Recorded on 02/02/2011, uploaded on 07/08/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The "Archduke" Trio, one of the staples of the chamber music repertory was mostly written in March, 1811, and was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II. Rudolph was both patron and pupil to Beethoven, and was said to have been a talented musician. His relationship with Beethoven was one of genuine affection.
The trio was given its premiere performance at a charity concert for the military. Composer Ludwig Spohr was by chance in Beethoven’s rooms at one of the rehearsals of the piece and wrote: "It was not a treat, for in the first place, the piano was badly out of tune, which Beethoven minded little, since he could not hear it; secondly, on account of his deafness there was scarcely anything left of the virtuosity of the artist which had formerly been so greatly admired. In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys till the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole groups of tones were omitted, so that the music was unintelligible unless one could look into the pianoforte part. I was deeply saddened at so hard a fate. If it is a great misfortune for any one to be deaf, how shall a musician endure it without giving way to despair?”
The expansive first movement opens with a subject reminiscent of the first subject of the "Rasumovsky" String Quartet. Of the second movement scherzo, musicologist Robert Haven Schauffler said: "It is one of the Master’s foremost contributions to this form of his invention - the form in which the lion of wit was first successfully made to lie down with the lamb of melody."
The third movement Andante cantabile is in the form of a hymn-like theme subjected to variations of increasing and elaborate rhythmic ornamentation, yet maintaining the serene character of the movement. It is connected, without pause to the fourth movement. Of this Allegro moderato, David Ewen writes: "The rondo finale has always been something of a disappointment to the admirers of the Archduke, who regard it as falling below the level attained in the first three movements". By contrast, Melvin Berger’s viewpoint was that: "The last movement, following the lofty Andante cantabile without pause, provides the same rude shock that observers frequently reported after hearing Beethoven improvise at the keyboard. Apparently it was Beethoven’s habit, after catching everyone up in the magic of his music, to slam his fist down on the keys and burst into raucous laughter, as though embarrassed by the spiritual experience they had just shared. Likewise, the energetic, dance-like last movement impudently intrudes on the serene, otherworldly atmosphere Beethoven had created in the previous movement. Once having broken the spell, the movement fairly bubbles along with great wit and humor, to reach a brilliant conclusion."
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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