The Knights reimagine the ideas of Beethoven and Tolstoy

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The Knights — The Kreutzer Project (Avie)

New Classical Tracks - The Knights
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Aren’t we all obsessed with time travel? Aren’t we all wanting to have dinner with that person that’s not alive anymore,” conductor of the Knights, Eric Jacobsen, asked when he fired up the time machine for their newest album, The Kreutzer Project. With his brother, violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen, they explore time-traveling dialogues between Beethoven in 1803, Leo Tolstoy in 1889, Leos Janacek in 1923 and most recently, Anna Clyne and Colin Jacobsen with their 21st-century pieces.

What idea launched this project?

Eric: “There were a couple of things that got this going. I can't remember if the Beethoven violin and piano sonata was the first thing that we said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this can be a concerto,’ or if we looked at the Janacek String Quartet and said, ‘Wow, this could absolutely have a harp, snare drum and woodwinds.’ We thought of all the works at the same time.”

Is it true that Beethoven's sonatas are infamous for being hard on both the pianist and violinist?

Colin:The issue in this version is it’s a violin concerto, but the orchestra is playing the piano part, which is incredibly virtuosic. It’s really a concerto grosso grosso because everyone has to pull their weight with the virtuosic lines.”

Eric:When someone listens to this and doesn’t know that it was arranged and made today, I think one would probably assume that it was made during Beethoven's life because it fits that time period. We know that he didn't make this arrangement, but it almost feels like it could be. It is from a composer who only wrote one violin concerto. I feel like this is an incredible complement to that piece.”

Tell us about the expanded version of Leos Janacek’s String Quartet.

Colin: “A lot of Janacek’s music has a sense of beauty that is thwarted or interrupted. You can hear that in the very opening. There's this gorgeous yearning chorale and it contains the primary motif of the whole piece then immediately you get interruptions from different voices. I think this is part of the emotion from the Tolstoy novella, which is a yearning for something that gets thwarted all the time.”

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Resources

The Knights — The Kreutzer Project (Avie store)

The Knights — The Kreutzer Project (Amazon store)

The Knights (official site)

349 episodes