“Play it again, Sam…”

SONY DSC“As for my wife, I’d never seen her looking as she did that evening (…) her radiant eyes, her serenity, the gravity of her expression as she played (…) I saw all this but I didn’t attach any particular significance to it, beyond supposing that she had experienced the same feelings as I had”. That’s what Pozdnyshev, in The Kreutzer Sonata, thinks when he sees the concert his wife and the violinist, Trukhachevsky, perform. After Pozdnyshev feels, following Nietzsche, the intoxication of music, he thinks his wife’s radiance is due to the same experience. However, the facts are others.

As Pozdnyshev explains, Trukhachevsky “searched the strings with careful fingers and provided a response to the piano. And so it began…” . The Kreutzer Sonata is a dialogue between the violin and the piano; the last unfinished sentence becomes suggestive. It is supposed that what begins is the concert but as the sentence remains open, it calls for ambiguity. What begins together with music is the performance of adultery or sexual act, as far as the open sentence outlines that what follows cannot be said. Rhythm here becomes the key point.  Following Langer, an american philosopher of music, it can be said that the essence of a composition is its movement, and movement is expressed through rhythm. It is the “regular recurrence of events” , an endless preparation from one event to the next. Rhythmical events configure a whole unity of significance with a beginning and a consummation of the fact. It can be said of both the adultery as a relationship, articulated by a chain of events which ends with the sexual intercourse, or of the sexual act, from the beginning until the consummation of it with its respective rhythms.

One of the first things Pozdnyshev remembers about the concert is “how they looked at one another”. That is usually the first contact between lovers. Following Eguchi, the rhythm of the Sonata follows as “restlessness and agitation result (…) from constant eight notes, rhythmic dissonance, dynamic contrast, and ascending passages” . It is not a quiet melody but an exciting one; even silent moments serve to reinforce the passion tone, as Eguchi notes, “Beethoven’s rhetorical pauses create moments of powerful silence, or relative silence, at moments of great emotional intensity”. The silent of the music is that of the lovers, which, in fact, are a speechless language. Therefore, music is the embodied excitement of the lovers, and Mrs Pozdnyshev reveals herself to her husband, as he explains, “everything was against her, particularly that damned music”. The day after the concert, while Pozdnyshev is away from home, the images of the concert begin to invade his mind, and he, for first time thinks “about the two of them making love together”, as he explains, “it was only then that I began to remember the way they had looked that evening when, after they’d finished the Kreutzer Sonata, they played some passionate little encore (…) some piece that was so voluptuous it was obscene (…) Surely it must have been obvious that everything took place between them that evening?”


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