The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: 'Archduke' Trio

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Beethoven’s piano trios will always be at a historical disadvantage, overshadowed as they are by his titanic catalog of career-defining string quartets. Even the piano trio format – violin, cello and piano – tends to be the domain of celebrity artists who come together now and then to play a treasure of the literature rather than dedicated, full-time ensembles.

But the Beaux Arts Trio showed why Beethoven's trios matter. Spanning 53 years and several lineup changes, the Beaux Arts was one of the few piano trios generally regarded as being on the same level as the world's best string quartets. In the 1980s, the trio – then consisting of pianist Menahem Pressler, violinist Isidore Cohen and cellist Bernard Greenhouse – recorded Beethoven’s regal "Archduke" Trio, Op. 97, a work dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, himself a pianist. The Beaux Arts treats the four-movement epic with a spontaneous sense of flow and emotive power.

As a pairing, we’re treated to the popular "Ghost" Trio, Op. 70 No. 1, in D, which gained its nickname from the mysterious, gloomy and haunting theme (accompanied by string tremolos) of the slow movement.

What's your favorite recording of the piano trios? Leave your comments below.

Beaux Arts Trio
“Archduke” & “Ghost” Trios
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.

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