|About this Recording
8.550442 - BEETHOVEN: Piano Trios 'Ghost' and 'Archduke'
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Op. 97 (The Archduke Trio)
Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, the son of a singer in the musical establishment of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne and grandson of the old music director, whose fame was stressed in the family by Beethoven's mother, whose husband could never reach the standards so set. In 1792 he settled in Vienna with the encouragement of the Archbishop of Cologne, his patron, an ecclesiastic whose choice of profession was dictated in part by his parentage, as son of the Empress, and in part by weakness in his legs which ruled out a military career. Armed with introductions to the best families, Beethoven soon established himself in the capital as a remarkable pianist and a composer of startling originality. His career as a performer, however, was brought to an end by increasing deafness, the first evidence of which appear at the turn of the century.
Beethoven sketched the ideas for his so-called Archduke Trio in 1810 and wrote the work down between 3rd and 26th March of the following year. The Trio was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, the composer's pupil, son of the former Emperor Leopold II, and later Archbishop of Olomouc. The first public performance of the work was given on 11th April 1814 at the inn zum Römischen, by arrangement with the landlord and the violinist Schuppanzigh. It was at a rehearsal for this event that the composer Louis Spohr heard Beethoven play and was horrified. The piano was badly out of tune, and Beethoven's deafness led him to bang on the keys in loud passages till the strings jangled and to play so quietly in soft passages that notes were inaudible. Ignaz Moscheles, however, who was present at the public performance, commented only on the lack of clarity and precision, while admiring the music itself. The composer played the work again at a concert in the Prater given by Schuppanzigh a few days later, but his days as a pianist were coming to an end.
The expansive first movement of the B flat Trio is introduced by the piano with the first subject, echoed by the violin. The elaboration of this theme leads to a second subject in the unexpected key of G major, again introduced by the piano. This material is developed at the heart of the movement. This is followed by a Scherzo, introduced by the cello with an ascending theme to which the violin adds a descending phrase before giving the expected fugal answer. The cello starts the Trio and there is a further repetition of the Scherzo and Trio before the Scherzo re-appears yet again, leading to a coda.
The slow movement, one of same length, is in the form of a theme in D major and four variations, following a traditional practice in a use of increasingly rapid notes to elaborate the material in the first three, while the fourth leads without a break to the final rondo, restoring the original key. A feature of the work, the height of Beethoven's achievement in the genre, is the relatively low range of the violin part and relatively high tessitura of the cello part.
The year 1808 was an eventful one in Beethoven's life. Now fully established, in spite of his deafness and eccentricities of behaviour, he enjoyed, as always, the practical support of discerning members of the nobility. This had led to a November public concert, with the help of Prince Lobkowitz, and an over-long programme with many deficiencies in the performance, due in goad part to lack of rehearsal and to Beethoven's quarrel with the musicians of the orchestra. The concert included the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Choral Fantasia and the Fourth Piano Concerto.
The so-called Ghost Trio, Opus 70 No.1, in D major, was the first of a pair of such works written in 1808 and dedicated to Countess Marie von Erdödy, in whose house Beethoven had taken up residence in that year. In 1809 he initiated a quarrel over the matter of his servant, bribed by the Countess, herself handicapped even at so young an age by partial paralysis, to remain with his master. Although Beethoven later wrote an apology, he found it necessary to move to other lodgings. At the same time he attempted to change the dedication of the Opus 70 Piano Trios, naming instead Archduke Rudolph, his royal pupil and patron, on the excuse that the latter had shown a particular fondness for the works. Beethoven played the trio at a musical evening at Countess Erdödy's in December 1808, presumably with the violinist Schuppanzigh and the cellist Joseph Linke, and one listener, at least, described the work as of considerable force and originality, and remarked on the enthusiastic pleasure of the Countess and one of her friends in each beautiful bold stroke.
The D major Trio opens with the instruments in unanimity in a brief motif that is to reappear at the start of the central development section. The nick-name of the Trio comes from the eerie second movement, music of remarkable originality and suspense, in the key of D minor, unfolding against the ghostliest of piano parts, although things do occasionally go bump in the night. The piano breaks the tension at the outset of the final movement, a relatively perfunctory conclusion to the work.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons; Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
Close the window