In early November 1792 the twenty-one-year-old Beethoven left his native Bonn for Vienna. His plan was to study composition with Haydn, by now an international celebrity, before conquering the city as a composer-performer. Soon after his arrival he became a house guest of Prince Karl Lichnowsky who held regular private soirées at which Beethoven would astonish the company with his brilliant keyboard improvisations; and it was at one of these soirées that he chose to introduce his first important Viennese compositions, the set of three piano trios which he published by subscription in August 1795. Haydn, recently returned from his second triumphant London visit, was present at the soirée, and warmly praised the E flat and G major trios which are presented on this new disc by the ever-flourishing Florestan Trio.
Beethoven was determined to create a stir in the world with his Opus 1, and seems to have laboured long on the trios, revising them extensively before publication. He had first ventured a piano trio in 1791, and it was no accident that he chose the medium to announce himself to the wider musical world. The combination of violin, cello and piano was a favourite with amateurs, promising healthy sales, and it assured Beethoven a star role on his own instrument.
Op 1 was enthusiastically received, and made the composer a handsome profit. Each of the trios is in four movements rather than the two or three expected in chamber music with piano: these are not elevated divertissements, but symphonies for three instruments.
The third of the Op 1 trios will appear on the fourth, and final, volume of the series, scheduled for release later in 2004.