3. Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio
Andrew Wan, violin
Brian Manker, cello
Herbert Schuch, piano
Beethoven, Piano Trio no. 7 in B-flat major, op. 97, “Archduke”
“Wan played the inaugural cadenza with commanding assurance, full sonority and fuller personality. One had the impression of an operatic tenor decrying his hard lot, but with more in the way of depth and subtlety.”- Arthur Kaptainis, Ludwig van Montréal
The Archduke Rudolf of Austria began studying piano with Beethoven at sixteen, and his relationship to the composer gradually became one of profound mutual admiration and lifelong friendship. In conjunction with two other Viennese dignitaries, he established a lifelong annuity for Beethoven in 1809, on the condition that Beethoven remain in Vienna. Composed in 1814, the Piano Trio in B-flat major—one of eleven works dedicated to the Archduke—comes from a time when Beethoven was enjoying immense popularity while his hearing grew progressively worse. The Trio’s premiere performances were Beethoven’s last appearances as a concert pianist.
The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung remarked in 1813 that any new work by Beethoven was expected to be “completely original in its harmonies, form, and modulations.” At four movements and forty-five minutes, the Trio is unusually expansive in form, and the majestic opening Allegro features a second theme in the surprising key of G major. The simple, tongue-in-cheek Scherzo features a trio section that contrasts a zigzagging, chromatic fugato theme with a spirited waltz. The serene slow movement, an imaginative set of variations on a hymn-like theme, leads directly into the finale—a lighthearted rondo with a dashing presto conclusion.
© Ariadne Lih
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