Hyperion Records

Trio in B flat major, Op 11
1797/8; clarinet/cello/piano and standard piano trio version both issued by Beethoven; third movement variations on a theme from Joseph Weigl's L'amor marinaro

'Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio' (CDS44471/4)
Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio
Buy by post £22.00 CDS44471/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol. 4' (CDA67466)
Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol. 4
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67466 
'Beethoven: Serenade, Quintet & Trio' (CDA67526)
Beethoven: Serenade, Quintet & Trio
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67526 
Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Track 6 on CDA67466 [9'18]
Track 6 on CDS44471/4 CD4 [9'18] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Adagio
Track 7 on CDA67466 [4'32]
Track 7 on CDS44471/4 CD4 [4'32] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 2 on CDA67526 [4'45]
Movement 3: Theme and Variations on 'Pria ch'io l'impegno'
Track 8 on CDA67466 [6'33]
Track 8 on CDS44471/4 CD4 [6'33] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 3 on CDA67526 [6'35]

Trio in B flat major, Op 11
The Piano Trio in B flat major, Op 11 started life in the winter of 1797–8 as a trio for the rare combination of clarinet, cello and piano. But with an eye on maximizing sales, Beethoven published it in an alternative version for orthodox piano trio, transferring the clarinet part, with minimal adjustments, to the the violin. Compared with the ambitious Op 1 trios, this B flat trio, in three movements only, is a work of relaxation, showing the fiery sans-culotte in genial, urbane mode. Or so it sounds to us. When it was published, though, the ultra-conservative critic of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung found the trio ‘difficult’ and took Beethoven to task for writing ‘unnaturally’!

The expansive opening Allegro con brio, with its arresting unison opening, has little of the dialectical urgency of the first movements of the Op 1 trios. But Beethoven being Beethoven, there are many arresting and piquant touches. After an emphatic close in the dominant (F major), for instance, the music is slyly deflected through D major and G minor before the expected ‘second subject’ (a gracious, dolce tune, rhythmically related to the first) finally emerges. The soulful theme of the E flat Adagio, sounded by the cello in its tenor register, is akin to the minuet of the recently composed G major Piano Sonata, Op 49 No 2, later recycled in the Septet, Op 20 (in Beethoven’s sketches the two themes were virtually identical). There is a typically dramatic and poetic modulation from E flat minor to a pianissimo E major at the movement’s centre; then, with the restoration of E flat major, the theme is embellished with glistening keyboard figuration.

It was probably the Viennese clarinettist Joseph Bähr, for whom Beethoven wrote the original version of the work, who suggested the theme for the variation finale: a favourite number from Joseph Weigl’s new comic opera L’amor marinaro (‘Love at sea’), premiered at Vienna’s Burgtheater in October 1797. According to Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny, the composer often contemplated writing an alternative finale and letting the variations stand as a separate piece – presumably because he found them too lightweight. In fact, these nine variations are among the most inventive in early Beethoven. Highlights are the spare-textured No 2 for violin and cello alone, the two free variations in the tonic minor (Nos 4 and 7) and the trenchantly polyphonic final variation, which then pivots the music from B flat to G major for the start of the witty syncopated coda.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2004

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67466 track 7
Recording date
9 September 2003
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol. 4 (CDA67466)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: November 2004
  2. Beethoven: The Complete Music for Piano Trio (CDS44471/4)
    Disc 4 Track 7
    Release date: October 2011
    4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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