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List: Music@Menlo: 2019
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. 2 in G major, Op. 1, No. 2

(for violin, cello and piano)
10:49 I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
10:58 II. Largo con espressione
3:57 III. Scherzo. Allegro
7:12 IV. Finale. Presto
Duration: 33 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1794-1795 (age 23-25)
Published: 1795 (age 24-25)
Dedication: Karl Fürst von Lichnowsky
8 recordings, 29 videos
autoopen autoplay
10:00
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
11:30
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
II. Largo con espressione
3:47
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
III. Scherzo. Allegro
5:40
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
IV. Finale. Presto
12:11
Gryphon Trio
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
10:25
Gryphon Trio
II. Largo con espressione
8:06
Gryphon Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro
3:32
Gryphon Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
9:29
Haydn Trio Wien
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
9:08
Haydn Trio Wien
II. Largo con espressione
3:34
Haydn Trio Wien
III. Scherzo. Allegro
5:59
Haydn Trio Wien
IV. Finale. Presto
12:27
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
9:28
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
II. Largo con espressione
3:07
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro
7:48
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
10:02
Yuval Trio
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
9:58
Yuval Trio
II. Largo con espressione
3:19
Yuval Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro
6:28
Yuval Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
12:52
Unknown ensemble
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
12:25
Unknown ensemble
II. Largo con espressione
3:46
Unknown ensemble
III. Scherzo. Allegro
8:07
Unknown ensemble
IV. Finale. Presto
31:25
ATOS Trio (complete)
9:01
ATOS Trio
I. Adagio - Allegro vivace
9:59
ATOS Trio
II. Largo con espressione
3:16
ATOS Trio
III. Scherzo. Allegro
9:56
ATOS Trio
IV. Finale. Presto
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Piano Trio No. 2 in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2, 1794-95

Ludwig van BeethovenIn 1795, a twenty-five-year-old Beethoven decided to publish his very first opus, a set of three piano trios, Op. 1, dedicated to Prince Carl von Lichnowsky. The choice of piano trio was safe and practical. Safe, because the piano trio was thus far a generally lighter genre with a less daunting history than the string quartet. Practical, because Beethoven himself was a brilliant pianist in need of performance material favoring his participation and leadership. Haydn had written a large number of wonderful piano trios that were essentially piano sonatas with string reinforcements. Mozart had written a handful, at least two of them masterworks worthy for three independent players. But both composers wrote trios with three or fewer movements, never exceeding around twenty minutes in length and hardly ever broaching the profundity of their more distinguished genres. With his three new piano trios, Beethoven raised the stakes by adding a fourth movement, extending the length, deepening the emotional expression, giving almost equal roles to each of the players and gathering a great diversity of character and mood within a single set. This was an admirable showcase for the young composer's print debut.

The story goes that Haydn heard the trios and greatly approved of them except for the third in c minor. Haydn advised Beethoven to withhold its publication suggesting that it was perhaps too serious too soon; the public would neither understand nor approve. This rankled Beethoven and further contributed to the rather cool relationship between the two composers. The c minor trio went to print completing a fine triptych of works that might be summarized, in order, as dazzling, genial and darkly dramatic. The Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 2 in G major sits between its two more extroverted siblings as a kind of gentle middle child: the most classical of the set, it sounds by turns like Haydn or Mozart but for its ambitious length and its likely role as a relaxed contrast to the others. It is one of the most serene and least disturbed works Beethoven ever wrote.

Beethoven's larger ambitions are nonetheless apparent right in the opening sonata movement. It begins with a substantial introductory Adagio that floats, defers and generally delays any kind of substantial arrival at a home key until several bars into the Allegro vivace that follows. It features a curious slow-motion canonic echo that Beethoven would also use in the beginning of c minor trio. Even when things seem to finally get underway with an upbeat tempo and meter change on the second page, Beethoven continues to flirt and withhold for several bars. A close inspection of the score reveals that despite its disguise in three different rhythmic permutations, the main theme has been there all along despite its lengthy disclosure and postponed confirmation. For the essential sonata components, Beethoven provides a variety of themes in the two key areas, a satisfying development that begins with a cloudy touch of learned fugato (using the main theme as a counter subject) and a faithful return to the opening material with fresh elaborations. Seemingly as a counterweight to the introduction, Beethoven indulges in one of his very first substantial codas recalling the fugato again, a shadow that makes the final happy cadence really "pop."

Mozart comes immediately to mind with the second movement, a graceful, lyrical song that stretches out longer than the other movements in time as well as in its mood of delicate repose as foretold by the unusual marking of Largo con espressione. The wonderfully airy textures breathe with tender, expansive ease supporting all three individual players in fine textural balance. Even the piano is restrained, nearly sparse, a calm watery sparkle that dapples the long silky lines of the string parts. More surprisingly, even the Scherzo is mild by Beethoven's standards. No fierce tempo, jarring syncopations or cross-rhythms here. For drama, Beethoven is content with some clever writing that seems to perpetually rise upward, a few sudden dynamic emphases, and a spicy foray of heightened momentum in the minor mode for the trio. Curiously, Beethoven writes a coda for the Scherzo extending its usually trim, sectional form with an unusual musical addendum, an extended conclusion in a rather over-ambitious gesture.

The finale dispenses with any grazioso evocations of Mozart substituting the rollicking humor of Haydn instead. A swift rondo romps through easy, mirthful chord changes and a rapid exchange of brief leading motifs like a game of hot potato, all in the merry manner of what someone once called Haydn's "car chase scenes." The music is deft and bubbly with a bit of mock drama in the manner of the keystone cops. The ultimate bars feint, stall and finally shout a gleeful ending as, in a game of musical chairs, the music abruptly stops, catching the unaware off guard. Little would all this gallant repose and merriment foretell of the audacious, searing drama that lay in the c minor trio, a new mode of expression that unsettled and possibly bewildered even Haydn.

Kai Christiansen and Music at Kohl Mansion. All rights reserved.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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