THE KREUTZER SONATA by Eric Samuelsen receives its world premiere in a co-production with NOVA Chamber Music Series through November 9 featuring violinist Kathryn Eberle, pianist Jason Hardink and actor Robert Scott Smith, directed by Jerry Rapier. Ticket availability s extremely limited.
The first time I heard the Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata was in the weekly violin studio class of my violin professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. All of his students were packed into his tiny teaching studio in the USC music building. Another of my teacher’s students was performing the Kreutzer for the rest of the violin studio. From the very first chords of the violin playing alone, to the driving final movement, I was transfixed. In the violin world, we often put the music we perform into two categories. On the one hand, there’s the “serious, profound music,” of which I would put masterpieces such as the solo Bach Sonatas and Partitas. And then there’s the lighter “showpieces” – works by such composers as Paganini, Sarasate and Kreisler – that might not be very deep music but is incredibly virtuosic, impressive and flashy. What impressed me, hearing the Kreutzer Sonata for the very first time, was how easily it straddles both types of music. It’s some of the most profound, genuine and heartfelt musical writing one will hear yet simultaneously is also incredibly technically challenging and virtuosic. From that day forward, I was hooked on this sonata. I asked my teacher if I could perform the piece for my graduation recital and he agreed. Learning the Kreutzer brought up many different discussions in my weekly lessons including everything from improving certain ways of using the violin bow, or as we violinists say, “bow strokes,” to figuring out the best way to shape a phrase to give maximum musical effect. My first performance of this piece was a good effort yet I remained excited at the possibility of performing it again and improving both the technique and the musicality.
Ten years later, pianist Jason Hardink and I set out to perform all ten of the Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano on the NOVA Chamber Music Series here in Salt Lake City. It was a wonderful mix of revisiting “old friends” such as the First Sonata, the Fifth ‘Spring’ Sonata and of course the Kreutzer, as well as learning some for the first time. The sonata cycle was an incredibly unique artistic opportunity: to perform them in chronological order, the Kreutzer, of course being next to last and performed on the last concert along with the Tenth (and final) Sonata. And I couldn’t have asked for a better artistic collaborator than Jason to work through these monumental compositions. When he approached me about this completely unique collaboration with Plan-B Theatre Company, (none of us are aware of another Kreutzer Sonata play) I didn’t have to think twice about saying yes, even though it was venturing into new artistic territory for us all.
What has evolved, between Eric Samuelsen’s powerful and gripping script, Jerry Rapier’s excellent direction, Robert Scott Smith’s incredibly riveting and moving performance and the musical performance that Jason and I contribute is something that not only Plan-B and NOVA can be extremely proud of but also something that Salt Lake City can claim as an artistic achievement for this wonderful community that we’ve all come to call home. We’ re now a week into the run of this show and the response from the audience has been so positive and unlike anything I normally experience when playing more traditional classical music concerts. And yet, to me, the ultimate goal of a concert is to tell a story. For us instrumental musicians, it’s a story without words. This collaboration between these two wonderful arts organizations allows each of our respective story telling to reach new heights. And for that I’m extremely grateful!
Kathryn Eberle is Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. Her solo appearances include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Nashville and Utah Symphonies and the Louisville Orchestra. She recently completed a cycle of Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano with Jason Hardink for NOVA Chamber Music Series. Her festival appearances include Aspen, Banff, Yellow Barn, Encore School for Strings, Missillac, Sewanee, Laguna Beach, Innsbrook and Festival Mozaic. Ms. Eberle attended the Juilliard School, Colburn School and the University of Southern California. Click here for more information on THE KREUTZER SONATA, including tickets (single and season)!