Peter Takács Begins Three Concert Series of Beethoven’s Complete Violin Sonatas

Series launches Sunday, December 11; continues in January and March 2023

December 9, 2022

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

man with glasses wearing a dark suite sits at the piano
Peter Takács.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Oberlin piano professor and avowed Beethoven devotee Peter Takács will be bringing the composer’s 10 violin sonatas to Kulas Recital Hall over the course of three concerts this academic year. The first edition, on Sunday, December 11, features three violinists on Oberlin’s faculty—Sibbi Bernhardsson and Verona Quartet violinists Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro—and guest artist Daniel Stepner. This concert also features two of the most loved of Beethoven’s violin sonatas, the "Spring” and “Kreutzer.”

Takács’ most recent dive into Beethoven’s string repertoire were the cello works. In July he released a recording of the composer’s complete music for cello, including the five sonatas, with Robert DeMaine, principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. That recording has been receiving acclaim, first in the October issue of Gramophone magazine where the duo is praised for the way they “savour the narratives in shapely and meticulous performances.” In the November issue of the American Record Guide, they are regarded for their “stirring performances,” and for Takács’ playing, which “sparkles with breathtaking clarity.”

Takács love and affinity for music by Beethoven is evident. He made history in 2011 as the first pianist to release the complete Beethoven piano sonatas—all 32 numbered sonatas as well the early unnumbered piano sonatas, and the only sonata that Beethoven wrote for four hands—in a single volume. That 11-disc project is considered by The Plain Dealer to be “a gift to listeners who value artistic profundity.”

Now turning his attention to the violin sonatas, Takács has invited seven different violinists to go on this journey with him.

They are Oberlin violin faculty members Sibbi Bernhardsson, David Bowlin, and Francesca DePasquale, along with Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro of the Verona Quartet, Oberlin’s quartet-in-residence.

Takács has reached out to long-time collaborators, as well.

“I invited dear friends Daniel Stepner (my college roommate at Northwestern University, with whom I performed the "Kreutzer" sonata on his senior recital in 1968) and Michelle Abraham Kantor, a frequent chamber music partner with whom I have played a number of Beethoven violin sonatas.”

“Having missed most of the 250th anniversary year 2020 to the pandemic, I am excited to celebrate the 252nd anniversary with my violin colleagues and friends,” says Takács.

Takács described the scope of Beethoven's sonatas for the violin versus the cello project he just completed. 

“The contrast between the cello and violin sonatas is interesting. First of all, the cello sonata was practically invented by Beethoven, while the violin sonata was a well-established form. Afterall, Mozart wrote about 35 of them,” he noted.

“Secondly, the cello sonatas elegantly bracket Beethoven's output, with the groundbreaking early sonatas of Op. 5 (1796) followed by the signature middle period A major sonata, Op. 69 (1808). The two innovative late period sonatas of Op. 102 were written in 1815.”

“By contrast, the 10 violin sonatas range from Op. 12 (1798) to Op. 96 (1812), showing less stylistic evolution while displaying a wide expressive range, from the intimate (A major, Op. 30, No. 1), to the revolutionary (Op. 47, "Kreutzer"), and finally to the valedictory Op. 96 sonata.”

In recent years, Takács celebrated the Beethoven 250th anniversary with performances of An die ferne Geliebte with Oberlin voice professor Tim LeFebvre, the Third Piano Concerto with the Oberlin Orchestra led by Robert Spano, and the Choral Fantasy with the Arts and Sciences Orchestra and conductor Tiffany Chang.

When asked if he had a “Beethoven Bucket List,” Takács replied, “Well, it’s the next logical next step for me to perform the complete cycle of the 10 violin sonatas.”

And, just in case you thought he was finished with Beethoven’s sonatas, he chimed in, “That leaves only the Op. 17 horn sonata for the future.”

Series Dates and Programs

Concert I. Sunday, December 11 at 4:30 p.m.
Op. 12, No. 1 with Jonathan Ong
Op. 12, No. 2 with Dorothy Ro
Op. 24, "Spring" with Sibbi Bernhardsson
Op. 47, "Kreutzer” with Daniel Stepner

Concert II: Sunday, January 29, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.
Sonata No. 8 in G major, Op. 30, No. 3 with Michelle Abraham Kantor
Sonata No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 12, No. 3 with Kantor
Sonata No 7 in C minor, Op. 30, No. 2 with Francesca DePasquale

Concert III: Wednesday, March 1, 2023, 7:30 p.m.
Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 30, No. 1 with Sibbi Bernhardsson
Sonata No. 4 in A minor, Op. 23 with Francesca DePasquale
Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 96 with David Bowlin

All concerts are free and will be held in Kulas Recital Hall at Oberlin Conservatory of Music for in-person audiences and available as a webcast at the time of the concert.

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