Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Kreutzer Sonata

So my introduction to this Sonata ( Beethoven's Violin Sonata No.9) was through a  book called "An Equal Music" by Vikram Seth.

In it, the main character, who is a violinist,  is challenged to perfect this. Given my current fascination with the Violin music- I of course immediately looked it up.

I had first read this book 16 years ago- but hadn't understood a word or identified with or even tried to identify any of the music.

Now - when it makes a little more sense I have realized- this piece is wonderful- I found a rendition by Nathan Milstein- have a listen. I could only find the 1st and 3rd movement by him. Have included a 2nd movement by another artist- here you can see the difference in the quality of playing and the differences of how it makes you feel while listening!

First Movement ( By Nathan Milstein):

Second Movement:

Third Movement ( By Nathan Milstein):

Other than the music what is particularly interesting is the story behind the name and also some events inspired by it!

So apparently Beethoven was emotionally impressionable- kept falling in love with many women ( he apparently fell in love with and wrote some music for almost every female student!) Unfortunately, as for many musicians of that time- even though they were sometimes geniuses, the women they met normally belonged to a higher class so they weren't too successful with their romances. This was made worse by the vagaries in their income as a lot of that was dependent on the patronage of wealthy people. ( on a side note- artists almost always had that burden to bear in the past- how horrible! Am so glad it is better now- or at least I would like to think so!)

Anyway, Beethoven had written this Violin Sonata- No 9. He had dedicated it to the Violinist George Bridgewater. They even performed it together but after the performance apparently Bridgewater insulted the morals of Beethoven's latest fancy. Beethoven promptly changed the dedication to the most famous violinist of that time , Rodolphe Kreutzer, despite the fact that he didn't really care for Beethoven's music ( yes- people like that existed)

This was just a back drop- what I find interesting about this sonata-  it is obviously extremely passionate- so much so- it inspired Leo Tolstoy ( yes- THE Leo Tolstoy) to write a passionate Novella about it!
The story revolves around the music and feelings that develop between a married woman and a violinist based on this music. And the husband's jealousy. I haven't read it but it's supposed to be extremely misogynistic. And full of censorable scenes. So much so that it was censored not only in Russia but America too!!!!!

You can click here for a copy to read it if you want (not copyrighted!!)

There is also this gorgeous painting done by René François Xavier Prinet- have included it here too- it's quite fabulous!

Also made into a movie  The Kreutzer Sonata - pretty bad reviews!

It's just so interesting to me that Music written in 1803, inspired a Book in 1889, which inspired a painting in 1901 and a movie in 2008!!!

I also wanted to talk a bit about Vikram Seth. I think he is soooo talented!

I read him first at nineteen- "The Golden Gate"- I LOVED it!

So this is a novel written in verse, based (kind of obviously- given its name) in San Francisco.

It was not only written in verse but had something called 590 Onegin stanzas (sonnets written in iambic tetrameter, with the rhyme scheme following the unusual ababccddeffegg pattern of Eugene Onegin). Frankly I can't figure out what all this means but if you read the book each stanza has  the same number of sound breaks in every line. And that changes between lines.

Have put in a few stanzas to give you the flavor- from the beginning- so maybe not the best

To make a start more swift and weighty,
Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once upon
A time, say, circa 1980,
There lived a man. His name was John.
Successful in his field though only
Twenty-six, respected, lonely,
One evening as he walked across
Golden Gate Park, the ill-judged toss
Of a red frisbee almost brained him.
He thought, "Who'd gloat? Who would be glad? 
Would anybody? " As it pained him,
He turned from this dispiriting theme
To ruminations less extreme.

He tuned his thoughts to electronic
Circuitry. This soothed his mind.
He left irregular (moronic) 
Sentimentality behind.
He thought of or-gates and of and-gates,
Of ROMs, of nor-gates, and of nand-gates,
Of nanoseconds, megabytes,
And bits and nibbles… but as flights
Of silhouetted birds move cawing
Across the pine-serrated sky,
Dragged from his cove, not knowing why,
He feels an urgent riptide drawing
Him far out, where, caught in the kelp
Of loneliness, he cries for help.

So writing  the story in this form had had to have been seriously tough.

Does the author concentrate on the plot, or making sure the word count, sound break etc are as they should be?

What got to me what despite all the mastery of the English language that went into it- when I read it ( and I remember this well) a quarter way into it- the story was so interesting I forgot it was in verse!

This also was a big deal for me as, as soon as I read it- I realized I could rhyme too!!! Extremely badly but this got me started on writing and I have been trying since!

If you have never read any Vikram Seth- Try this or even his collection of poems "All Ye who sleep tonight". Frankly I couldn't get through "A Suitable boy"- it was super boring for me- dropped it after reading 600 pages (it was 1000 pages looooooong)

Here's a small poem by Vikram Seth

Interpretation: Vikram Seth
Somewhere within your loving look I sense,
Without the least intention to deceive,
Without suspicion, without evidence,
Somewhere within your heart the heart to leave. 
And with this as your host
I will end this super long post!

( I told you I rhymed badly!)

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