Hyperion Records

Piano Trio in D major 'Ghost', Op 70 No 1
composer
September 1808; first performed chez the dedicatee, Countess Marie von Erdödy, on 10 December 1801

Recordings
'Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio' (CDS44471/4)
Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio
MP3 £20.00FLAC £20.00ALAC £20.00Buy by post £22.00 CDS44471/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol. 1' (CDA67327)
Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol. 1
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £7.85 CDA67327  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Details
Movement 1: Allegro vivace e con brio
Track 1 on CDA67327 [9'58]
Track 1 on CDS44471/4 CD1 [9'58] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Largo assai ed espressivo
Track 2 on CDA67327 [8'27]
Track 2 on CDS44471/4 CD1 [8'27] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 3: Presto
Track 3 on CDA67327 [7'28]
Track 3 on CDS44471/4 CD1 [7'28] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Piano Trio in D major 'Ghost', Op 70 No 1
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In the Op 1 trios Beethoven had already given the two string instruments more of the limelight than they had enjoyed in the keyboard-dominated trios of Mozart and Haydn. But with the Op 70 trios their emancipation is complete. The three instruments now discourse as equals in kaleidoscopically varied textures, rich in the free contrapuntal interplay that is one of the glories of the Viennese classical style. In the D major, the only one of Beethoven’s mature piano trios in three movements, the explosive unison opening is immediately countered by a dissonant, disorientating F natural high in the cello’s plangent tenor register; the cello then slips back into D major with a beseeching lyrical melody that passes in turn to violin and piano. This opening at once establishes the highly charged, volatile nature of a movement that trades on abrupt contrasts of texture and dynamics and, in the development, some of the composer’s most rugged, rebarbative imitative writing. Inevitably in Beethoven, the flatward pull of the ‘wrong note’ F natural has long-term structural consequences, both in the recapitulation, where it initiates a poetic expansion of the beseeching cello melody in a remote-sounding B flat major, and in the finale.

The D minor ‘Largo assai ed espressivo’ which spawned the work’s nickname ‘Ghost Trio’ is the slowest slow movement in all Beethoven, and the most impressionistic. The weirdly fragmented thematic material, unstable harmonies and sombre, quasi-orchestral textures, with eerie tremolos in the bowels of the keyboard, combine to produce music of extraordinary tension and Gothic gloom. And it is no surprise to discover that Beethoven noted down the brooding opening theme among sketches for the Witches’ music in a projected Macbeth opera. The finale restores us to a world of convivial normality, with its supple, gracious themes and crystalline textures. There is whimsical humour, too, in the main theme’s hesitations and harmonic feints, deliciously amplified in the coda, while the implications of the first movement’s stray F natural make themselves felt in the brusque or ruminative shifts to distant flat keys.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2003

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