The Kreutzer Project / Jacobsen, The Knights

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"DEFINITELY year's-best list material." --Iowa Public Radio

The Knights, the bold Brooklyn-based orchestral collective, embody the spirit of exploration with The Kreutzer Project, a program that posits Tolstoy’s response to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata: What exactly is it? I don’t understand. What is music? What does it do? And why does it do what it does?

Beethoven and Tolstoy in turn inspired Czech composer Leoš Janácek, whose first string quartet is also called “Kreutzer Sonata”. The Knights’ response to these iconoclastic touchstones is to reimagine the Beethoven as a “Kreutzer Concerto”, arranged by The Knights’ co-founder Colin Jacobsen, who is also the orchestrated version’s violin soloist; and the Janácek as orchestrated by The Knights’ co-founder and conductor Eric Jacobsen. They keep the canon going with Colin’s newly-composed “Kreutzings”, which makes buried allusions to both Beethoven and Janácek; and a commission from Anna Clyne, whose piece “Shorthand” takes its title from a line in Tolstoy’s novella: “music is the shorthand of emotion”.


Arranged by Colin Jacobsen as an orchestral concerto, the “Kreutzer” Sonata explodes into a promethean supernova. The opening bars (also performed by Jacobsen) are played with familiarity and a seemingly deliberate avoidance of showmanship. But then the expected texture of a piano is replaced by woodwinds, offering even more melancholy in the minor key through the hints of oboe and bassoon. The call-and-response echoes aspects of Beethoven’s actual Violin Concerto, and underscores a line in Tolstoy’s own Beethoven-inspired The Kreutzer Sonata: “It seemed to me that he was weary of his solitude.” 

The dramatic potential that can get lost with the wrong pianist (or even simply the wrong listening session) is fully unpacked here, laid out like a sprawling dinner service for 20; crystal stemware gleaming, flatware catching the glint of tapered candles.

The Knights’s “Kreutzer Project” is built on the foundation of Beethoven, bookended by Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1 “Kreutzer Sonata.” This work owes more to Tolstoy’s story, which focuses on a man who kills his unfaithful wife in a Beethoven-fuelled frenzy.

The Knights are no strangers to making orchestrated chamber works come to life in glittering multidimensionality...[but] it could have been overselling to call two works a “project.” Which is why they’ve recorded four, with Colin Jacobsen’s “Kreutzings” and Anna Clyne’s “Shorthand.” Clyne [introduces] the weedy world of Janáček while also riffing on the second movement of Beethoven’s sonata. Her natural predilection for thorny timbres and phantasmal texture work well with the Czech composer’s overgrown paths and houses of the dead, and soloist Karen Ouzounian plays with a voracious, burnished tone, as though the 11-minute work were a full concerto. Perhaps it should be.

--Van Magazine (Olivia Giovetti)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: August 19, 2022

  • Catalog Number: AV2555

  • UPC: 822252255522

  • Label: Avie

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Anna Clyne, Colin Jacobsen, Leos Janacek

  • Conductor: Eric Jacobsen

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: The Knights

  • Performer: Colin Jacobsen


  1. Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, "Kreutzer"

    Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

    Ensemble: The Knights

    Conductor: Eric Jacobsen

  2. Kreutzings

    Composer: Colin Jacobsen

    Ensemble: The Knights

    Conductor: Eric Jacobsen

  3. Shorthand

    Composer: Anna Clyne

    Ensemble: The Knights

    Conductor: Eric Jacobsen

  4. Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, "Kreutzer"

    Composer: Leoš Janáček

    Ensemble: The Knights

    Conductor: Eric Jacobsen