Rodolphe Kreutzer: Violin Concertos Nos. 17-19by Axel Strauss
The name of French virtuoso-composer Rodolphe Kreutzer remains best known for the dedication of Beethoven's "Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, 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; there is little in the way of Paganini-like fireworks. The slow movements, beginning with unison or simply chordal statements like Beethoven's "Violin Concerto," have long, serious melodies. For sheer musical interest these pieces outdo the concertos of Kreutzer's contemporary Viotti, which are more often heard, and San Francisco-based violinist Axel Strauss, with the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra, offer lyrical performances that bring out the best early Romantic qualities in the music. The disc inaugurates a series of Kreutzer discs from the same forces, and one looks forward to hearing more music from this famous-named but largely forgotten composer.
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This recording consists of the final three violin concertos (Nos. 17, 18, and 19) written by Rodolphe Kreutzer. I was previously unfamiliar with these works, but am delighted to add this music to my library! Concerto No. 17 in G major has a spritely and joyful feel to it, partially owing to the music itself but principally owing to the sheer sense of glee that Axel Strauss (violin) and the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra (under Andrew Mogrelia) give to the color and energy of the performance. The ideas develop in a somewhat Haydnesque way, and all three movements are just a treat for the ears. Concerto No. 18 in E minor has a rather Beethovenian air to it from start to finish, beginning with a large serious sound, but giving way rather quickly to energetic and cheerfully focused music for the violin. The second movement (Adagio) is a more solitary opportunity for the soloist to demonstrate the tone and color of his instrument, and Mr. Strauss definitely shows us what his J.F. Pressenda (Turin 1845) can do - and it is sweet. The third movement brings the piece to a close with some reflective music as well as a sampling of virtuosity from Mr. Strauss. Concerto No. 19 begins, like No. 18, with a Beethovenian flavor, but quickly becomes more Paganinni-esque, which gives the soloist the chance to again show off his technique. But in addition to being more than up to the challenge, Mr. Strauss also displays a sensitivity throughout the entire concerto that made this listener stop what he was doing and just listen. Great music, wonderfully performed. I highly recommend this disc.