TRIO in B-flat Major
for Violin, Viola and Cello, D. 581
Ludwig van Beethoven
TRIO in D Major ('Ghost')
for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 70, No. 1
“Classical Romance” features three pieces for three instruments each: Trio in B-flat Major for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 11 by Ludwig van Beethoven; Trio in B-flat Major for Violin, Viola and Cello, D. 581 by Franz Schubert; and Trio in D Major (“Ghost”) for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 70, No. 1 by Beethoven. All were written in Vienna within a 20-year period that increasingly saw hints of romanticism beginning to infiltrate Viennese classicism.
Written during his early years in Vienna, Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio, Op. 11 enjoyed great popularity during his lifetime. Modeled on the three-movement form of the “Italian” sonata, the piece incorporates variations on the aria, “Pria ch’io l’impegno” (“Before what I intended”) from the opera The Corsair by Joseph Weigel in its final movement. For many years, it was believed that Beethoven wrote this trio for the Bohemian Joseph Beer, considered to be the first great virtuoso of the clarinet. However, it has been discovered that by an uncanny coincidence, there were two clarinetists with the same name active in and around Vienna at the same time. It is now believed that it was the other clarinetist, whose name most often appears as Josef Bähr, who was associated with Beethoven.
Franz Schubert was extraordinarily prolific in his short life; before his death at age 31, he had written some 1,000 pieces encompassing every musical genre. He also studied piano, violin, organ, harmony and singing, and he was a choir boy and concertmaster for a student orchestra. He wrote his earliest chamber music for his family quartet. This String Trio, from September 1817 (two years after his annus mirabilis) was likely first played by Schubert’s family—one of his brothers on violin, himself on viola and his father on cello.
Compared to the early piano trios that Beethoven wrote to establish himself as a virtuoso in Vienna, the Op. 70, No. 1 Trio from his middle period, written in 1808 between his fourth and fifth symphonies, has more spiritual depth and less youthful virtuosity. Its “Ghost” nickname probably comes from the atmosphere established in the second movement, through a slow harmonic rhythm, long suspenseful string sounds and persistent tremolos in the piano. It is critically viewed as one of Beethoven’s masterworks in this genre.
Orion’s 2011–12 season
Orion’s 2011–12 season continues in March “Celebrating Women Composers,” with works by Stacy Garrop, Louise Farrenc, Phyllis Tate and Fanny Mendelsshon, and concludes in May with “All That Jazz!” featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna, who contributes a work commissioned for Orion on a program that includes a Fauré quartet and Dokshitser’s arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for clarinet and piano.
In addition to its annual four-concert series in three areas, the Orion Ensemble will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” December 5, 2011 and March 12, 2012 and in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lunchbreak Series “Classical Mondays” October 31 and November 21, 2011. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.