Review By Lynn René Bayley ,Fanfare,March 2011
Poor George Hightower. It wasn’t enough that he overcame the stigma of being a mulatto in white European society, fighting with his extraordinary, fiery talent to become one of the leading classical violinists of his age. He had to be ignored by history as well when Beethoven, after writing his most emotionally intense violin sonata expressly for him (and overseeing its premiere, at a public morning performance for friends), had a bitter argument and falling-out with him when Hightower inadvertently alluded to the sexy character of a woman admired by both men. Incensed, the composer changed the dedication to Kreutzer, an elegant French violinist he had known and admired since 1798, but the sonata was so emotionally charged, so full of pizzicato and spiccato effects that were
These three late concertos, written in the 1810s, give as good an indication of any why Kreutzer admired Beethoven without moving outside his comfort level as a musician. Though they use a Beethoven-sized orchestra and a certain amount of drama in the orchestral passages, the solo violin part is all legato elegance. According to admirers, Kreutzer never took the bow off the strings, therefore his entire style is based around legato phrasing. Not much in the “Kreutzer” Sonata bears much resemblance to the kind of style called for here.
Some of this music, particularly in the minor-key concertos, is quite interesting, but it invariably softens into French lyricism—not a bad thing, but not consistently interesting, and always moving away from dramatic outbursts toward a sort of beau élégance not always in keeping with the way the concertos begin. I find this music interesting, certainly not without value, particularly for a violinist who wants to work on his or her legato phrasing, but in the long run not something I want to keep in my collection. Axel Strauss’s playing (I’m not sure if it’s on a period instrument, but he most certainly uses some vibrato in his tone) is bright, generally sweet, and misses none of the music’s nuances. His phrasing and lilt are a joy to hear. Andrew Mogrelia conducts the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra with drama and style, but the inevitable softening of the musical material is even more obvious for this. I would certainly enjoy hearing any of these concertos once every few years in a live concert, but unless you’re a violinist yourself you may want to sample this disc before you buy it. Is it possible to give a CD one thumb up?
Review By Robert Maxham ,Fanfare,March 2011
From a position of relative neglect (only his 40 studies for violin remained really active in the repertoire), Rodolphe Kreutzer has risen to greater prominence with recordings of his studies (by Elizabeth Wallfisch, cpo 999901, Fanfare 32:5) and concertos (No. 19 in D Minor, No. 18 in E Minor, and No. 15 in A Major, with violinist Laurent Albrecht Breuninger and Alun Francis conducting the SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserlautern, on cpo 777188, Fanfare 33:6; and No. 9 in E Minor, No. 13 in D Major, the Variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento,” and Montanyas Regaladas, with violinist Saskia Lethiec and José Ferreira Lobo conducting the Orquestra do Norte, Porto, and the Versailles Conservatory Instrumental Ensemble, Talent 2911 126, Fanfare 33:1) now being
The slow movement of Kreutzer’s 17th concerto provides ample—and poignant—melodic relief from the bold thematic statements and technical passagework that mark much of its first movement. If Giovanni Battista Viotti, who’s often linked with Kreutzer (the French “Viotti-Rode-Kreutzer Concerto”) introduced Haydn’s symphonic orchestration into the violin concerto’s armamentarium, Kreutzer approached the sound of Beethoven’s orchestra, as Bruce R. Schueneman’s notes point out. But Kreutzer kept the violin at the forefront, a position that Axel Strauss and his 1845 J.F. Pressenda violin commandingly occupy. He’s snappy and alert in the passagework, as well, delivering impressive barrages of double-stops and sharply characterizing, both stylistically and rhythmically, the Rondo finale’s thematic material. And, as in the first movement’s second theme, he imparts an almost nostalgic sweetness to his reading of the second movement. Those who expect a clone of Viotti’s more familiar concertos (a greater number of them have remained in print) may be pleasantly surprised by Kreutzer’s inventiveness and keen ear for orchestral timbres.
The 18th and 19th concertos begin with Moderato movements, both almost double the length of the six-odd-minute affair that opens the 17th Concerto. As does the 17th, the 18th begins with a movement that explores the passagework, notably in double-stops, that must have stood near the avant garde of violinists’ technical capabilities at the time Kreutzer wrote it; although hardly a virtuoso vehicle in today’s terms, it exploits the instrument’s idiomatic possibilities with a canniness that the trailblazing composers of the era seemed to possess in abundance (else, how could the violin have achieved the prominence it did?), presenting them in the context of dramatic orchestral statements and barnstorming tuttis. Strauss hardly plays this work, or the 17th Concerto, for that matter, dismissively, as many might do (hear how seriously he more....
Review By Jonathan Woolf ,MusicWeb International,February 2011
Record companies have been turning their attention to Kreutzer’s last concertos for the violin. In fact there has been a small renaissance in discs devoted to the powerhouse Parisian violin school of late, and Kreutzer, Baillot and Rode have all received recordings. Long may that continue, for though some of these works are of pedagogic interest only, and will be far less amenable to more popular taste, the concertos of Kreutzer, for example, are part of the solo mainstream, even if they have seldom been played in concert and recorded.
Review By S.A.,Ritmo,February 2011
Review By David Milsom,The Strad,January 2011
Kreutzer’s place in violin pedagogy is well known, and listeners to these concertos can entertain themselves by spotting melodies from his famous 42 Etudes of 1802. Nonetheless, these are fully formed works in their own rights. The 17th, with its bolero finale, is perhaps weaker than the others, but listeners need to align themselves with Kreutzer’s languid writing—a style of proto-Romanticism with which many are likely to be relatively unfamiliar.
Review By James Manheim,Allmusic.com,January 2011
The name of the French virtuoso-composer Rodolphe Kreutzer remains best known for the dedication of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A minor, Op. 47, and for the grimly fundamentalist Leo Tolstoy novel named for that work. The CD booklet notes (in English and French) by Bruce R. Schuenemann for this Naxos release tell more about Kreutzer and include the entertaining sidelight that Kreutzer probably never performed Beethoven’s sonata, which was unsuitable to his style. Nevertheless, these concertos, the last three Kreutzer wrote (they date from 1806 or later), show the influence of Beethoven, and they’re quite attractive works. Virtuosity is matched to structure in the outer movements, with double-stopping and the like reserved for significant thematic junctions;
Review By Steven J Haller,American Record Guide,January 2011
Irony abounds in musical history, perhaps nowhere so deliciously as in the facility with which great musical trends cross national lines. If you have already skimmed the Overview in this issue, you know that for all practical purposes French opera began with the German Meyerbeer while Italian opera in many ways began with the Bavarian Johann Simon Mayr. In just such a roundabout manner we may trace the French violin school to the Italian Giovanni Battista Viotti, whose students at the Paris Conservatoire—Pierre Rode, Rodolphe Kreutzer, and Pierre Baillot—all expanded on the stylistic principles set down by their master, most notably a singing line coupled with an assertive, even martial stance for the opening movement and a rondo finale often in the manner of a polonaise
Rodolphe Kreutzer—no relation to the German Konradin Kreutzer, who wrote Das Nachtlager von Granada—was born in Versailles in 1766 and soon after his studies with Anton Stamitz was appointed by Marie Antoinette as first violinist at the royal chapel, where his exceptional talent caught the attention of Viotti. But as a foreigner Viotti was forced to flee Paris when the Revolution broke out, and when the dust settled Kreutzer was a Professeur of the Conservatoire and soon after became Maître de Chapelle to Louis XVIII in 1815 and music director of the Paris Opera from 1824 to 1826, serving on the advisory board of the Conservatoire until he died in 1831. Yet he by no means relied on the violin, creating a considerable number of works for the stage ranging from operas de circonstance that glorified Revolutionary ideals to more ambitious attempts at grand opera—none of them staged today, all put in the shade by his works for the violin. Every violinist is obliged to study the 42 Etudes (Mar/Apr 2009). The Kreutzer Sonata was written for him by Beethoven, but he never played it and called it “unplayable”.
We covered a CPO program of three Kreutzer concertos—including two of these—from Laurent Albrecht Breuninger and the Southwest German Radio Orchestra directed by Alun Francis in May/June 2010. But it’s no competition at all. Breuninger adopts tempos very close to Axel Strauss for the most part, but there the similarity ends; I found his stratospheric high end way too piercing in short doses, and in toto tiring to the ear: the three concertos heard one after the other simply melted into one long shrill sound—no warmth, no mid-range. With Strauss it’s like I was hmore....
Review By Michelle Dulak Thomson,San Francisco Classical Voice,December 2010
The composer names that loom large in the minds of musicians aren’t always the ones the listening public knows well. Czerny and Burgmüller are names that pianists know, but classical piano listeners might not. In the same way, Rodolphe Kreutzer and Pierre Rode and Giovanni Battista Viotti are pretty much off the public’s radar, but very much on the violin student’s—the first two for volumes of studies that are obligatory, the last for a pair of concertos that are nearly likewise.
But this is all as study material, not for public performance (Viotti’s 22nd Concerto makes the very occasional appearance in public—an odd fate for a piece that Johannes Brahms admired).
Review By Stephen Smoliar,Examiner.com,December 2010
The greatest misfortune for violinist and composer Rodolphe Kreutzer is that Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his Opus 47 violin sonata in A major to him. It is unclear how it came to be known as the “Kreutzer Sonata;” but the name struck strongly enough to be appropriated by Leo Tolstoy for a novella (whose plot line incorporates a performance of Beethoven’s sonata), which, in turn, inspired the first string quartet by Leoš Janáček. Ironically, Kreutzer himself apparently never played Beethoven’s sonata. According to a Baron de Tremont,
Review By Brian Reinhart,MusicWeb International,December 2010
Bargain of the Month
Rodolphe Kreutzer was a name completely new to me before this disc. Well, not completely: there is Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata, dedicated to Rodolphe, who refused to play it because, as a matter of personal philosophy, he never played staccato notes. These concertos are just the kind of genial, pleasing works one would expect from a violinist who took that view. Kreutzer’s are some of the best violin concertos from the “French school” of the late classical era. They have the virtues of brevity, simple scoring, appealing tunes, utterly wonderful violin writing, and a genial, generous sense of heart. I’ll be honest: I love this budget price CD.
Review By n.t.,Pizzicato,December 2010
Review By Brian Wilson,MusicWeb International,December 2010
This is the first of a planned series of all Kreutzer’s Violin Concertos, beginning with the acknowledged masterpieces. These are attractive and tuneful works—just don’t compare them with Mozart or Beethoven—and the performances and recording make the listening experience thoroughly enjoyable. Axel Strauss has already made successful recordings of the solo Caprices of Pierre Rode and Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte for Naxos and Andrew Mogrelia seems to make a speciality of conducting ballets and violin concertos for the label. They work here with the very capable orchestra of the San Francisco Conservatory, where Strauss has taught since 2001.
Review By Giv Cornfield,The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics,November 2010
A highly admired and successful violinist-composer during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, he actually wrote more operas than instrumental music, although he was prolific in both areas. The excellent and detailed notes by Bruce Schueneman inform us that due to a difference in playing style, it is doubtful that Kreutzer ever performed the Sonata that bears Beethoven’s dedication to him.
Axel Strauss is a superb master of the bow, and the S.F. Conservatory Orchestra led by Andrew Mogrella is as fine an ensemble as one could wish for. It’s good to know that Naxos plans to record all of Kreutzer’s concertos!
Review By John J. Puccio,Classical Candor,November 2010
French violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766–1831) obviously favored the violin, having written nineteen violin concertos, mainly for himself to play. Not that he didn’t compose in other genres, as his thirty-nine operas and forty-two études ou caprices for solo violin attest. Beethoven thought so much of Kreutzer as a violin virtuoso he dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major to him. But fame is fleeting; today, one hardly hears about poor old Kreutzer, with only a handful of discs devoted to his music. The folks at Naxos, however, appear ready to rectify that situation, with these final three of Kreutzer’s violin concertos apparently only the beginning of a complete cycle of the man’s violin works.
All three concertos are fairly brief affairs, with No. 17 in G major (premiered in 1806) a mere seventeen minutes long. It begins with a rather regal introduction, followed almost immediately by an impressive turn from the violin. One can tell from the outset that Kreutzer was going to favor the soloist, the modest ensemble work merely serving as a background, almost as an afterthought, for the violin. Whatever, violinist Axel Strauss handles it fluently, with consummate ease, and the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra provide sympathetic support. In the second movement we again get a dramatic opening statement from the players, succeeded by what is practically a violin solo, this time of hushed intensity and quite lovely. The Rondo finale has a pleasant rhythmic thrust and brings the piece to a satisfying close.
Concerto No. 18 in E minor begins more energetically than No. 17, and it allows the orchestra a bit more time to itself before the violin’s entry. Then, when the violin does appear, it’s in a relatively quiet, slightly plaintive mood. Nevertheless, it picks up intensity as it goes along, and Strauss appears to be enjoying himself in the music, playing it with great enthusiasm as well as showmanship. The slow movement speaks with an impassioned tenderness and the finale in a surprisingly impish yet gentle manner, perhaps foreshadowing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto a few years later.
The Violin Concerto No. 19 in D minor strikes one as the most mature of the three concertos on the program, with Mozartian overtones and shades of Don Giovanni. It is both ambitious and stately, with some fine solo passages, as we might expect. It is also the best of the three concertos at integrating the violin into the orchestral framework. So, it rewards on several counts. Again, the work utilizes a mellow slow movement and a sprightly closing section, which Strauss and company exploit to good advantage.
There is nothing about these three Kreutzer concertos that jumps out at one and proclaims them as great music. Still, one can hear artistry in them, and when performed as well as they are here they make for entertaining diversions.
Review By Infodad.com,October 2010
Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766–1831) did intend his violin works to have both depth and scale, and his final three concertos—especially the last two, in E minor and D minor respectively—are impressive. Kreutzer is best known as the dedicatee of Beethoven’s Op. 47 sonata for violin and piano, but he was a considerable violinist in his own right (although he never played Beethoven’s Op. 47 in public), and was also well known as a teacher. He composed a number of stage works, but is best known as a composer for his pieces for violin, which remain largely classical in style even when using a Beethoven-size orchestra. Axel Strauss and Andrew Mogrelia have clearly looked closely at what Kreutzer had to offer, for their recording of his final concertos
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