Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Nationality: German
Baptized: December 17, 1770, Bonn Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna (age 56)

Piano Trio No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 1, No. 1

(for violin, cello and piano)
9:19 I. Allegro
8:11 II. Adagio cantabile
4:56 III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
7:08 IV. Finale. Presto
Duration: 29 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1793-1795 (age 22-25)
Published: 1795 (age 24-25)
Dedication: Karl Fürst von Lichnowsky
8 recordings, 20 videos
autoopen autoplay
10:45
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
I. Allegro
7:20
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
II. Adagio cantabile
4:39
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
7:45
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
7:31
Haydn Trio Wien
I. Allegro
7:18
Haydn Trio Wien
II. Adagio cantabile
5:23
Haydn Trio Wien
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
10:03
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
I. Allegro
9:13
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
II. Adagio cantabile
7:49
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
IV. Finale. Presto
7:46
New Arts Trio
II. Adagio cantabile
4:37
New Arts Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
7:55
Kucharsky, Tzavaras, Ryan
II. Adagio cantabile
4:42
Kucharsky, Tzavaras, Ryan
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
28:19
Foster, Butler, Szász
7:55
Einstein Piano Trio
I. Allegro
6:55
Einstein Piano Trio
II. Adagio cantabile
4:40
Einstein Piano Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro assai
7:04
Einstein Piano Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
28:27
ATOS Trio (complete)
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1779-1827

Piano Trio No. 1 in E-flat, Op. 1, No. 1, 1793-1795

Beethoven's first published works comprise a set of three piano trios that went to press in 1795 was he was in his mid-twenties. Saving the string quartet and the symphony until the time was right, Beethoven's choice of the piano trio ensemble was practical and circumspect. Trios were popular and provided a vehicle for Beethoven the pianist, and, the genre at that time was largely a domain for amateur domestic music making, not necessarily a proving ground with extant masterworks as measurable standards. Indeed, it was Beethoven himself who elevated the trio into the central sphere of "significant" chamber music by expanding the form with these very trios. With Op. 1, Beethoven was the first to add a modern "scherzo" creating longer four-movement works less like the piano sonata and more like the string quartet. The first movement sonata forms explore a greater breadth and depth of expression and, famously, with the intense third trio in C-minor, broach a dark-side of unprecedented intensity and complexity. There is a new independence of the string parts that both play primary thematic roles along with the pianist. Already with his first publication, Beethoven stakes out new territory in a genre still waiting to be explored. The three trios of Op. 1 each strongly stake their own ground in terms of mood and character. The first is warm and witty, possibly Haydnesque, the second, more sensuous and lyrical, in the manner of Mozart, and the third is dark and smoldering, unmistakably Beethoven.

The first trio in E-flat is a perfect debut, ample, bright and public. A strong chord followed by a lively uprising arpeggio quickly establishes an exuberant vivacity that pervades the mood of this first essay for piano trio. A generous classical sonata, form with two clear themes, development and coda places the weight of drama and virtuosity on the first movement, a grand opening showcase. The second, slow movement introduces Beethoven's first singing adagio that gracefully navigates a three-part song form demonstrating his fine touch with gentle, radiant beauty. There are moments that recall the limpid serenity of Mozart's piano concerti where the piano first found its first great singing voice. The textures are clear and spacious recalling the modest but rarefied classical balance of Mozart's trios from a now almost bygone era.

The newly added third movement is a full-bore scherzo, far more of a robust peasant dance than a French minuet, leaping from strong downbeats into the drone of bucolic bagpipes with a more poised trio for contrast. There is a brusque, impatient eagerness to the music that matches the first and last movement, a kind of brash insouciance that nearly chafes in its restraints, soon to push the envelope.

The mirth prevails, overflowing right into the finale, which is a presto rondo with all the cartoon-like hijinks of a great Haydn romp including a touch of Gypsy fire. The wide upward leap in the first motive almost directly mirrors the "uplifting" theme in the first movement, this time abbreviated, and in the manner of much Beethoven, reduced, abstracted and "distilled." The potential energy of the climb is released through equal parts of downward free fall in the consequent answers of the phrase. When Beethoven moves the rondo refrain into a minor key, its vivacity takes on an urgent spice, a Hungarian groove that is found through the music of Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, a deeply ingrained vernacular of Viennese musical rhetoric. Another is wit. Humor and musical playfulness become a chief hallmark of the new classical style, a marked departure from the predominant Baroque manner. Genial, vivacious and virtuosic, Beethoven's first published appearance makes a great splash just as Mozart had once literally predicted years prior.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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