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Name of Work

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)
Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97 "Archduke" (1993)

Allegro molto moderato
Andante cantabile, ma pero con moto
Allegro moderato


May 02, 1993

Deborah Sobol, Piano
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Peter Rejto, Cello

May 03, 1993

Deborah Sobol, Piano
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Peter Rejto, Cello

BEETHOVEN - Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97, for Piano, Violin and Cello, “Archduke”

Composed in 1811

The three works of Beethoven's Op. 1, the first compositions he ever published, were trios for piano, violin, and cello; this type of music-making was very popular in Vienna in the 1790s, when the young composer was newly arrived in the imperial capital, and the new pieces immediately served to further his reputation. He did not turn again to piano trios until 1808, when Op. 70 was published; his last major trio - in B-Flat, Op. 97, the Archduke — emerged three years later, and was first performed publicly in 1814. The violinist on this occasion was Ignaz Schuppanzigh, leader of the string quartet that premiered many of Beethoven's works in that genre; the cellist was Joseph Linke, for whom the composer's Op. 102 cello sonatas would be written. The pianist was Beethoven himself, and this performance marked his last public appearance at the keyboard: deafness precluded any further ones.

The dedicatee of the new trio was Rudolph Johann Joseph Rainer Hapsburg, His Highness the Archduke of Austria: son of one emperor (Leopold II), younger brother of another (Franz), yet little interested in the concerns of the court. He was a talented amateur musician who chose Beethoven to be his teacher; he produced a few compositions, works that have survived and have recently been recorded, though their interest is perhaps more historical than artistic. Rudolph's greatest devotion was to the Roman Catholic Church, in which he was eventually consecrated an archbishop. He never lost contact with Beethoven, however; the student became not only a patron, providing steady financial support, but also, to some degree at least, a friend. The composer always addressed the prince in terms showing the highest respect — Most Revered Highness, your humble servant, and similar conventional phrases — but their relationship was more special than such conventions convey. Perhaps each man was a bit lonely, one feeling alienated from his family and its affairs, the other isolated from his fellows by the inexplicable mystery of genius.

Beethoven dedicated several compositions to the Archduke Rudolph, including the Triple Concerto, the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, and the "Missa Solemnis," originally intended for his elevation to the archepiscopacy, but not finished in time, and in the event, a work too long and complex for liturgical use of any kind. Of all the "Rudolph" pieces, though, the one that immortalizes him through its customary subtitle is perhaps the most personal testament to their mutual affection.

An expansive, serene, and inward-looking work, the Trio opens with an "Allegro moderato" whose first theme is given to the piano alone; the piano is particularly prominent throughout this sonata-form movement. An "Allegro" Scherzo follows, and here the cello — so often me forgotten instrument in a piano trio - takes on a brief solo role. The "Andante cantabile" third movement is a set of variations on an original theme, noble and contemplative, richly harmonized and expanded. Without pause, almost without warning, the mood and the pace then shift for the rondo-finale, an "Allegro moderato" that turns the trio's face outward, and replaces hushed introspection with gregarious vitality.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed May 2 and 3, 1993

Performance Audio

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