Pierre Rode

Posted on April 12th, 2011 by


 Pierre Rode inspired Beethoven to write his most lyrical G Major Sonata Op 96, which Rode premiered in Vienna at Christmas 1812.

The first truly international French violinist to emerge from this environment was Pierre Rode. Following the writing of the Méthode, Rode was barely to be found in Paris, but was permanently on tour.

In 1803, Rode left Paris for Russia, accompanied by the cellist, Jacques-Michel-Hurel Lamarre (1772-1823) and the composer François-Adrien Boieldieu (1775-1834). Boieldieu’s main motivation for departure was clearly escape. In 1802, he had made a disastrous marriage to a ballerina from the Opéra, Clotilde-Augustine Malfleurai (1776-1826). Within a year the marriage was on the rocks, and came to Russia, where Tsar Alexander offered him the sinecure of Kapellmeister ,regardless of the fact that, save the visiting musicians, there was no Kapell, plus and a salary of 4,000 rubles. However, he was required to write three operas per year on subjects decided upon by the parricide emperor. Pierre Rode left Russia in 1808, but Boieldieu stayed, which became awkward when the Tzar declared war on France. Boieldieu was suspected of being a spy, and his post was constantly opened. On one occasion, he attempted to send a parcel of manuscripts to France. Upon opening the package, the police discovered a piece of music, beginning with the notes si mi sol. The notes si mi sol were read as six mille soldats, and the composer was accused of betraying his employer. This misapprehension was quickly corrected, but serves as useful indicator of the parlous position of touring musicians an age of revolution and war. Boieldieu returned triumphantly to Paris with a comic opera, Jean de Paris.

 Pierre Rode suffered from ‘Erysipelas’, or ‘St Anthony’s Fire’, so-called because this saint was invoked by those suffering from it. Rode’s friends were very concerned for him; as early as 1802, Baillot wrote of the effect that the disease had had on his great friend mentally, quite apart to the hindrance to his right arm. Were it not for this problem, on which the Archduke Rudolph reported to Beethoven in some detail in 1812, the finale of the latter’s Sonate Op 96 would have been very unlikely to have acquired its particulary stately character. Rudolf also indicated to Beethoven the Parisian taste in sonatas: ‘they are not so fond of rushing finales…’ It was alleged, throughout the 19th century that, in 1802, Beethoven wrote his F major Romanze Op 50 for Rode. There is no documentary evidence for this. However, the style of Beethoven’s writing in both if his Romanzen is overtly ‘Parisian’, and shows clearly evidence that Beethoven was fully awared grandeur of bowing and long lines championed by the disciples of Viotti; it would not be surprising if the Romanze was written for Rode. However, the Archduke Rudolph’s (1788-1831) careful counselling of Beethoven how best to write for Rode, ten years later, in 1812, seems to indicate that this was not the case. Perhaps the Archduke was most concerned to warn Beethoven of the change which had come over Rode’s playing. The German composer, Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864) heard him in Paris that year. He found his playing ‘rather cold’.

In October 1820, Niccolò Paganini himself was finally able to hear Pierre Rode in Rome. He was tremendously impressed that Rode was, “[T]he monarch of variety…even in the antechamber of Paradise, it could not sound better than he…”

Archduke Rudolf later awarded Paganini himselfthe much-coveted title of Kammer-Virtuos Sr. Majestät des Kaiser von Oesterreich. Rode wrote many chamber works, including ten quartets. Two of these, the Sonates Brilliantes Op 24, were dedicated to Mendelssohn ‘par son ami Rode’. His Op 28 was dedicated to Anton Reicha, and his Op Posth., to Cherubini.

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