Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rodolphe Kreutzer

Rodolphe Kreutzer was a German (many would say French) violinist, composer, teacher, and conductor born (in Versailles) on November 16, 1766 (Mozart was 10 years old, Beethoven would not be born for another 4 years, and Paganini would be born 16 years later.)  Despite his having written much concert music, including nineteen violin concertos and more than forty operas and ballets, he is remembered for his book (1796) of 42 etudes for violin – Canadian violinist Jacques Israelevitch was the first to record them.  Kreutzer is also remembered as the violinist to whom Beethoven dedicated his ninth violin sonata (1803), after having first dedicated it to another violinist, George Bridgetower - Bridgetower even premiered the work.  Ironically, Kreutzer never played the sonata and even declared it incomprehensible.  (He had met Beethoven in Vienna in 1798.)  His name is now synonymous with the famous sonata.  There are also no fewer than four Stradivarius violins which bear his name.  He studied first with his violinist father then with Anton Stamitz.  He may also have studied with Giovanni Viotti, but that is far from certain.  In 1782, after his father died, he took his father’s place as concertmaster of the royal orchestra.  He was 16 years old - Marie-Antoinette was a patron of his.  He eventually (1801) became concertmaster of the Paris Opera orchestra, where he later conducted (from 1817 until 1826.)  Together with Pierre Rode and Pierre Baillot, he wrote the Paris Conservatory’s violin method book.  He taught at the Conservatory from 1795 until 1826 – thirty one years.  In 1806, he was solo violinist to Napoleon Bonaparte.  In 1815, he also held the title of concertmaster for Louis XVIII.  All the while, he kept composing.  It has been written that his style of playing was individualistic, full of fiery flourishes, fine finish, and pure tone.  He broke an arm in 1825 (I don’t know which) and retired from playing.  He then also retired from conducting in 1826.  He was 60 years old.  In 1831, after being repeatedly rebuffed by the Paris Opera administration (they refused to produce his last opera), he moved to Switzerland, where he died (in Geneva) on June 6, 1831, at age 64.  His music (other than the etudes) is now almost never played. Here is an audio file of his violin concerto number 18, a very rare performance. 

1 comment:

  1. Violist Emanuel Vardi injured his wrist and arm in 1993 and had to give up playing. Heifetz injured a shoulder toward the latter part of his career but fully recovered.