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Akiko Suwanai, Nicholas Angelich : Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven sonatas

Auditorium du Louvre

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Mozart – Sonata for violin and piano in B flat major K 454

Composed in 1784 for the virtuoso violinist Regina Strinasacchi at a prolific time during which Mozart encountered his greatest Viennese successes with his piano concertos, this sonata was also a contemporary work to the great Quintet for piano and wind instruments K 452 with which it has many resemblances, especially in the majestically slow introduction to the first movement. Putting the violin in the foreground more than in any other of the sonatas Mozart composed for this formation the work, alternating between tender and mischievous or cheerful and sombre passages, is written in the grand symphonic style like the Kreutzer Sonata by Beethoven twenty years later. A very rare occurrence, having undoubtedly lavished too much attention on the violin part, Mozart was unable to finish writing the piano part in time for the premier. He was therefore obliged to perform it from memory before a blank sheet of music, before conscientiously writing it down after the concert.

Brahms – Second sonata in A major opus 100, Thun Sonata

This sonata, rechristened the Thun Sonata, was composed in 1886, on the shores of lake Thun, in Switzerland, during what was a prolific period for the composer. It is probably the most lyrical sonata by Brahms, combining intensity and introspection, originality and timidity. The first movement, Allegro amabile, starts with a fresh, naïve theme sketched on the piano which is then taken up and adapted to the violin. A bridge brings the second initially very lyrical theme played by the piano whilst another adjacent, rhythmic idea emerges. A third vividly enthusiastic theme concludes this long exposition and is dominant in the development. The three themes are presented a second time in a long coda with a heroic conclusion. In the central movement several episodes succeed one another in a deft arrangement of contrasting elements. The initial andante tranquillo uses the pretext of a light and bucolic theme sung by the violin and the piano. The Vivace di qui andante is more lengthily developed, adopting a dancing, capricious pace. These two themes from the andante to the scherzo, re-occurring in a third and a fourth episode, are finally combined with artful concision. The last movement, allegretto grazioso, quasi andante, relatively slow for a finale, is a sort of rondo the chorus-theme of which is reminiscent of a very famous lied by the composer, Mein Liebe ist grün wie der Fliederbusch, sung with expression in a sustained legato. Over the arpeggios of the piano a more sombre and melancholic motif intervenes accompanied by a brief passionate interlude. These diverse elements are resumed in the third part, with a short coda concluding the sonata in a spirit of tranquil, radiant happiness.

Beethoven – Sonata in A major opus 47, "Kreutzer"

At the time when it was composed in 1802 and 1803, this famous sonata received a very reserved welcome, the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung considering Beethoven had sought originality to the point of excess. The piece is classic in its aestheticism but its accents mark the beginning of musical romanticism.

The first movement begins with a short Adagio sostenuto forming a solemn introduction in preparation for the passage to the first theme of the very fiery Presto that the two instruments seem to try to tear from one another. In contrast the second theme sounds more appeased, with sustained sounds. The repetition of the first theme is followed by a more original development. The entire piece, however, remains coordinated by the central melodic idea derived from the principal theme. The coda adds to the dramatic mood of the movement. The Andante con variazioni provides poetical release, offering a soothing theme with a syncopated rhythm in a suite of four variations. In the first, the theme is played on the piano, a situation which is inversed in the second theme, requiring virtuosity on the violin. The third variation, in which the roles are shared, contributes to a dramatisation of the theme, which finally blossoms in the fourth variation. The final Presto, in the form of a tarantella, opens with a theme in counterpoint on the piano and violin. Then comes a vertiginous re-exposition of the former exchange between the two instruments that vie in a frantic race to expose a theme with a jerking rhythm (crochet/quaver). An adagio phrase precedes the magnificent coda that concludes the incessant duel between the two partners.

Musée du Louvre: Henri Loyette, president director; Monique Devaux, artistic director for the concerts.

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Broadcast date : Sept. 16, 2009, 6 p.m.

Musical form : Sonata

Duration : 01 h 39 min
Location : Louvre Auditorium (Paris, France)



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