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. 5 in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, "Ghost"

(for violin, cello and piano)
8:11 I. Allegro vivace e con brio
10:10 II. Largo assai ed espressivo
7:37 III. Presto
Duration: 28 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1808 (age 37-38)
Published: 1809, August - Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (age 38-39)
Dedication: Countess Marie Erdödy
10 recordings, 22 videos
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10:34
Morgenstern Trio
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
12:30
Morgenstern Trio
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
7:48
Morgenstern Trio
III. Presto
29:47
Xiao Wang, Christoph Croisé, Nikita Mndoyants
7:42
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
13:04
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
6:28
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
III. Presto
11:54
Trio Modigliani
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
12:18
Trio Modigliani
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
8:49
Trio Modigliani
III. Presto
7:26
Szeryng, Fournier, Kempff
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
9:01
Szeryng, Fournier, Kempff
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
9:00
Szeryng, Fournier, Kempff
III. Presto
26:47
Sepec, Queyras, Staier
6:59
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
10:17
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
5:57
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
III. Presto
27:55
Oistrakh, Knushevitsky, Oborin
6:51
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
I. Allegro vivace e con brio
9:57
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
II. Largo assai ed espressivo
8:06
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
III. Presto
24:45
ATOS Piano Trio
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven, (1770-1827)

Piano Trio No. 5 in D major, Op. 70, No. 1, Ghost

And there you have the whole secret of Beethoven. He could design patterns with the best of them; he could write music whose beauty will last you all your life; he could take the driest sticks of themes and work them up so interestingly that you find something new in them at the hundredth hearing; in short, you can say of him all that you can say of the greatest pattern composers; but his diagnostic, the thing that marks him out from all the others, is his disturbing quality, his power of unsettling us and imposing his giant moods on us."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Shaw's inimitable quote is perhaps the most pithy, complex and perfect description of Beethoven's music ever penned. And it admirably applies to the "Ghost" trio in every way, particularly "sticks" of themes and giant moods, what to speak of beauty and infinite discovery. The Geistertrio is one of two piano trios Beethoven published as Op. 70 in 1808 at the height of his "heroic" middle period. As with the Eroica Symphony and the Razumovsky quartets before them, these trios represent Beethoven's great expansion of the genre with fresh depths and lengths of music previously unbroached (and subject to further expansion in the final Archduke). Of the three magisterial last trios, the Ghost may be the most special.

The name "Ghost" is an historical accretion applied to the middle movement, an astonishingly ominous, stark and intense black hole: a giant mood warping the gravity of the entire work. Almost terrifying, its suspense easily suggests a spectral visitation that may have been inspired by Beethoven's contemporaneous, unfinished attempts to compose music for Shakespeare's Macbeth. The essence of the music derives from two fragmentary sticks of motif along with superbly eerie piano figurations that invest the momentum with an unsettling, transfixing pulse. There are brief moments of noble courage but they are extinguished by doom. And for a final nail in the coffin, Beethoven feigns a characteristic "rescue" modulation as a bridge into the last movement, but this is likewise abruptly thwarted, silenced in a "ghostly" mist.

The outer movements impose gigantic moods that are polar opposites of the ghost: sweeping, exuberant grandeur though, as always with Beethoven, strongly articulated by dynamic and dramatic contrasts of great range. Remarkably, both movements are built from more "sticks" of themes that begin as mere gestures and end as noble mottos. The musical means are astonishingly minimal with the germinal materials revealed in full within the first few bars. Both outer movements begin with restless, spring-loaded mini-expositions that unroll into rich skeins of development full of middle-period pyrotechnics on a grand scale. Ultimately, as Shaw observed: dead simple "dry" patterns achieve enough beauty to last a lifetime.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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