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Piano Trio No.2 in G major Op.1/2

Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)

Composer
Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Composition Year
1795
Work Movements
1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
2. Largo con espressione
3. Scherzo - Allegro
4. Finale - Presto
Artists
Barry Douglas [piano], Johannes Moser [cello], Viviane Hagner [violin]

Programme Note Writer:
© David Winter

When Beethoven arrived in Vienna in late 1792, his ability to improvise at the piano for almost any length of time on almost any theme astonished his audiences. The compelling combination of astounding virtuosity and sultry bad manners won him admirers in many circles as a performer. His reputation as a composer took a little longer to establish. By late 1793, Beethoven was living as a guest (not a servant) in the house of Prince Lichnowsky where he regularly performed with a group of musicians he evidently admired. It was there that these Trios were first performed. Beethoven revised them over the next eighteen months and published the final scores in the summer of 1795 as his Opus 1.


In these Piano Trios, Beethoven launched his composing career with works that declare his very considerable ambitions. They do not just continue where Mozart and Haydn left off, they take the piano trio into quite new areas of length, complexity, grandeur, and seriousness. There is a swaggering confidence about these early works. This is the music of an extraordinary young man who is discovering his own enormous talent.


It is not surprising that some critics were less than enthusiastic. The trios were criticised at the time as pretentious and too long for their musical content. However the Viennese public as a whole gave them a very positive welcome and Beethoven did well out of them financially. Each Trio in Opus 1 builds on the one before it. The G major Trio may not have the driving intensity of the third in C minor but it is the longest of the three, begins with a passionate and lengthy slow introduction and contains Beethoven’s first great slow movement.


The slow introduction is an extended variation on one of the later themes of the movement played at a much slower tempo. The main part of the movement is, in turn, jovial, brilliant and witty. At the start the piano is firmly in charge, but in the lengthy development the violin and cello play increasingly important roles and by the slow movement they have achieved more or less equal status with the piano.


The second movement is in E major. Nowhere else in the Opus 1 Trios does Beethoven set a movement in a key so far removed from the home key. Consequently the simple, noble opening appears to come from a different world. This is not one of Beethoven’s darkest slow movements but it is one of the most passionate. The passion is almost all pure pleasure as the music gently moves to a sublime conclusion. This intensity is, to some extent, relieved by the charming scherzo that follows.


When this Trio was first performed at Prince Lichnowsky’s, the violinist suggested to Beethoven that he change the time signature of the finale from four beats in the bar to two beats. In the 1795 revision Beethoven adopted this idea. As a consequence, this movement goes with an even more fantastic zip. A rigorous sonata structure is used as part of the joke. The result is a piece of exuberant brilliance as a great young composer tosses his hat high in the air. 

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Piano Trio No.2 in G major Op.1/2

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Performance date: Thursday 6th July 2017
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770 - d. 1827)
Work Title Piano Trio No.2 in G major Op.1/2
Composition Year 1795
Work Movements 1. Adagio – Allegro vivace
2. Largo con espressione
3. Scherzo - Allegro
4. Finale - Presto
Artist(s) Barry Douglas [piano], Johannes Moser [cello], Viviane Hagner [violin]
Performance Date Thursday 6th July 2017
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Crespo Series
Duration 00:34:30
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Piano trio
Programme Note Writer © David Winter

When Beethoven arrived in Vienna in late 1792, his ability to improvise at the piano for almost any length of time on almost any theme astonished his audiences. The compelling combination of astounding virtuosity and sultry bad manners won him admirers in many circles as a performer. His reputation as a composer took a little longer to establish. By late 1793, Beethoven was living as a guest (not a servant) in the house of Prince Lichnowsky where he regularly performed with a group of musicians he evidently admired. It was there that these Trios were first performed. Beethoven revised them over the next eighteen months and published the final scores in the summer of 1795 as his Opus 1.


In these Piano Trios, Beethoven launched his composing career with works that declare his very considerable ambitions. They do not just continue where Mozart and Haydn left off, they take the piano trio into quite new areas of length, complexity, grandeur, and seriousness. There is a swaggering confidence about these early works. This is the music of an extraordinary young man who is discovering his own enormous talent.


It is not surprising that some critics were less than enthusiastic. The trios were criticised at the time as pretentious and too long for their musical content. However the Viennese public as a whole gave them a very positive welcome and Beethoven did well out of them financially. Each Trio in Opus 1 builds on the one before it. The G major Trio may not have the driving intensity of the third in C minor but it is the longest of the three, begins with a passionate and lengthy slow introduction and contains Beethoven’s first great slow movement.


The slow introduction is an extended variation on one of the later themes of the movement played at a much slower tempo. The main part of the movement is, in turn, jovial, brilliant and witty. At the start the piano is firmly in charge, but in the lengthy development the violin and cello play increasingly important roles and by the slow movement they have achieved more or less equal status with the piano.


The second movement is in E major. Nowhere else in the Opus 1 Trios does Beethoven set a movement in a key so far removed from the home key. Consequently the simple, noble opening appears to come from a different world. This is not one of Beethoven’s darkest slow movements but it is one of the most passionate. The passion is almost all pure pleasure as the music gently moves to a sublime conclusion. This intensity is, to some extent, relieved by the charming scherzo that follows.


When this Trio was first performed at Prince Lichnowsky’s, the violinist suggested to Beethoven that he change the time signature of the finale from four beats in the bar to two beats. In the 1795 revision Beethoven adopted this idea. As a consequence, this movement goes with an even more fantastic zip. A rigorous sonata structure is used as part of the joke. The result is a piece of exuberant brilliance as a great young composer tosses his hat high in the air.