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. 6 in E-flat major, Op. 70, No. 2

(for violin, cello and piano)
10:34 I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:31 II. Allegretto
6:40 III. Allegretto ma non troppo
7:42 IV. Finale. Allegro
Duration: 31 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1808 (age 37-38)
Published: 1809, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel (age 38-39)
Dedication: Countess Marie Erdödy
9 recordings, 33 videos
autoplay
9:30
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:44
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
II. Allegretto
7:39
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
8:14
Zukerman, du Pré, Barenboim
IV. Finale. Allegro
10:19
Stuttgart Piano Trio
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:09
Stuttgart Piano Trio
II. Allegretto
5:24
Stuttgart Piano Trio
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
7:40
Stuttgart Piano Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro
12:07
Szymon Goldberg, Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:46
Szymon Goldberg, Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin
II. Allegretto
8:19
Szymon Goldberg, Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
8:05
Szymon Goldberg, Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin
IV. Finale. Allegro
10:25
Haydn Trio Wien
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:30
Haydn Trio Wien
II. Allegretto
6:40
Haydn Trio Wien
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
6:29
Haydn Trio Wien
IV. Finale. Allegro
10:06
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:45
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
II. Allegretto
4:18
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
7:36
Eisenstadt Haydn Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro
11:06
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:15
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
II. Allegretto
7:23
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
7:59
Perlman, Harrell, Ashkenazy
IV. Finale. Allegro
10:52
Gould Piano Trio
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:07
Gould Piano Trio
II. Allegretto
7:19
Gould Piano Trio
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
8:06
Gould Piano Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro
28:52
ATOS Trio (complete)
9:54
ATOS Trio
I. Poco sostenuto - Allegro ma non troppo
5:11
ATOS Trio
II. Allegretto
4:51
ATOS Trio
III. Allegretto ma non troppo
7:41
ATOS Trio
IV. Finale. Allegro
From Kai Christiansen

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Piano Trio No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 2, 1808

Beethoven title=While Haydn wrote piano trios as masterful accompanied sonatas, Mozart was the first to achieve a three-part texture of balanced independence in his masterful trios of the late 1780s. It was left to Beethoven to expand and deepen the genre placing the piano trio in the realm of serious virtuoso chamber music on par with his quartets. Beethoven tackled chamber music with piano early: among his first compositions is a set of three unpublished piano quartets while his first published opus was the set of three piano trios Op. 1 of 1795, contemporaneous with Haydn's Trio in C Major. Beethoven expanded the form by adding a fourth movement in the fashion of the string quartet and the symphony. Further internal expansion occurred in every dimension as it did in every genre he touched so that what was, with Haydn or Mozart, a fifteen or twenty minute work, became, in the "grand" scale of Beethoven's final piano trio (Op. 97, the "Archduke"), closer to forty minutes in length. Beethoven's progress occurred in tandem with the technological development of the piano itself enabling him to use greater dynamics, and an ever widening compass: his trios require first five, then six, then over six and a half octaves on the keyboard. In the early days of the genre, the string players needed to avoid overpowering the fortepiano. As the piano matured, the need for restraint shifted to the pianist. Further developments in the violin and cello (e.g. metal-wound strings) strengthened their sound producing capabilities resulting in a mighty ensemble that called for a new kind of music.

Like a mini-series of early, middle and late works, Beethoven's six piano trios divide into the early Op. 1 trios, the late and most well known "Archduke", and in the middle, the pair of trios, Op. 70 No. 1 and 2. These were written in 1808 around the time of the 5th and 6th symphonies and soon after the three expansive "Razumovsky" quartets that were to the string quartet what the Op. 70 trios became to the piano trio. As a set published under a single opus, the trios encompass a broad range of expression. The first trio is magnificent high drama that soars between the extremes of exuberant triumph with explosive dynamics and devastating despair filtered through a singularly eerie atmosphere earning it the nickname "Ghost". By contrast, the second trio of Op. 70 is relaxed, even-keeled, beneficent and luxurious, in parts, utterly classical as if in a fond over-the-shoulder glance back to Haydn and Mozart. But compared to Haydn's, Beethoven's trio in E-flat is a completely new world of sonic and instrumental expression: it begins with a cello solo, joined by violin and only third, the piano (a pattern maintained through most of the first movement until reversed in the recapitulation), while throughout much of the texture, the two strings initiate and sustain a foreground prominence, a complete inversion of Haydn's texture.

The trio begins with a quizzical, almost melancholy line in the solo cello immediately imitated by violin then piano in a feint of fugato that nearly points to the late quartets. Much like the opening of the final Razumovsky quartet (but in a lighter vein), Beethoven extends this unresolved introduction to great lengths, creating but refusing to satisfy expectation until the final arrival falls like manna from heaven. With a subtle but potent shift from 4/4 to 6/8, the main theme moves with fresh momentum while deriving much musically from the pregnant opening. Rather than a gratuitous, disposable introduction, the quizzical opening recurs multiple times as an important musical signpost, each time like a deep breath drawn before the singing of an ever more lovely song. With the second movement, Beethoven most strongly evokes Mozart and Haydn, the former in the bright lyricism of the phrase endings and the sensuality of richly sonorous variation, the later in the lilting, playful gestures and the rustic peasant interludes that dance heartily eastward. While the ensemble balance is dramatically different than Haydn's with its distribution among all three players, it is equally different from the romantic density in the trio by Brahms: Beethoven maintains a light, classical airiness in the practically genteel exchanges between parts with silence as an invisible partner visiting each player as necessary to balance the mix.

The third movement allegretto looks forward rather than backward with a gentle swaying lyricism sounding far more like Mendelssohn than one is accustomed to in Beethoven; this is where Mendelssohn may have gotten the inspiration. Rather than the terse, development-rich motives typical of Beethoven, the violin sings a long and tender melodic line, yielding to the piano in the second stanza only to follow in loving canonic echo. An interlude finds the two strings raising a question with the poised and glittering piano graciously answering. Violin and piano join in alternative reprises, trading or echoing phrases bound together by warm pedal points deep in the cello creating a sustained and unperturbed lyricism rare in Beethoven's work. The finale is the most characteristic Beethoven of the entire trio, beginning this time with the piano, and undertaking the full-scale journey from theme to fragment, the dramatic, the fleetingly transcendent, and the escalating reiterations that ultimately fulfill the expectation of heroic triumph that, for Beethoven, associates with the key of E-flat major. If the strings seem to ever so slightly dominate the first three movements, the full variety and grandeur of the piano seems to permeate the finale. It is as if Beethoven held his own instrument in check as a calculated understatement in order to emphasize the revelation of its eloquence in the end.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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