Beethoven concerto - Kreisler cadenza

March 5, 2020, 6:52 AM · There is a passage towards the end of the Kreisler cadenza which to my ears always sounds awful and out-of-tune, even when played perfectly. If it bugs you as much as it does me I'm sure you know where I mean (I can't find a copy on IMSLP to include a bar number). What surprises me is that so many violinists actually play this passage. Some do omit it - I can't remember exactly who, but it seems to be divided about 50/50. I have recordings of Oistrakh and Ida Haendel who both play this passage and it still sounds dreadful (to me) even when played perfectly, as they do.
Does anyone else share my distaste for this passage, and my surprise that some many top players do actually play it?

Replies (11)

March 5, 2020, 11:46 AM · Can you give the time-mark in this video where Oistrakh plays?
March 5, 2020, 11:55 AM · Starts around 21'22".
March 5, 2020, 12:02 PM · It's a modulation, and I expect you're hearing it as being out of tune because you are thinking of a different underlying harmony.
Edited: March 6, 2020, 1:30 AM · Lydia - this is part of the puzzle. I can hear the modulation, but it still sounds 'wrong' to me. I'm interested in whether others have the same perception or not, or is it just a peculiarity of my hearing/brain/harmonic thinking. It seems that it it sounds OK to you.
Hilary Hahn and Pinchas Zukerman (in my old, off-air recording) both omit this particular passage. Menuhin (1952? with Furtwangler) includes it.
March 6, 2020, 11:45 PM · I think that it sounds right to me :)
March 7, 2020, 7:37 AM · Sounds fine to me. Try the Zino Francescatti recording (1950, Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra).
Edited: March 8, 2020, 7:57 AM · It sounds unexpected; I'd concede that. Wrong? No. Dreadful? No again. Does it maybe step outside the realm of Beethoven's harmonic language? I am not good enough in music theory to answer that last question but maybe the answer is yes.

I have to say that this is one of the few cadenzas for any concerto that I enjoy listening to. Most cadenzas are way too long. I just wait for them to be over. This one with its magnificent counterpoint section at its climax (just before the passage in question here) is truly special.

Also: How do the people who omit this passage--skip a modulation--manage to get back to the home key in time? (Edit: I take this question back: The counterpoint passage is already in the home key of D. Kreisler just inserted a modulatory passage before the end; otherwise the end would sound a bit abrupt).

BTW: Not long ago I caught a performance of the Beethoven concerto on TV with one of our young violin super virtuosos (sorry, I forget the name, there are too many super violinists for my memory these days). He was playing a cadenza that veered into harsh dissonances, 20th century style. It was shocking at first but very interesting and at the end a convincing response to Beethoven's music.

March 8, 2020, 11:57 AM · As a composer, Kreisler is one of the hold-overs from the Romantic era. But occasionally, like this spot, he shows that he is aware of 20th cent. trends.
March 9, 2020, 9:09 AM · Thanks to everyone for some interesting responses. I think Albrecht has maybe hit the target - I too have been thinking similarly.
' Does it maybe step outside the realm of Beethoven's harmonic language?'
I think the answer is 'yes' and as Joel points out it also departs from the harmonic context of the rest of the cadenza (and the rest of the movement), and this is why I find it 'strange'. Someone much better versed than me in these matters pointed out that Beethoven's harmonic language is usually much more restricted than, say, Mozart's in terms of chromatics etc (B achieved his effects by other means) and I think this is why I get 'thrown' by this particular passage. But it does seem that I am in a small minority (although with unconfirmed support from Zukerman and Hahn - not bad company!).
April 3, 2020, 6:49 PM · I'm interested in trying to write my own cadenza for the Beethoven concerto. Does anybody know of any good resources that might be a starting point for tackling this project? I have never written a cadenza before, although I do quite a bit of improv : )

My professor is going to send me PDF's of cadenzas by composers and violinists other than Kreisler to check out. Any other suggestions? I know that generally you should try to incorporate thematic material from the concerto and then jump off from there.


April 3, 2020, 7:43 PM · You should do a meta-Schnittke and incorporate quotations from the Schnittke cadenza. Poly-poly-stylistic and other double-mirror trickeries.

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