The work of composer Ludwig van Beethoven and writer Leo Tolstoy will be explored in two spring semester courses, resulting in a symposium featuring presentations and a performance.
At the center of the symposium are Beethoven’s The Kreutzer Sonata (otherwise known as the Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47) and Tolstoy’s 1889 novella of the same name. The sonata and novella will also be discussed in courses taught by Assistant Professor of Music Daniel Barolsky and Russian Professor Donna Oliver.
In Barolsky’s course, Beethoven and the Origins of “Music,” students will read the novella in order to gain a new understanding of the sonata, and they will also learn about the sonata’s history, analysis and reception. Some of the questions they’ll attempt to answer are why Tolstoy named his work after Beethoven’s piece and why is the sonata significant to Tolstoy’s story.
Meanwhile, students in Oliver’s Crazy Love: (Un)Fulfilling Desires in Nineteenth Century Russian Literature will read various works including The Kreutzer Sonata to consider such questions as: What prompts love? And do love and desire‒fulfilled or not‒make people irrational?
The courses are independent of each other, but they will overlap at Symposium on Two Kreutzer Sonatas: Music and Meaning in Beethoven and Tolstoy, an event scheduled for Saturday, March 29 from 3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in the Hendricks Center for the Arts.
In the free, public event, Barolsky, Oliver and their students will give presentations; clips from the 1994 film Immortal Beloved about Beethoven’s life will be shown; and Beloit College faculty Amber Dolphin and David Newman will perform The Kreutzer Sonata as a culmination to the event.
According to Barolsky, the symposium was partially inspired by the recent 200th anniversary of the Pride and Prejudice event that included an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion featuring various faculty members including himself.
In addition to the Pride and Prejudice panel, Barolsky has also been a part of other interdisciplinary initiatives including co-teaching a course with Assistant Anthropology Professor Jennifer Esperanza called Keepin' it Real?: The Pursuit, Defense and Deconstruction of Authenticity. He also was one of the 15 faculty members who taught a segment of Untangling The Wire: The TV Serial as a Transformational Work.
“For me, it’s a learning experience. I have colleagues who are equally passionate about teaching, and I learn as much if not more than the students,” Barolsky said. “To work with someone and build off each other’s ideas is a really exciting thing, and it pushes you. It gives you that reflective opportunity to think about why you do what you do. Why is teaching music history important? Why should we care about Beethoven? At the end of the day we have to continue to question why it is we do what we do.”