Recorded on 02/29/2012, uploaded on 06/13/2012
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The two piano trios published as Opus 70 come from Beethoven’s middle period and were composed in the fruitful year that also saw the creation of the Fifth and Sixth symphonies and the Opus 69 cello sonata. During the last months of 1808 and the beginning of 1809 the composer was living in the house of the pretty and refined Countess Anna-Marie Erdödy. In this house Beethoven composed the Opus 70 trios, and it was there that both trios were performed on Christmas of 1808, with Beethoven himself playing the piano. The first trio of Opus 70 (nicknamed "The Ghost") has long overshadowed the E-flat trio, which is not in the least inferior and in fact, to many critics, ranks among the most original of Beethoven’s creations. We see him coming to terms with his musical forebears Mozart and Haydn, achieving a remarkable balance between the classical tradition and Beethoven’s own mature style.
The first movement begins with a slow introduction that seems slight and formal, but it leads wittily to the Allegro and turns out to be unexpectedly integrated with material involved in the establishment of the dominant. It returns briefly in its original form just before the end of the movement.
The second movement takes a favorite form of Haydn’s—variations on two themes, alternating major and minor—for Beethoven’s new look at a familiar idea. These "influences" have been thoroughly integrated, as Tovey remarks, "with results that transcend all possibility of resemblance to the style of their origin." The third movement, in A-flat (this is the first Beethoven work to have movements in three different keys), bears no generic title, though Beethoven’s sketchbooks reveal that he conceived it as a Minuet. In its final form though, it seems more akin to a Romantic character piece, in a sense prefiguring Schubert, than to a Classical dance movement. Patrick Jee
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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