Piano Trios Op. 1, 3, 97
VIENNA PIANO TRIO
What ensemble could be more predestined for Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano trios than the Vienna Piano Trio? Following its brilliant beginning with the Trios op. 70, this top ensemble from Vienna now presents the magnificent and mighty “Archduke Trio” op. 97 in surprisingly close album association with the standout Trio in C minor from op. 1, a work with trailblazing qualities that immediately caught Joseph Haydn’s attention. And with a beginning that must have immediately irritated listeners of those times: is that still the introduction or already the theme? Beethoven could have cared less about the convention; the master of motivic elaboration also avails himself of what appears to be material of no great importance and in this way lends each and every note a significance that perhaps will never be deciphered in full. The fact that the trio in Beethoven’s “destiny key” of C minor then also ends in very tender pianissimo, not with a rousing and triumphant stretta, makes this work of his youth really something out of the ordinary. Beethoven dedicated the Trio op. 97 to his patron and protector Archduke Rudolph of Austria, who was an outstanding pianist in his own right and probably quite often played this large-format work in a private setting. The Archduke was very demanding, and the structure is correspondingly complex – such as, for example, the very unique form of the scherzo, in which the contrasting trio is interwoven with the main part of the scherzo with fine art. The variations in the third movement undergo increasingly intricate development, until in the coda a new motif leads into the very free concluding rondo. The Vienna Piano Trio brings out all these special qualities and does so in inimitable style. From the very start the unison beginning unfolds a suggestive effect. In this three-dimensional format the balanced sound picture develops its full magnificence. His Imperial Majesty certainly would have been impressed!