A small but enthusiastic audience at the New School in Cambridge was treated last night, December 1, to the first installment of a concert series that will eventually present the complete violin-piano sonatas of Beethoven. The musicians in the new Ludwig Duo were David Leung, a violinist with an impressive list of performances and recordings with major orchestras, and Esther Ning Yau, one of our premier local collaborative pianists and an outstanding teacher in the Longy faculty.
On offer were the Sonata no. 1 in D Major, an early work reminiscent of Mozart and Haydn, the Sonata no. 5 in F Major (“Spring”), and the massive Sonata no. 9 in A major (“Kreutzer”). Beethoven wrote these sonatas partly as showpieces for his own keyboard virtuosity, but they also put great demands on the violinist – something of a first for the time. Both musicians in these concerts amply proved their virtuosity, especially evident in the amazing presto finale of the Kreutzer, which Ning Yau played to perfection without a page turner!
Leung introduced the second two pieces with interesting stories of how and when they were composed and first performed. The beautiful and cheerful “Spring” sonata was written as his hearing was fading, and just a year before he contemplated suicide. Yet the melodies are bright and positive. The Kreutzer, composed two years later, is a masterpiece, long, demanding, and with a joyous finale. The performances were uniformly terrific, the adagios sonorous and the allegros suitably exciting.
Keep an eye out for further performances in this series. We will get to hear the A-Major Presto again as the original finale of Beethoven’s sixth sonata.