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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN: Piano Trios 'Ghost' and 'Archduke'
"Jeno Jando leads proceedings here, playing with considerable verve and lightness of touch"
On The Air (USA)
"a lively and involved reading with genuine rapport among the players"
Watford Observer (UK)
"this disc is a winner in every way"
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Op. 97 (The Archduke Trio)
Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No.1 (The Ghost Trio)
Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, the son of a singer in the
musical establishment of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne and grandson of the old music
director, whose fame was stressed in the family by Beethoven's mother, whose husband could
never reach the standards so set. In 1792 he settled in Vienna with the encouragement of
the Archbishop of Cologne, his patron, an ecclesiastic whose choice of profession was
dictated in part by his parentage, as son of the Empress, and in part by weakness in his
legs which ruled out a military career. Armed with introductions to the best families,
Beethoven soon established himself in the capital as a remarkable pianist and a composer
of startling originality. His career as a performer, however, was brought to an end by
increasing deafness, the first evidence of which appear at the turn of the century.
Beethoven sketched the ideas for his so-called Archduke Trio in
1810 and wrote the work down between 3rd and 26th March of the following year. The Trio
was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, the composer's pupil, son of the former Emperor Leopold
II, and later Archbishop of Olomouc. The first public performance of the work was given on
11th April 1814 at the inn zum Römischen, by arrangement with the landlord and the
violinist Schuppanzigh. It was at a rehearsal for this event that the composer Louis Spohr
heard Beethoven play and was horrified. The piano was badly out of tune, and Beethoven's
deafness led him to bang on the keys in loud passages till the strings jangled and to play
so quietly in soft passages that notes were inaudible. Ignaz Moscheles, however, who was
present at the public performance, commented only on the lack of clarity and precision,
while admiring the music itself. The composer played the work again at a concert in the
Prater given by Schuppanzigh a few days later, but his days as a pianist were coming to an
The expansive first movement of the B flat Trio is introduced
by the piano with the first subject, echoed by the violin. The elaboration of this theme
leads to a second subject in the unexpected key of G major, again introduced by the piano.
This material is developed at the heart of the movement. This is followed by a Scherzo,
introduced by the cello with an ascending theme to which the violin adds a descending
phrase before giving the expected fugal answer. The cello starts the Trio and there is a
further repetition of the Scherzo and Trio before the Scherzo re-appears yet again,
leading to a coda.
The slow movement, one of same length, is in the form of a
theme in D major and four variations, following a traditional practice in a use of
increasingly rapid notes to elaborate the material in the first three, while the fourth
leads without a break to the final rondo, restoring the original key. A feature of the
work, the height of Beethoven's achievement in the genre, is the relatively low range of
the violin part and relatively high tessitura of the cello part.
The year 1808 was an eventful one in Beethoven's life. Now
fully established, in spite of his deafness and eccentricities of behaviour, he enjoyed,
as always, the practical support of discerning members of the nobility. This had led to a
November public concert, with the help of Prince Lobkowitz, and an over-long programme
with many deficiencies in the performance, due in goad part to lack of rehearsal and to
Beethoven's quarrel with the musicians of the orchestra. The concert included the Fifth
and Sixth Symphonies, the Choral Fantasia and the Fourth Piano Concerto.
The so-called Ghost Trio,
Opus 70 No.1, in D major, was the first of a pair of such works written in 1808
and dedicated to Countess Marie von Erdödy, in whose house Beethoven had taken up
residence in that year. In 1809 he initiated a quarrel over the matter of his servant,
bribed by the Countess, herself handicapped even at so young an age by partial paralysis,
to remain with his master. Although Beethoven later wrote an apology, he found it
necessary to move to other lodgings. At the same time he attempted to change the
dedication of the Opus 70 Piano Trios, naming instead Archduke Rudolph, his royal pupil
and patron, on the excuse that the latter had shown a particular fondness for the works.
Beethoven played the trio at a musical evening at Countess Erdödy's in December 1808,
presumably with the violinist Schuppanzigh and the cellist Joseph Linke, and one listener,
at least, described the work as of considerable force and originality, and remarked on the
enthusiastic pleasure of the Countess and one of her friends in each beautiful bold
The D major Trio opens with the instruments in unanimity in a
brief motif that is to reappear at the start of the central development section. The
nick-name of the Trio comes from the eerie second movement, music of remarkable
originality and suspense, in the key of D minor, unfolding against the ghostliest of piano
parts, although things do occasionally go bump in the night. The piano breaks the tension
at the outset of the final movement, a relatively perfunctory conclusion to the work.
Jeno Jandó was born at Pécs, in south Hungary, in 1952. He
started to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy
of Music under Katalin Nemes and pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on his
graduation in 1974. Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad,
including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the
chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In addition
to his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and Western
Europe, in Canada and in Japan. He has recorded all Mozart's piano concertos and sonatas
for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and
Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and
Paganini Rhapsody and the complete piano
sonatas of Beethoven.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After
studying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of Shinichi
Suzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of violin teaching for children.
Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and to the Juilliard School
in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded
violinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz Kreisler
Edition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by Du
Ming-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violin
concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui, Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim.
For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons;
Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart
and Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
The Hungarian cellist Csaba Onczay, awarded the Liszt Prize and
winner of the 1973 Pablo Casals Competition in Budapest, followed by first prize in the
Rio de Janeiro Villa Lobos International Competition in 1976, was born in Budapest in
1946. A professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest, he was trained as a pupil of
Antal Friss at the Budapest Academy, where he won the Grand Prize on his graduation in
1970. He went on to distinguish himself in Andre Navarra's master-class at Siena and
continued his studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. Csaba Onczay has enjoyed
a busy career at home and abroad, throughout Europe and in the United States of America.
He has recorded for the Austrian and the French radio, as well as for Hilversum, RIAS and
RAI, while his performances of the cello concertos of Lalo, Schumann and Lendvay have been
released on the Hungaroton label. Csaba Onczay plays a cello by Matteo Gofriller bought
for him by the Hungarian Government.
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BEETHOVEN: Piano Trios 'Ghost' and 'Archduke'