The Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a sonata for piano and violin notable for its technical difficulty, unusual length (around 40 minutes), and emotional scope. It is commonly known as the Kreutzer Sonata after the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, to whom it was ultimately dedicated, but who thoroughly disliked the piece and refused to play it.
In the composer's 1803 sketchbook the work was titled "Sonata per il Pianoforte ed uno violino obligato in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto". The final movement of the work was originally written for another, earlier, sonata for violin and piano by Beethoven, the Sonata No. 6, Op. 30, No. 1, in A major.
Beethoven gave no key designation to the work. Although the work is usually titled as being in A major, the Austrian composer and music theoretician Gerhard Präsent has published articles indicating that the main key is in fact A minor. Präsent has revealed interesting connections to the 6th violin sonata, for which the third movement was originally composed, and he believes that the unusual opening bars for solo violin form a kind of transition from the earlier sonata (or from its structural material), supporting the belief that the acquisition of the finale of Op. 30/1 for the "Kreutzer" was a compositional intention — and not a result of lack of time, as long suspected.
Premiere and dedication
The sonata was originally dedicated to the violinist George Bridgetower (1778–1860) as "Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer [Bridgetower], gran pazzo e compositore mulattico" (Mulatto Sonata composed for the mulatto Brischdauer, great madman mulatto composer). Shortly after completion the work was premiered by Bridgetower and Beethoven on 24 May 1803 at the Augarten Theatre at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8:00 am. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal.
After the premiere performance Beethoven and Bridgetower fell out: while the two were drinking, Bridgetower apparently insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day.
The piece is in three movements, and takes approximately 43 minutes to perform:
After its successful premiere in 1803 the work was published in 1805 as Beethoven's Op. 47, with its re-dedication to Rudolphe Kreutzer, which gave the composition its nickname. Kreutzer never performed the work, considering it "outrageously unintelligible". He did not particularly care for any of Beethoven's music, and they only ever met once, briefly.
Referring to Beethoven's composition, Leo Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata was first published in 1889. That novella was adapted in various stage and film productions, contributing to Beethoven's composition becoming known to the general public.
Rita Dove's 2009 Sonata Mulattica reimagined the life of Bridgetower, the sonata's original dedicatee, in poetry, thus writing about the sonata that connected the composer and the violinist who first performed it.