Kreutzer Revisited

Kreutzer Sonata, 1901, René François Xavier Prinet, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kreutzer Sonata, 1901, René François Xavier Prinet, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While reading one of my mainstays this morning, Andrew Sullivan, I found a reference to a novella by Leo Tolstoy called The Kreutzer Sonata.  Also known as Beethoven’s 9th Sonata for Violin and Piano, the novella’s namesake musical composition is a masterwork, and it has intrigued me since first I heard it .  The linked post contains a brilliant performance of the sonata by Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis, and my post also sketches the story of George Bridgetower, the great violinist for whom Beethoven wrote the piece, and Beethoven’s falling out with the prodigy over a woman.  The composer subsequently made the jealous decision to rename the sonata for a man he had never met.

This morning Sullivan is also writing about jealousy, and references the Tolstoy novella delving into the subject; Tolstoy’s selection of the name of the sonata for his novella can only be a reference to the renaming story associated with Beethoven’s work.

My search for some information on the novella, which I intend to read very shortly, turned up several references to Kreutzer.  Like the Biblical Salomé, the story seems to have become something of a legend of jealousy lore.  In addition to no fewer than a dozen film adaptations, the great poet Rita Dove picks up the sonata as a theme in her work Sonata Mulattica , which chronicles the life of George Bridgetower, who happened to be a bi-racial black man operating at the height of Europe’s classical music scene.

I’m utterly captivated by the work and its storied past.  The painting above, also titled Kreutzer Sonata, was created by the French painter René François Xavier Prinet in 1901.

Thanks for reading.


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