Recorded on 07/23/2010, uploaded on 10/25/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Beethoven’s two trios for violin, cello and piano, published as his opus 70, were composed during the summer of 1808 following swiftly the completion of the “Pastoral” Symphony. The first of these, known affectionately as the “Ghost” Trio, has undoubtedly become the most popular of the pair. However, the exuberant unison passage with which the work begins, not to mention the greater part of the entire work, would hardly bring to mind any images of the hereafter or of ghosts. It is the middle movement and its unearthly sounds that have given the trio its nickname. Indeed, throughout its course, one seems to be viewing the world through a ghastly spectral lens, surrounded by ominous shadows and even the bright light of the sun dimmed to nothing more than a faint, distant glow.
As alluded to, the outer movements of the trio are lively and even humorous with the finale bordering on raucous. Despite its concise form, the first movement presents a wealth of musical material much of which is carried over into the finale. A tonal dichotomy is established within the first few measures between the tonic key of D major and B-flat major. Both keys seem to vie for dominance throughout the movement, an effect made greater by the prolonged statement of the first theme in the latter key during the recapitulation.
Following is the ethereal middle movement in D minor mentioned before. It is possible this movement was taken from sketches intended as incidental music for William Shakespeare’s MacBeth, a speculation which certainly explains the music’s unearthly sounds. Briefly, the major mode attempts to dispel the dark shadows, particularly at the end, yet the spectral veil is not to be lifted. At certain places in the movement, one can even faintly hear the haunting sounds of the opening movement of the Ninth Symphony.
The Presto finale returns to the key of D major and displays Beethoven in one of his moods of unabashed fun and humor. A comical effect is achieved throughout the movement with fermatas that often come on the “wrong” harmonies. The D major/B-flat major conflict of the first movement is played out again in the finale. The conflict, as well as humor, is emphasized by the piano’s inability to refrain from ending up in the latter key at multiple points throughout the movement and then being vigorously forced by the strings to return to the tonic key. Though we were led before terrifying sights in the middle movement, it is obvious here that Beethoven is laughing and it cannot be helped but to laugh with him. Joseph DuBose
courtesy of the Steans Music Institute
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
We at classicalconnect.com believe that classical music is a necessity of life. It is our pleasure to be your virtual concert hall and bring you this performance.
Copyright 2008-2010 Classical Connect, LLC