BEETHOVEN: Piano Trios 'Ghost' and 'Archduke' (Csaba Onczay/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Takako Nishizaki) (Naxos: 8.550442)
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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 themusical establishment of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne and grandson of the old musicdirector, whose fame was stressed in the family by Beethoven's mother, whose husband couldnever reach the standards so set. In 1792 he settled in Vienna with the encouragement ofthe Archbishop of Cologne, his patron, an ecclesiastic whose choice of profession wasdictated in part by his parentage, as son of the Empress, and in part by weakness in hislegs 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 composerof startling originality. His career as a performer, however, was brought to an end byincreasing deafness, the first evidence of which appear at the turn of the century.
Beethoven sketched the ideas for his so-called Archduke Trio in1810 and wrote the work down between 3rd and 26th March of the following year. The Triowas dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, the composer's pupil, son of the former Emperor LeopoldII, and later Archbishop of Olomouc. The first public performance of the work was given on11th April 1814 at the inn zum Romischen, by arrangement with the landlord and theviolinist Schuppanzigh. It was at a rehearsal for this event that the composer Louis Spohrheard Beethoven play and was horrified. The piano was badly out of tune, and Beethoven'sdeafness led him to bang on the keys in loud passages till the strings jangled and to playso quietly in soft passages that notes were inaudible. Ignaz Moscheles, however, who waspresent 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 thePrater given by Schuppanzigh a few days later, but his days as a pianist were coming to anend.
The expansive first movement of the B flat Trio is introducedby the piano with the first subject, echoed by the violin. The elaboration of this themeleads 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 descendingphrase before giving the expected fugal answer. The cello starts the Trio and there is afurther 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 atheme in D major and four variations, following a traditional practice in a use ofincreasingly rapid notes to elaborate the material in the first three, while the fourthleads without a break to the final rondo, restoring the original key. A feature of thework, the height of Beethoven's achievement in the genre, is the relatively low range ofthe violin part and relatively high tessitura of the cello part.
The year 1808 was an eventful one in Beethoven's life. Nowfully 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 aNovember public concert, with the help of Prince Lobkowitz, and an over-long programmewith many deficiencies in the performance, due in goad part to lack of rehearsal and toBeethoven's quarrel with the musicians of the orchestra. The concert included the Fifthand 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 1808and dedicated to Countess Marie von Erdody, in whose house Beethoven had taken upresidence 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 itnecessary to move to other lodgings. At the same time he attempted to change thededication of the Opus 70 Piano Trios, naming instead Archduke Rudolph, his royal pupiland 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 Erdody'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 theenthusiastic pleasure of the Countess and one of her friends in each beautiful boldstroke.
The D major Trio opens with the instruments in unanimity in abrief motif that is to reappear at the start of the central development section. Thenick-name of the Trio comes from the eerie second movement, music of remarkableoriginality and suspense, in the key of D minor, unfolding against the ghostliest of pianoparts, although things do occasionally go bump in the night. The piano breaks the tensionat the outset of the final movement, a relatively perfunctory conclusion to the work.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. Hestarted to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on hisgraduation in 1974. Jando 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 thechamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In additionto his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and WesternEurope, in Canada and in Japan. He has recorded all Mozart's piano concertos and sonatasfor Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg andSchumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto andPaganini Rhapsody and the complete pianosonatas of Beethoven.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. Afterstudying with her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of ShinichiSuzuki, 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 Schoolin the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recordedviolinists in the world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz KreislerEdition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto by DuMing-xin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previously unrecorded violinconcertos, 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 Mozartand Beethoven and the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms Concertos.
The Hungarian cellist Csaba Onczay, awarded the Liszt Prize andwinner of the 1973 Pablo Casals Competition in Budapest, followed by first prize in theRio de Janeiro Villa Lobos International Competition in 1976, was born in Budapest in1946. A professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest, he was trained as a pupil ofAntal Friss at the Budapest Academy, where he won the Grand Prize on his graduation in1970. He went on to distinguish hims