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ClassicsOnline Home » BEETHOVEN / MOZART: Violin Sonatas / Piano Trio
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Violin Sonata No.8 in C major, K. 296
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Sonata No.5 in F major Op. 24 "Spring"
Piano Trio in B flat major, Op. 97 " Archduke Trio"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a court
musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published an
influential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position
of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own
creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of
precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake
extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and his elder daughter Nannerl
were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin
and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a less
satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage of a
new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities
far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777,
when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek
a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some
importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a
commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staging he
was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his
position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious
independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation
aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a
performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial
difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes
seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The
Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
Mozart's sonatas for violin and keyboard span a period of some twenty-five
years. His first attempts at the form were made during his first extended tour
of Europe. Four of these early sonatas were published in Paris in 1764, two as
Opus 1 and two as Opus 2, and a further set of six, Opus 3, was published in
London the following year. There followed a further set of six sonatas, Opus 4,
written in The Hague in 1766 and published there and in Amsterdam in the same
year. Mozart only returned to the form twelve years later. During his stay in
Mannheim in 1777 and 1778 he completed four sonatas, to which he added a further
two in Paris in the early summer of the latter year, publishing the set in Paris
as Opus 1. Another group of six sonatas was published in Vienna in 1781. This
included a sonata written in Mannheim and another perhaps written in Salzburg.
The remaining four of the set, which was published as Opus 2, were written in
the summer of 1781 in Vienna. The four remaining completed sonatas were written
in Vienna between 1784 and 1788.
Mozart's first mention of the violin sonatas he was to write in Mannheim
comes in a letter to his father written from Munich, where he and his mother
spent two weeks at the beginning of their journey. With his letter he sends for
his sister six duets for clavicembalo and violin by the Dresden composer Joseph
Schuster which, he tells his father, he has often played in Munich: these, he
adds, are popular pieces, and he plans to do something of the same sort himself.
By the end of October Mozart and his mother were in Mannheim and she, in a
letter to her husband on 11th January 1778, tells him that their son
is composing six new trios. These are, in fact, the sonatas for violin and
keyboard, with optional cello. By the end of February Mozart still has two more
sonatas to write.
In Paris Mozart's mother died at the beginning of July. By 20th July he was
writing to his father of the likelihood of the immediate publication of the six
sonatas, now presumably complete. There were, however, delays in printing the
sonatas in Paris, used by Mozart as an excuse for his tardiness in following his
father's wishes and returning to Salzburg, where the Archbishop was willing to
offer him further employment. On 7th January, still in Munich, he was able to
present his sonatas to the Electress Palatine, to whom they were dedicated.
The Sonata in C major, K. 296, is dated 11th March 1778 in Mannheim.
It was published in Vienna in November 1781 as Opus 2, No.2. The autograph
carries a dedication to Therese Pierron Serrarius, daughter of the Privy Court
Councillor with whom Mozart was lodging at Mannheim. The keyboard is assisted by
the violin in the statement of the first subject, while both share in the second
subject that follows. The central development starts with material from the
passage that links first to second subject. The recapitulation brings the
necessary modulation, to end the movement in C major. The F major Andante allows
the violin again an accompanying role until the middle section of the movement,
where contrasting material is introduced, before the return of the principal
theme. In the final Rondeau the violin accompanies the keyboard in the
presentation of the main theme, which is then entrusted to it. Thematic material
is shared between the two instruments in the first episode, as it is in the A
minor second episode, after the return of the main theme. The material of the
first episode returns in the key of C and it is the principal theme that returns
to bring the sonata to an end.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in December, 1770, the son of Johann
van Beethoven, a singer in the service of the Archbishop of Cologne, and, more
important, the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeister to the same
patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinction lived on in the family, the
possible cause of Johann van Beethoven's inadequacy both professionally and as a
parent. In 1789, his mother now dead, young Ludwig van Beethoven took over
responsibility for the family and his two younger brothers.
At home Beethoven had received erratic practical training in music, but was
able to follow a more consistent course of study from 1781 with the court
organist Christian Gottlob Neefe, whose unpaid deputy he became. In 1784 he
entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organist and playing
the cembalo or the viola in the court orchestra, as occasion demanded. In 1788
he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart, but was recalled to
Bonn by news of his mother's final illness. In 1792 he went to Vienna once more,
this time to study with Haydn. He remained there for the rest of his life.
Beethoven established himself in Vienna at first as a virtuoso
keyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisation at the keyboard and
composition. In this last he was helped by lessons from Albrechtsberger in
counterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting.
His lessons from Haydn proved less satisfactory. Armed with suitable
introductions, he was able to make influential friends among the aristocracy and
it was with their support that he continued his career in Vienna, even when
increasing deafness made performance at first difficult and eventually
It is a tribute to the discernment of Beethoven's patrons that they perceived
his genius, in spite of his uncouthness and increasing eccentricities of
character, in the face of which they exercised considerable restraint and
generosity. In Vienna he lived through turbulent times, through the years of
Napoleonic conquests and into the repressive age of Metternich. He died in
March, 1827, his death the occasion for public mourning in Vienna at the passing
of a long familiar figure whose like the city was not to see again.
The works that Beethoven wrote for violin and keyboard cover a period from
about 1792 up to 1819, the period of the Hammerklavier Sonata, starting
with a set of variations on an operatic aria from Mozart and ending with a set
of variations on national themes. The most significant part of this repertoire
must be the ten sonatas which, although uneven in quality, represent a major
contribution to the literature of the genre. In them Beethoven shows his ability
to provide music that demands a partnership between the two players, no more
piano sonatas with optional violin accompaniment, whatever the title-page of
earlier works may have suggested. As in the maturer work of Mozart, the violin
is treated as an essential participant, a divison of labor that has since been
Beethoven completed his F major Violin Sonata, Opus 24, in 1801 and
dedicated it, with its immediate predecessor, to Count Moritz von Fries. The
nick-name Spring seems to have arisen from the nature of the opening
theme of the first movement, a melody that some claim to have been derived from
the pianist-composer Clementi. There is a finely wrought and expressive slow
movement, a capricious Scherzo and a final Rondo in which the
principal theme re-appears in a number of rhythmic guises.
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 Romischen,
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 end.
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.
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 Mingxin, 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 Bach, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
The Hungarian pianist Jeno 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. He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and
sonatas of Mozart. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of
Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini
Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.
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 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 André 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, RlAS 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 / MOZART: Violin Sonatas / Piano Trio