confessions of a composer losing his hearing. Our picture of Beethoven’s character revolves about this document, but if you look through his letters even in this very year, you will find mostly witty puns, grim jokes and good natured jibes at friends and publishers.
My favourite specimen dates from around the time he composed his Violin sonatas:
To Franz Hofmeister. Vienna, 8. Apr. 1802
Are you all driven by the devil, gentlemen, to propose that I write such a Sonata? At the height of the revolutionary fever, it might have been appropriate, but now that everything is trying to fall back into its old tracks, and Bonaparte has signed a concordat with the Pope - to compose a Sonata like this? If it was a Missa pro sancta Maria à tre voci, or a Vesper etc, then I'd take up my quill straight away and in long notes write a Credo in unum. But, dear God, such a Sonata in these newly-emerging Christian times - ho ho! - leave me out of it, nothing will come of it.
Ludwig van Beethoven
What a lucid and sarcastic comment on politics, not only of his time!