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Russian lit and music collide in Saturday’s Symposium on Two Kreutzer Sonatas

March 27, 2014
By Carolyn Stransky’15

At a liberal arts college like Beloit, there is a special emphasis placed on the idea of interdisciplinary studies. This not only includes drawing connections in and out of the classroom, but also between academic disciplines.

On Saturday (March 29) the disciplines of music and Russian literature will collide in Symposium on Two Kreutzer Sonatas: Music and Meaning in Beethoven and Tolstoy. The event will be held in the Hendricks Center for the Arts from 3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The symposium will explore composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s The Kreutzer Sonata (otherwise known as the Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47) and writer Leo Tolstoy’s 1889 novella also titled The Kreutzer Sonata.

In the free, public event, Barolsky, Oliver and their students will all give presentations. In Oliver’s section, she will offer a synopsis of the story and students from her course Crazy Love: (Un)Fulfilling Desires in Nineteenth Century Russian Literature will read passages that, in their opinion, most clearly lay out the narrator’s point of view and help the audience get a sense of the story, its tone and the main ideas.

Barolsky and students from his course Beethoven and the Origins of “Music” will also be participating in aspects related to the musical piece, Beethoven and his life, and the context of The Kreutzer Sonata relative to the rest of his work.

These sections, ultimately, will result in a discussion of how these two art forms relate to each other and the significance.

“We listen to music all of the time and this is a wonderful to reflect on how it works and what it means, especially when reflected in text or image,” says Barolsky. “The conversations will both shed light and provoke, leaving the audience with both answers and questions that they can apply to different literary and musical situations.”

Oliver echoes this sentiment toward the “conversation” that happens between the arts: “It’s really a chance to explore this work interdisciplinarily. Looking at different art forms, literature and music, and see how they are in dialogue with each other. Tolstoy is obviously familiar with Beethoven’s piece and names his story after it... He’s describing his own meaning to Beethoven’s piece from his perspective, which can be, and probably is, very different from Beethoven’s own intentions in terms of meaning. That’s why we titled the symposium Music and Meaning.”

Clips from the 1994 film Immortal Beloved about Beethoven’s life will also be shown.

The culmination of the event will be a first-time performance of Beethoven’s "The Kreutzer Sonata" by Beloit College faculty Amber Dolphin on violin and David Newman on piano.

"Beloit is a really neat place. We just had a whole day dedicated to helping us make connections between our classes, interests and experiences while at Beloit and beyond. Following Advising Practicum, I am even more excited about the opportunity to have our symposium this Saturday,” says Kristen McNeill’16, one of the students presenting at the symposium. “It's to our advantage that we have professors here who are just as dedicated to helping us draw connections outside the classroom as they are within the classroom.”