Kreutzer vs. Kreutzer – Jemima Rooper & Samuel West; music by Beethoven & Janáček (Kreutzer Sonata)

Kreutzer vs. Kreutzer
A Play for Voices by Laura Wade

Sonata in A-minor for Piano and Violin, Op.47 (Kreutzer)
String Quartet No.1 (Kreutzer Sonata)

The Woman – Jemima Rooper
The Man – Samuel West

Thomas Gould (violin) & Ana-Maria Vera (piano)
Thomas Gould & Maria Spengler (violins), Rebecca Jones (viola) & Christian Elliott (cello)

Tamara Harvey – Director

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 9 October, 2016
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Kreutzer Sonata, painting by René François Xavier Prinet (1901), based on Tolstoy's novella, The Kreutzer SonataMaking music is a dangerous business. Kreutzer vs. Kreutzer presents a potentially murderous layering of Tolstoy, Beethoven and Janáček, illuminating the author’s study of pathological sexual jealousy for our own time, together with performances of the Beethoven that is implicit in the tragic denouement of the plot and the Janáček inspired by it. Tolstoy’s 1889 novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, stimulated Laura Wade’s staged piece, expertly woven using Tolstoy’s text as a basis.

The original story is told from the perspective of an insanely jealous husband, who believes his wife is having an affair with a violinist with whom she is rehearsing Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. Wade’s dramatic representation puts words into the mouths of his wife and the violinist, presenting two versions of the truth. Janáček was haunted by the Tolstoy, especially the suffering of the victimised wife trapped in a loveless marriage.

Jemima Rooper conveyed the emotional awakening of the Woman with delicacy and restraint. The opening movement of the Beethoven became impassioned and urgent, the intertwining violin and piano parts reflecting the deepening relationship of the pair. Thomas Gould and Ana-Maria Vera’s rendition of the complete work was beautifully balanced with the drama; the Woman’s growing confidence giving her the freedom to embark on a relationship with the Man.

Samuel WestPhotograph: Vince MaherSamuel West was outstanding. The Janáček framed a spiky and complex reading of the couple’s relationship. The Man’s passionate feelings are not reciprocated in the second version of events and the music serves to reflect his disturbed state. The climax is even more shocking against the background of the Woman’s innocence and the fractured, melancholy music. Players from the Aurora Orchestra played the Janáček with verve and commitment.

Kreutzer vs. Kreutzer is a fascinating updating of Tolstoy’s searing and frank evisceration of a marriage and Laura Wade reveals the connections between music, sensuality and self-expression in this compelling presentation.

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